It is unfortunate that persons with disabilities in the country still have to face many problems in their day-to-day life for lack of enforcement of the relevant law and society’s total disregard to their needs. These people face obstructions everywhere—from homes to footpaths, public transports to educational institutions, and shopping malls to office buildings. Currently, there are 16 lakh people in the country who have different kinds of disabilities. If we cannot ensure an inclusive environment for them so that they can participate in educational and economic activities comfortably, it is not only that these people will lag behind but the whole country will have to bear the consequences.
According to a Daily Star report on November 3, the designated seats in our public transports for people with disabilities are mostly occupied by others and there are no ramps in the buses and trains to allow them to get on and off easily. Even our roads and footpaths are built without taking into consideration the needs of the physically challenged people. Although in Dhaka, the city authorities have started making footpaths accessible to the visually and physically challenged, by using tactile tracks and smooth surface, footpaths are mostly occupied by hawkers, and sometimes bikers.
Under the circumstances, the government needs to strictly enforce the Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act, 2013 to protect their rights. The Dhaka Building Construction Rules 2008 in this regard should be strictly implemented. Furthermore, our attitude towards persons with disabilities should be changed through building awareness about the issue among the more fortunate in society. There are many people with disabilities who have overcome their individual challenges and are contributing to our economy. Through ensuring a congenial environment for these people, we can turn these 16 lakh people into an asset.