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Saturday, 30 March 2013

! Disability Certificates Issue by New Software at Pune !

Persons with disabilities can now get computer-based disability certificates at the Sassoon General Hospital which has got the software that helps eliminate fake ones.

The 'Software for Assessment of Disability, Maharashtra' (SADM) issues a unique identification number to do away with the problem of bogus disability certificates. It became operational recently in 42 civil and government medical college hospitals across the state.

Disability certificates are meant for availing benefits related to employment, education or various government schemes extended towards benefiting people with disabilities. The certificate acts as a proof of disability of an individual and is an important tool that helps him/her avail benefits, facilities, rights that he/she is entitled to from the state and union governments.

The certification system aims to eliminate malpractices such as generation of bogus disability certificates which deprives benefits to those with real disabilities. The software also allows scientific assessment of disabilities with a similar system activated in Andhra Pradesh. It creates a web-enabled system for comprehensive access, rehabilitation and empowerment through automation, capacity building, assessment of disabled persons and maintaining a decision support system.

The Sassoon and Aundh civil hospitals in the city are the only two in the district that generate certificates using the new software.

D G Kulkarni, medical superintendent of the Sassoon hospital, said, "The software ensures that there is no duplication of certificates and is a viable solution to the problem of bogus certificates. Earlier, such certificates would be made manually. The new system has made the process computerized and users can use an online portal to fill in their details. Once the details of a person with disability are put in the system, the software automatically calculates the percentage of disability. This removes manual errors."

Kulkarni added that the software developed in the state categorizes disabilities into five types, which includes visual impairment, hearing impairment, loco motor or physical disability, mental retardation and mental illness. "This system is quick as compared to manually generating such certificates. We have been issuing 20-30 certificates on a daily basis. The process takes about 20-25 minutes in case of those who provide us with their Aadhaar card numbers," said Kulkarni.

An official from the disability commissionerate had earlier told TOI that the software will help authorities put all the data pertaining to persons with disability online. He had said that the system will have a solution to bogus disability certificates as people would earlier make more than one disability certificate or duplicate certificates to avail of the facilities. "All ineligible persons enjoying benefits will now be weeded out and only the actual beneficiaries will enjoy the benefits," he said.

In district hospitals or medical colleges, a medical board comprising three doctors including a specialist from the medical department issue the disability certificate in case of 40% disability. 

 Source : TOI , Pune , 31st March 2013

User friendly initiative for physically challenged by AAI

Sunday, 10 March 2013

'Quota for differently-abled to be implemented' : Kochi

Three per cent job reservation for differently-abled persons would be implemented at the earliest, said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. He was inaugurating the state conference of the Differently-Abled People’s Conference (DAPC) on Saturday.

“The government is coordinating different  department heads and conducting adalats. We are also working to come up with a notification for special recruitment. The proceedings for this would be accelerated,” he said. The Chief Minister also pointed out that the UDF government would consider all issues related to the problems of the differently-abled. Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies K V Thomas, who addressed the conference congratulated the state government for addressing the issues of the differently-abled people. “The Centre would try to develop special projects and will give full support to the initiatives of the state government. The UPA government has initiated several schemes for the welfare of the differently-abled,” he said.

Source : The New indian Express , kochi ( 10th march 2013 ) 

Udupi: Trend-setter Kannada movie to feature differently-abled in lead role

With a view to bring the differently-abled to mainstream media and inspire them, a differently-abled man will, for the first time, play the lead role in a Kannada movie.

Addressing a press meet here on Saturday March 9, president of Federation of Physically Handicapped Associations Wilfred Gomes said that the movie will be produced by the association.

The movie, to be made with a budget of Rs 40 lac, will be shot in the serene locations of the coastal region, Kodagu and Chikmagalur districts. The shooting is slated to begin in the second week of April.

He further said that the Federation has a fund of Rs 40 lac to bring out the movie, and an appeal will be sent to the government to release the same.

The movie, titled 'Mooka Manasu' will feature differently-abled Jagadish Bhat from Udupi in the lead role.
Gomes said that television and cinema have so far alienated the differently-abled. "The movie is aimed at changing this trend and bring forth the hidden talents of the differently-abled to the mainstream. The film will focus on the struggles of a differently-abled man, his feelings, emotions, the discrimination faced in society, and how he copes with them all.

Apart from the lead actor, three other differently-abled persons have been cast in the movie, Gomes said.
Sadananda Udupi is the director of the movie, and has also written the story. The music has been composed by Vikram.

Krishnamurthy Acharya, Vishu Shetty Ambalpady, Sadananda Udupi and Jagadish Bhat were present.

