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DateLine Sunday, 1 June 2008

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Let us design to include everyone

Accessibility is a national issue:



Dr Ajith C. S. Perera
                                                      Pix Herbert Perera

From an esteemed echelon of chartered chemist and senior manager to test match panel umpire, his accomplishments were many until the dark angel of fate hit his life: caught up in a gruesome accident when a tree came crashing down on his car; his destiny was changed forever leaving him paralysed waist downwards.

Placed in such situations, many would indubitably spend the rest of their days in utter despondency probably waiting agitatedly for their final call.

But for Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera and IDIRIYA’s commitment to fight the cause of accessibility for humanity and enabling environments for all has been yet another milestone, a different approach to success: justification of a national cause turned success.

As Dr Perera emphatically says ‘Accessibility is a national issue.’ Designing for inclusion of all people makes everyone meaningful equal partners in national development minimizing unwanted dependencies, reducing poverty, promoting self-esteem and enhancing self-confidence in attending to daily life activities.

Many people today are being made disabled by the designing of our environments’. Statistics available are underestimated and unrealistic and do not include the temporarily disabled, the invisibly disabled younger people, elders carrying children, people carrying luggage and careers as well as the increasing disability in pregnant mothers although statistics reveal an estimated 25 per cent fight a silent battle to obtain access or use most facilities and services as they experience hardship in walking steadily or climbing steps.

Being a country with more than an 12 per cent ageing population we shall be further affected with many serious health issues too; a colossal burden with detrimental effect on the economic development of the nation. ‘Enabling everyone is the winning way for Sri Lanka,’ Dr. Perera further emphasized.

As Winston Churchill said, ‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give’ Dr. Perera and IDIRIYA are bent on creating an environment that are equally accessible to all segments of society and endeavour in designing and conducting educational and awareness programs to kindle interest of people to make positive change in attitudes. ‘Victory belongs to the most persevering.’ Be a part of the change we wish to see in the world’.

From a paradigm of the social stigma of disability to social environment and how it renders people disabled, the shift of focus has drawn much attention: basis for more meaningful corporate social responsibility work and ‘Accessibility’ is now mandatory by law finding recognition under the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ together with the assistance of the Ministry of Social Welfare and the National Council for People with Disabilities to provide as a matter of priority convenient access facilities for the disabled in all public buildings with the assistance.

Regulations under Section 23 and 25 of the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act No 28 of 1996 which may be cited as the ‘Accessibility Regulations No 1 came into effect in October 2006.

Deputy Solicitor General, Palitha Fernando speaking at the forum ‘Access ability for all’ said the implementation of the act is not forceful enough and they are looking into making it more effect.

The delayed is not due to lack of understanding but because the Attorney Generals’ Department is looking into it very seriously and carefully in order to ensure that each provision could be put into operation. It will be enacted soon.


Dr Ajith C.S. Perera presenting copies of his book ‘Accessability for all’

Dr. Perera addressing the gathering speaking on the benefits of his book ‘Accessability for all’ which was launched that day and the first copy presented to his beloved mother. He further emphasized the enormous range of benefits accessibility brings to a wide range of people and make everyone a winner.

Dr. Perera spoke of the invaluable contribution of twelve international and twenty local experts with psychological benefit: the importance of taking early decisions prior to becoming disabled, an eye opener to the business sector, employers, professionals and property developers bringing economic, social and physical success to everyone and for thinking ahead as John F Kennedy said “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”

Small changes can bring in enormous benefit. ‘Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together with devotion’ as it has been for the compiler.

Meanwhile, Prof Carlo Fonseka on the subject of ‘Designing for access is designing for humanity’ said Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera is one of the most inspiring and inspired human beings I have met and compiling this book and organizing this major awareness program meticulously says it all. I have nothing left to say because Dr. Ajith has said it all here as well as in his writing. He has made a tremendous impact on society.

Disability is a major problem in Sri Lanka and has been an unrealistic underestimated problem for different reasons and inevitably the risks run very high ,the causes are numerous and anyone could be the next afflicted. But it is not the end as it wasn’t for Dr Perera and many like him.

‘It’s the ability within disability that really counts.’ Statistics reveal that the realistic situation disability becomes a silently problem. Citing a few common incidences like eye sight disabilities, pregnancy, arthritis and cervical spondilosis and the side effects of steroids have caused further problems Dr. Perera said the commonest problem is mobility, and non accessibility contributes further.

Dr. Tissa Wickremasuirya, Medical Director Asiri Group of Hospitals commending Dr. Perera said disability is a major problem in Sri Lanka and has been an unrealistic underestimated problem for different reasons and inevitably the risks run very high, the causes are numerous and anyone could be the next afflicted. But it is not the end as it wasn’t for Dr. Perera and many like him. ‘It’s the ability within disability that really counts.’ Statistics reveal that the realistic situation disability becomes a silent problem.


Resource personnel who supported Dr Ajith C. S. Perera in his endeavour

Citing a few common incidences like eye sight disabilities, pregnancy, arthritis and cervical spondilosis and the side effects of steroids have caused further problems Dr. Wickremasuriya said the commonest problem is mobility, and non accessibility contributes further.

That they would extend they would extend their fullest cooperation to promote the voluntary mission of IDIRIYA and enabling environments and support in all their endeavours in working out strategies for the future too.

Oscar Braganza, Managing Director and CEO CEAT Sri Lanka was the chief guest, while Pravir Samarasinghe, CEO Richard Pieris and Company, Mrs Viji Jegarasasingam, Secretary Ministry of Social Services, General Manager/Area Director Taj Samudra, Saurad Ratan also addressed the gathering.

 

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