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'Hear my voice, include me too,' demand children with disabilities
After completing eight state assemblies of 'Children with Disabilities' covering almost all regions of the country, World Vision India organized India's first ever 'National Assembly of Children with Disabilites' in New Delhi to commemorate World Disability Day on December 4. Over 150 children with disabilities (CWDs) from across the country participated and voiced their fears, hopes and their expectations from the future.

THE CORE objective was to provide a forum for the voices of CWDs across the country, from both rural and urban contexts, on accessible environment, health services, education and child rights. Since this is the first time such a forum is being organised where there is a strong representation from rural India and a fine balance with the diverse forms of disabilities, the focus is on inclusion and empowerment.

Amar Thakur from one of the slums in Kolkata while sharing his experience said that he felt very sad when he realised that he can't walk properly due to his disability. "I could not walk like others and that I am unable to participate in outdoor games with other children made me very sad. Recently, I got an opportunity to participate in a program “OUR VOICE” Assembly of children with disabilities. During the assembly many other children like me came and shared their thoughts. It gave me the confidence and motivated me to think that I can do what others can. After that, I attended a residential training on malaria and then, my friends and I helped spread awareness in our community”.

The general apathy towards the plight of children with disabilities in terms of infrastructural development, inadequate number of schools and roadblocks in attaining the certificates for disability were also cited as major hindrances.

According to a UNICEF report, there are around 3 crore children in India suffering from some form of disability. The Sixth All-India Educational Survey (NCERT 1998) reports that of India’s 20 crore school-aged children (6–14 years) require special needs education.

Dr. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Prasanna Pincha, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disability and Dr. Jayakumar Christian, CEO and National Director, World Vision India were present on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Jayakumar Christian, CEO & National Director, World Vision India said, “While policies push for inclusive education, merely enrolling children with disabilities in regular schools isn’t enough. Unless every child feels that they are empowered enough to help shape the nation, we still have a long way to go.”

Some of the demands made by the children at the assembly.

1. Access to Anganwadi centres

2. Need for disability certificates and all govt. entitlements

3. To be treated at par with other children

4. School buildings to be friendly for them

5. Access to safe drinking water and friendly toilet facility for children with disability

6. Need for specially trained teachers and learning aids should be friendly for children with disability

7. Access to healthcare facility within 3 kms

8. More awareness programs about their rights

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