Leprosy is a leading cause of disability, says expert

Nikita Sarah, Head, Advocacy and Communication, Diana Princess of Wales Health Education and Media Centre, The Leprosy Mission Trust India, stated that leprosy was one of the leading causes of disability with India accounting for 58 per cent of the global leprosy burden.

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

New Delhi: People with Disabilities (PWDs) are equally talented and could play an important role in the economic development of any nation with the right kind of opportunities. This was one message which resonated in all short films and documentaries screened at the 12th edition of the ‘We Care Film Fest’ in New Delhi.

The festival which had an overwhelming presence of young people, highlighted through movies, the spectacular participation of the differently abled in various multi-national companies including international fast food chains.

Films are a powerful tool in changing the mindset and to sensitise people, and equipped with the sub-titles, films have become more accessible globally, said Neeradha Chandramohan, Director, National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities.

She also urged that the International Film Festival of India should screen movies on disability and called for instituting a separate award category for recognizing the best film in this category.

KVS Rao, Director, Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, said that films can play a major role in educating parents of special children. “Parents are generally clueless about handling such children with special needs,” he said.

Sameer Pathak, Senior Manager, Public Affairs and Communication, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, said that globally more than one billion people were living with some form of disability. Talking about the campaign ‘Veer’, he said that best approach to the differently abled was to recognise their talent. The only disability is bad attitude, he said.

Rowena Kay Mascarenhas, Head, Communications, American India Foundation, highlighted the need for identifying physically challenged people for their abilities instead of disabilities.

Nikita Sarah, Head, Advocacy and Communication, Diana Princess of Wales Health Education and Media Centre, The Leprosy Mission Trust India, stated that leprosy was one of the leading causes of disability with India accounting for 58 per cent of the global leprosy burden. “In India 12 million people are affected with leprosy, and out of this around eight million are disabled.”

She asserted that films were an important tool for changing perception and promoting awareness.

Abha Khetarpal, President, Cross the Hurdles, Counselor for the student with disabilities, said that PWDs excluded at various levels in the society. “Inclusion has to be brought from the non-disabled section of society,” he said.

Dipak Prasad, UNV Special Educator, Center for Community Initiative, Churachandpur, Manipur, said that government needed to step up efforts for mainstreaming special children in the education system, while Major HPS Ahluwalia, Chairperson, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, felt that integration of special kids into mainstream was a good idea but he doubted if it was practically possible.

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