On December 3rd, people across the globe took part in International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. The American India Foundation (AIF) recognized this auspicious day by holding two events, one in New Delhi and one in New York City.
In New Delhi, AIF and its partners hosted a Walk to Freedom on the lawns of the India Gate to celebrate India’s Persons with Disabilities Act (enacted in 1995). Thousands of people gathered at this event. Many of these individuals voiced the sentiments of the millions of disabled people all across India, including Nishant Pandey (India Country Director, AIF) and Javed Abidi (Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People).
“We, the disabled people of India should pledge, on this occasion of the World Disability Day, to work together to create more awareness and a collective voice to demand better implementation of laws and policies that will lead to increased inclusion of persons with disabilities,” said Abidi.
This event was a part of Campaign Veer, a national digital and media campaign launched in 2014 generate awareness and advocate for inclusion, accessibility, and employment of persons with disabilities. The campaign is a joint initiative of American India Foundation, Thumbs Up, CNN-IBN, Being Human, The Hans Foundation, the Government of India and is supported by Swavlambhan.
In New York City, AIF brought together preeminent thought leaders in the disability space for a discussion on “Skilling the Disabled for the Workforce.” The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, who is a world-renowned entrepreneur and is the Founder of the Wadhwani Foundation.
Dr. Wadhwani spoke about the innovative work that his foundation is doing in India in terms of skilling those with disabilities, as well as his Foundation’s strong partnership with AIF. Ravi Kumar, the CEO of AIF, talked about AIF’s Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE) program. ABLE trains persons with disabilities and facilitates their entry into the job market through advocacy, promoting inclusive growth in India. Kumar talked about how this year ABLE has impacted more than 3,000 persons with disabilities, 2.5 times the previous year, and that the program has now overall has impacted over 10,000 persons with disabilities.
The event also featured an enriching discussion with some of the world’s top thought-leaders in the disability space including Atul Bhatara (Co-Managing Member, Ushaholdings LLC), Sheena Iyengar (Inaugural S.T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division, Columbia Business School), Peter Kenny (Director in Global Compliance, Barclays), Michael Monteferrante (President and CEO, Envision), and Frances West (Chief Accessibility Officer, IBM). The panel was moderated by Shraysi Tandon (Business Reporter/Anchor, CCTV America).
According to the United Nations, more than one billion people – 15% of the world’s population – live with some form of disability. India’s 2011 Census Data revealed that there are 26 million people with disabilities in the country.