Society must empathise, rather than sympathise with disabled people, says Ms. Pooja Bhatt

by Shrutee K/DNS
“We must change our mindset towards disabled people from sympathy to empathy. The size of the disabled people in India is more than the entire population of many countries. Our society and government must be sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the disabled people. Countries such as Japan and New Zealand have developed conducive environment for disabled people. The railway station in the city of Utsunomiya in Japan has special ramps and pathways for disabled people,” said Ms. Pooja Bhatt, veteran Bollywood actress, producer and director while addressing the 19th edition of India's Regional Abilympics hosted by MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai on June 14, 2019.
This is the first ever regional Abilympics held at the commercial capital of India. The event was organised by the National Abilympics Association of India (NAAI), under the aegis of Sarthak Educational Trust with the support of The HansFoundation.
Speaking on this occasion, Ms. Rupa Naik, Senior Director, MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai said, “Empowering persons with disabilities is one of the means to attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are the guiding principles of the activities of MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai. Through such events, we can directly and indirectly promote SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). Nobody on this earth is disabled; everybody is specially-abled. I am confident that events such as this will demonstrate the extraordinary talent of specially-abled people and create employment opportunities for them. In future, MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai is planning to organise an exhibition with NGOs for displaying the arts and crafts made by specially-abled people.”
Sharing his thoughts on this subject, veteran Bollywood Film Director, Producer and Screenwriter Mr. Mahesh Bhatt remarked, “It is indeed a humbling experience to see how people with disabilities are overcoming their challenges in remarkable ways. Today, on my way to this event, I saw a disabled car driver demonstrating his extraordinary skills behind the wheels and skillfully riding past my car. After seeing this driver, I have shed all my stereotypes about disabled people, who are considered unfit in this competitive world. I was alarmed to realize my ignorance about the special abilities of the disabled people.”
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Dr. Jitender Aggarwal, Founder and CEO, Sarthak Educational Trust & Secretary General – NAAI said, “Corporate India must provide employment opportunities for disabled people as it will lead to their financial empowerment. Disabled people have demonstrated that they are equally competent and they are loyal to their employers. By employing disabled people, companies can reduce the employee attrition rate.”
Dr. Aggarwal informed that currently there are 2.68 crore persons with disability in India and he expects this number to increase to 10 crore by Census 2022 as Government of India has introduced new categories of disability. Government of India has recognized disabled people under 21 different categories, which is higher than the seven categories followed earlier.  
Speaking about the policy initiatives for disabled people, Dr. Aggarwal informed, “In the last five years, Government of India has taken around five initiatives to empower persons with disabilities. Under the National Action Plan for Persons with Disability, the government aims to train 22 lakh people by 2022. However, so far, not even one lakh disabled people are trained. So, we need to ensure effective implementation of these initiatives at the ground level.”
The event was also addressed by other dignitaries such as Mr. Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Port Trust of India, Mr. Ashish Kumar Chauhan, MD & CEO, Bombay Stock Exchange, Ms. Rosimar da Silva Suzano, Dean of Consular Corps Mumbai and Consul General of Brazil in Mumbai and Mr. Edgard D. Kagan, Consul General, Embassy of USA in Mumbai, among others.
The two-day Regional Abilympics (June 14 and June 15) featured exhibitions, panel sessions, competition and job fair, where persons with disabilities demonstrated their talent to 25 national and multinational companies.  Some of the companies that participated in the job fair are Wipro, Sutherland, Reliance Retail, McDonalds, Citibank, Tata Chroma, Comfort Furnishing etc. Around 350 specially-abled candidates participated in the job fair and among them 200 were recruited for various posts.
The two-day Abilympics received overwhelming response from more than 450 persons with disability who participated in competitions across 10 vocational skills such as floral arrangement, cookery, jewellery, e-sports, tailoring, beauty therapy, desktop publishing, character designing, among others. 


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