Source : Daji world ( 10th march 2013 ) 

Speedy decision on postings of differently-abled : Kochi

The state government will speed up appointment of people with disabilities in government service, said chief minister Oommen Chandy. He was inaugurating the state conference of Differently Abled People's Congress at Maharaja's College here on Saturday.He said a meeting of department heads will be convened soon to identify the posts.

The valedictory function was attended by Union minister of state for food and civil supplies K V Thomas.

UDF convener P P Thankachan and minister for ports and excise K Babu, state president of Differently Abled People's Congress Vimal Kumar also attended the conference. 

Source : TOI , Kochi ( 10th  March 2013 ) 

Differently-abled yet to receive special facilities in public buildings : Coimbatore

Despite the Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies Rules that came into effect on February 1, urban local bodies in western Tamil Nadu are yet to implement the rules that make it mandatory for all multi-storeyed and public buildings to provide special facilities for the differently-abled.

According to the provision, special facilities like ramps, lifts, hand rails, special toilets and reservation in car parking among other facilities should be provided to the differently-abled in the city. Commissioners of the urban local bodies are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring this before giving approval for the building plan of any new multi-storeyed or public building or re-construction of such buildings.

The local bodies are also supposed to ensure that all existing multi-storeyed and public buildings provide these facilities within 180 days from the date of this rule coming into force. However, when TOI spoke to commissioners of Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur and Salem corporations it was revealed that no action has been taken yet to book errant building owners. S Sivarasu, deputy commissioner of Coimbatore corporation claims about 80 per cent of such buildings in the corporation have disabled-friendly features and added that they will enforce it for new buildings. "We already have about 12 special toilets for the differently-abled", he noted.

Tirupur corporation commissioner, K R Selvaraj declared the buildings in his city are already equipped with special facilities for the disabled even before the rule came into force. "We are also ensuring that each building has at least one disabled-friendly toilet," he added. Erode corporation commissioner; M Vijayalakshmi said a survey is on to identify the buildings that do not have special facilities for the disabled. "As far as new buildings are concerned, we are taking appropriate action as per the rule," she told TOI.

Salem corporation commissioner, M Ashokan said steps have been taken to create ramps and hand rails for the benefit of differently-abled. He added that special toilets have been installed at different places in the city. While this was the scenario with the corporations in western Tamil Nadu, differently-abled persons who have been deprived of special facilities for long in the built environment want this rule to be strictly implemented.

"It is a welcome move but it needs to be implemented within the stipulated time," said M Kamaraj, a differently-abled social worker with Thiramai, a movement working for the differently-abled. Though there have been rules and Acts of similar nature in the past, this rule by the municipal administration and water supply department makes it mandatory. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 says 'local authorities shall within the limits of their economic capacity and development' provide the facilities, but does not make it mandatory.

The new rule includes a range of buildings like educational institutions, hospitals, boarding and lodging houses, bus stations, cinema theatre and even offices of central and state governments. However, awareness about the rule being mandatory seems to have gone unnoticed by the civic body officials. Therefore, a speedy progress in implementing the changes as per the rule is the need of the hour.

Source : TOI , Tamil Nadu ( 10th March 2013 )

Applications invited for assistance to mentally retarded : Tamil nadu

Applications are invited from the mentally retarded for assistance for their maintenance.
According to a release from District Collector P. Senthilkumar, funds have been allocated for a scheme to provide assistance to the mentally retarded persons,

Those who have not received any assistance either through the Tehsildar or the District Officer for the Welfare of the Differently abled are eligible to apply for the assistance. The applicants should have 45 per cent of mental retardation. There is no income ceiling..

The applicants should personally meet the District Officer for the Welfare of the Differently abled with the National Identity Card, copy of the family card and two copies of the photographs taken with the parents.

Source : The Hindu , Ariyalur , TN ( 10th March 2013 ) 

Prakash Nadar: Physically Challenged Challenges The Impossible : Mumbai

Prakash Nadar: Physically Challenged Challenges The Impossible

Prakash Nadar has scripted another chapter of perseverance and willingness to aspire high. He is a physically challenged 35-year-old man who has challenged the impossible by swimming 42 kms and 18-hour long swimathon on Saturday in a bid to create a new Guinness world record.

Nadar afflicted by polio in both legs, swam the stretch from Gateway of India to Rewas in Raigad, starting Friday noon and returning around 6 am on Saturday, his elder brother Raja Nadar encouragingly said.

"The swimathon was smooth, barring some sea creatures biting him on the legs around 3 a.m. today. But he did not lose his cool and continued swimming to complete his 18-year-old dream," Raja told.

The Mumbai-Rewas-Mumbai swimathon in the Arabian Sea was the first-ever attempt by any swimmer.

His first inspiration for swimming came from legendary Mumbaikar Rajaram Ghag, who became the second handicapped person in the world to swim the dangerous English Channel several years ago.

