The World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching a programme on Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) so that people who are unable to benefit from the advances of technology, particularly Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), can access and utilise Information Communication Technology to dramatically change the way they live, learn and work. Meanwhile, the Disability Bill is also in the process of enactment at the federal and provincial levels.
According to WHO Representative Dr. Michel Thieren, the GATE programme is being launched in partnership with UN agencies, international and professional organisations, and organisations of PWDs. Lack of access to new technologies and its non-affordability, he said, are the key barriers.
Dr. Michel said, under this year’s theme of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an effort will be made to harness the power of technology to promote advantages of using assistive technology and accessible information in ensuring full and equal participation of PWDs in society and in shaping the future of sustainable development for all.
This year’s theme for the observation is ‘Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology.’ Dr. Michel added that WHO has committed itself to concrete action to improve access to health services; strengthen rehabilitation, assistive technology and community-based rehabilitation; and to enhance practical understanding of disability through strengthened data collection.
WHO Technical Advisor Dr. Maryam Mallick said WHO has taken many steps for mainstreaming disability in the developmental process. For instance, WHO, in collaboration with government and Disabled People Organisations (DPOs), has formulated the first comprehensive Disability Bill in line with the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). In this regard, provincial consultation meetings are being organised with relevant provincial departments and stakeholders. The Bill is in the process of enactment at the federal and provincial levels.
Dr. Maryam pointed out that there is no standardised instrument for data collection on disability that provides comprehensive and systematic documentation of all aspects of functioning in a population. In this regard, WHO is initiating a pilot ‘Model Disability Survey’ (MDS) in Attock with the collaboration of Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal; the project will then be replicated in other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, in collaboration with WHO, is organising provincial and federal level workshops for the compilation of the report to be submitted to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which monitors implementation of the Convention.
WHO, in collaboration with government, will soon be launching the Urdu version of World Disability Report, Community-Based Rehabilitation Guidelines and (UNCRPD.
Persons with disabilities make up the largest and most disadvantaged minority in the world — nearly 15 per cent of the world’s population, with many of them living in poverty face discrimination and are denied basic opportunities for development.