‘Techshare India 2014’ to empower people with disabilities

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) There is a dire need to provide accessible technology to persons with disabilities (PwDs), especially in India where 70 million of them are constantly struggling for an equal share in life.

In a country where a mere 0.0009 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on disability, the task gets tougher to connect these people – 50 percent of whom are below age 30 – to the mainstream.
In a bid to bridge the demographic divide and bring all stakeholders on one platform, ‘Techshare India 2014’ – an event to promote accessible technology for persons with disabilities – is scheduled to be held in heart of the capital Feb 13-14.
“In our country, accessibility and inclusion of PwDs remain a constant challenge. Be it public places like markets or bus/railway stations, people with disabilities are always at the receiving end,” said Shilpi Kapoor, MD, BarrierBreak, a Mumbai-based consulting firm that is key organiser of the event.
“Even basic amenities like public toilets are unfriendly for these people. Remember that these are young people and ignoring them means a loss of contribution to GDP in real terms,” stressed Kapoor, an Ashoka Fellow and entrepreneur working towards the rights of persons with disabilities.
If we look at the world, other countries are far more sensitive towards the PwD population, said a press release.

A 2012 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) puts Britain’s spendings at 2.4 percent of national GDP on benefit for PwDs while the US spends 1 percent of its GDP towards PwDs.
“In GDP percentage terms, Norway and Iceland spend 3,000 times more than India to address grievances faced by people with disabilities,” stressed Kapoor.
India, however, has taken some steps in the recent past to empower people with disabilities.
A Supreme Court directive in October 2013 to reserve 3 percent of government jobs across categories for PwDs has been a welcome decision.
A new bill for PwDs that provides for 5 percent reservation in public sector jobs is pending in parliament.
In December 2013, the union cabinet approved the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.
The bill covers a variety of issues relating to PwDs such as physical, mental and multiple disability.
‘Techshare India 2014’ would focus on three themes – innovate, adapt and evolve – under four verticals – education, employability, accessible technology, and laws, policies and standards.
The event, to be held at India Habitat Centre and attended by over 25 exhibitors, would showcase a myriad of IT products and services.
Over 50 speakers are scheduled to address issues related to accessibility standards and law at the two-day event that expects over 2,000 people to walk in and experience new and accessible technologies for PwDs.
Sponsored by Microsoft, the two-day event is organised by BarrierBreak, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB-UK).