Besides his family comprising of wife Satya, son Hariharan, six, and daughter Varshini, four, Nadar was welcomed and cheered after the attempt by scores of Worli slum-dwellers, Swabhiman Sanghatana activists and handicapped sportspersons Saturday.
"It is International Women's Day (March 8). So, I dedicate my record-creating attempt to my mother, M Balasundari," Nadar had told IANS before embarking on the swimathon.

After mentally preparing himself for the last 18 years, Nadar was encouraged by Swabhiman Sanghatana leader Nitesh Rane and Income Tax Commissioner V. Mahalingam to take the plunge Friday.

According to rules, Nadar entered the Arabian Sea at the Gateway of India, swam to Rewas on the mainland and without halt returned to the starting point, battling extremely difficult conditions and two different types of tidal currents all along.

Born and living in the Madraswadi slum in Motilal Nagar in Worli, Nadar took his first swimming lessons over 20 years ago in the grimy and stinking gutter waters flowing into the Arabian Sea nearby.

"That area had claimed many lives, but that was the only place I could afford to learn swimming free of cost," said the school dropout smilingly, and pointed to his swimming and other sports medals with an impressive tally of 81 golds, 29 silvers and 27 bronzes from all over India.

Seeing Nadar perform at a swimming event, police official Balasaheb Gadge, now an assistant commissioner of police, noticed the spark in him.

"He made great efforts to get me trained at the professionally-run swimming pool in the police camp in Worli," Nadar, who has donated blood 66 times, said gratefully. 

Source : parda Fash ( 9th march 2013)

Trust invites applications from disabled for training : Gulbarga

The Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled has invited applications from persons with disabilities for its training programme, beginning April 5. 

The trust was started in 1997 by C.K. Mahantesh in Bangalore. The organisation regularly organises training programmes for the disabled and helps them find jobs in well-known BPOs.
Praveen Kadibagale, resource mobiliser, and Asif Makandar, training coordinator, told presspersons here on Saturday that the trust established an office in Dharwad in 2009, and later in Belgaum and Gadag to help the disabled in north Karnataka districts. 

A Livelihood Resource Centre was established in Dharwad to train persons with disabilities. So far, over 100 disabled persons had been trained and they have secured jobs in reputed companies.
The centre also has hostels for men and women.

They mentioned that two candidates from the previous batch had found placements. 

Siddappa Kutanur from Alur village has secured a job in a BPO run by the Aditya Birla group in Bangalore, and earns Rs. 7,000 a month. The other trainee, Madivalappa from Gulbarga, got employed in the chain of hotels run by Vasudev Adiga, and earns Rs. 6,500 a month, besides free food and shelter.
Mr. Makandar said that those interested in enrolling for the training programme should call 8105556047 or contact the Programme Manager, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, No. 48, Dasappa and Sons Building, Gandhi Nagar, Dharwad— 580004 (0836-3194038).

Source : The Hindu , Gulbarga ( 10th March 2013 ) 

At one with the world

In times when one has to push others to get ahead, we leave the wounded behind because they will only slow us down. Conditions that disable others are also those that we carry in our hearts — our attitudes and preconceived notions. But, isn’t it time we ensured that no one’s left behind, wonders Shefali Tripathi Mehta.

A friend who adopted a baby was told by every well-wisher to ‘exchange’ the child when she was discovered to have a hearing disability. A medical team conducting a survey of children in a village stopped at a home with several kids. “How many children?” they asked. “One,” the man of the house replied. “And the rest?” “They are girls.”

Girls — unaccounted for. People with disability — unaccounted for. And like them, other disadvantaged sections of our society that we seem to have turned away from — the aged, the poor, the victims of our tardy justice system or of horrific violence, and their families.

In times when one has to shout to be heard, push others to get ahead, we leave the wounded behind because they will only slow us down. There are barriers in their participation and contribution to the family, community and society. Because they are also more dependent on others, they are susceptible to neglect, abuse and violation of their rights. Rights and laws can only provide safeguards, but the reality of being of little or no consequence is heartbreaking. These people, often referred to as ‘second-class citizens’, are considered less valuable for the society. This reflects in our thinking and our attitude towards them.

Imagine walking a few steps on a pavement blindfolded? This is how difficult life is for people with disabilities, and the graying population, in our country. But we cannot take on their battles. These people are too far gone in the periphery of our reality for us to bother. We are a country where the right of way belongs to big cars and not pedestrians; where ambulances blare their sirens to unhearing, uncaring motorists; where women of less means die giving birth to children outside hospitals that close their doors on them; where we shamelessly park in disabled parking bays, and sit while the aged stand for their turns in doctors’ waiting rooms.

