AGRA CONVENTION 2014
Blind Stars Beyond Facebook Bridging The Gap
7th to 9th November, 2014
Agra Declaration 2014 -Blind Stars Beyond Facebook
After 3 days of wide-ranging discussions on the various issues concerning the visually impaired, the following declaration was adopted:-
Disability offers an opportunity to initiate technological innovations to build an equitable society.
Blind Stars delegates have exchanged exhilarating experiences of their varied lives in a three day convention in Agra. Key speakers in the convention have flagged several serious bottlenecks which hinder the inclusion of blind people in the mainstream society. Despite the statutory laws for ensuring their full participation and empowerment; exclusion and discrimination are a daily ordeal for majority of them. Basic rights, be it education, accessibility or employment, they receive tangential attention from the governments. The Convention has identified key challenges faced by blind people which need urgent attention from the government and the civil society.
Blind people are actively contributing to national and economic development in many spheres and they have a greater potential to contribute to nation-building, therefore society in general must overcome its inhibitions about their capabilities.
Key findings of the Convention:
Education: Buzzwords such as ‘inclusive education’ are imported concepts from western countries which are unsuited to unequal Indian context. Discussions held in the Convention clearly reflect that Schools located in rural India are virtually inaccessible for blind students. Majority of teachers carry pre-conceived notions about disability and lack expertise and sensitivity in the classroom.
Accessibility: Despite several international/national guidelines for making websites accessible for blind/print-impaired people, government websites do not adhere to the rules. Burgeoning Electronic media in the country also design their programs in a manner that blind people are not considered as targeted consumers of news. In the absence of computers and internet facilities in rural places, blind people do not get adequate information about their rights and government-run welfare schemes. Public broadcasters such as DD and All India Radio hardly give publicity to the schemes being run for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.
Employment: Lack of information about employment opportunities in the government sector is the biggest hurdle for blind people in rural India. And whatever technical training is imparted by the government agencies to the blind people, it is largely concentrated in urban cities. Thus majority of blind people who reside in the countryside are kept excluded from availing employment.
- Sensitization of Ophthalmologists across the country about how to guide blind people
- Government needs to pay greater attention to rural India in spreading information about welfare schemes through mass media specially Radio and FM stations.
- Studies show that nearly 70 per cent people are still devoid of disability certificate which affects the life of blind people in many aspects be it education, employment and in availing the benefits of various government schemes. Disability certification for blind people has been a critical issue over the years and successive governments have not addressed the issue with sincerity.
We demand that a special drive with a time bound completion target be launched to issue disability certificates to all blind people in the country.
- The landmark judgment delivered by the Supreme Court on fulfilling 3% reservation in government and public sector undertakings jobs provisioned under the PWD Act 1995 be implemented forthwith and in a time bound program. Government should announce a timetable for the implementation of the SC Judgment.
- The condition of blind women needs more attention. Government, both at the Centre and at the state level should facilitate residential accommodation/hostels for them at least at the district level.
- The new Act replacing the existing PWD Act should be in consonance with the principles of UNCRPD ratified by the Government of India.
- There should be separate provisions in the law ensuring safety of blind women in the light of Justice JS Verma Commission recommendations.
- Government should institute a social audit by the targeted beneficiaries and monitoring of funds disbursed in various government schemes concerning the visually impaired. This should also be extended to NGOs receiving funds from government.
- Private sector today generates employment in a big way in various fields. But sadly private sector so far has not realized the true potential of talent pool of blind men/women. Therefore it is imperative that private sector also come out with a definite roadmap and transparent mechanism to absorb blind people in the workforce.
- Education: Education is the key to overall development of an individual including persons with blindness. But currently there is a huge lacuna in providing quality education to blind people especially in rural India. Government should make the appointment of a special educator in all schools mandatory.
- There is a provision of scholarship for overseas fellowship for the SCST candidates. This scheme should be extended to the visually impaired as well.
- As promised by the finance minister in the budget speech, all currency notes should be printed with Brail markings.
- Technology has become an enabler in all spheres of life for blind people. But its unavailability and high cost make technology inaccessible for the blind. Government should ensure that assistive technology is available to the poorest among the blind.
- The society and the government both should come forward in mainstreaming of blind people. The first step towards this would be inclusive education with visible implementation.
Read the full report – Agra Convention 2014 – Report – HTML with Audio/Video