Conditions that disable others are also those that we carry in our hearts — our attitudes, preconceived notions about physical disability and mental illnesses, our total neglect of old age and poverty. We disable them with archaic laws, rigid education system, partisan employment policies, disparate judicial system, apathetic infrastructure and town planning.

We grew up immune to the tragedies of the ‘lesser-ones’ — made fun of those with mental illnesses; in school, children with polio sat in class during games; the blind came home to weave chairs; the house-help ate leftovers; our films and television introduced people with mental illnesses for comedy, and those with physical disability made extraordinary sacrifices — nothing came close to reality. Nothing in later life taught us better, and we continue to fail in sensitising our children.

Family matters

Eight-year-old Anita is visually-impaired and from a family with limited means. Her parents demonstrated extraordinary support and positive attitude by travelling daily to the nearest town for her rehabilitation. Anita was only five and travelled four hours daily to learn Braille, Abacus and Taylor Frame (used by people with visual impairment to do Math). She is now studying in class three in an inclusive school. Her mother has learnt Braille so that she can support and help her daughter.
The family system that is our boon is our bane too. Often, the first barrier a person with disability encounters is his own family which lives in denial of the disability. They cannot accept that their child has a special need and early intervention may enable the child to live a less-dependent, fuller life.

Many families discriminate among their children too — spending more on the normal child’s education and not finding the same ‘investment’ worthwhile for the child with disability. These are attitudes born out of age-old traditions and culture that we have not been able to shake off with awareness in a much advanced world. The families of those with mental illnesses and physical disabilities on the one hand struggle to cope with the person’s special needs — the stress of providing care, treatment, emotional support; disruption of daily schedules, family routines, work and leisure; and on the other, also face social ostracism. It is not they, but we, who are unfortunate for our blinkered thinking and regressive attitudes.

A study by Help Age India, conducted across 20 cities, has found that almost one in three of our elderly face abuse, most often by their own children. Urban, middle-class, working couples who have parents keeping their house and kids, begin to resent their presence once they have outlived their usefulness and are themselves in need of care.

Crippling culture

Disabled children are buried up to their necks during solar eclipses; wailing infants are tossed from temple tops to be caught in blankets to bring health and luck; the belief in karma leads to the superstition that disability is a result of the sins in past life. Societal attitudes towards disability, old age or differences of any kind range from neglect and overprotection to sympathy.

A chartered bus with everyone seated had one last passenger — an elderly man. Passengers squirmed in their seats, but offering seat to others in chartered buses is not a norm. Then, a woman got up and offered her seat to him. It took her some courage to get over the awkwardness, but she said she thought of her own father and hoped in return someone would do the same for him. 

Even the educated and good-hearted are awkward and uncomfortable around someone with a disability because we have not been sensitised to understand their needs and appreciate their abilities. We have a culture of helping that only makes the less-abled dependent. “You can’t do this”, “You won’t be able to go there” are barriers we create for them. People often address the attendant of a person with disability instead of talking to them directly; they talk louder to a blind person; and often begin to lead someone or push a wheelchair without first asking. Well-meaning though we may be, why does regard for human dignity seem less significant in such situations?
It is unfortunate that the barriers in inclusive education are not just the schools that refuse admission to children with disability citing lack of facilities and trained staff, but also parents of ‘normal’ kids. We may cry rivers watching a Tare Zameen Par, but the same empathy does not move us in real life.

Superstition sanctions families to abandon their elderly women and widows at the Kumbh melas. The belief that those who die in holy cities go straight to heaven cloaks their dark intent, and is responsible for the abandonment of an estimated 10,000 women on the streets of Benares. Many women admitted to hospitals for treatment of TB, leprosy, depression or other mental illnesses are never accepted back into their families. Many well-off families brazenly deny their women treatment for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. 

Broken bridges

A few years ago, pedestrian crossings at busy junctions in Mumbai were installed with audible signals designed for the visually impaired, but had to be silenced because residents complained of the noise. Independent, dignified life for a person with disability in India is still a dream. Our cities are flooded by rains, our public transport has to be availed of by running, climbing and finding a foothold, commuters hang on foot boards of buses and local trains, our disappearing pavements are broken, blocked with stumps of trees, debris and filth, and public disabled toilets are nonexistent.

Hotels, restaurants, parks, historical sites, banks, post offices, railway stations and libraries are not barrier-free spaces for people with disabilities or the aged. How easy is it for a blind person to eat at a restaurant? For a wheelchair user to go to the bank? For an aged person to get a lower berth on the train?

A survey last year revealed that in the country’s capital, 37 per cent government schools did not have clean toilets, leaving students with no option but to urinate in the open. Parents are reluctant to send their children, particularly girls, to schools where basic toilet facilities are not available. Lack of basic facilities in schools is a violation of the right to free and compulsory education guaranteed in the Indian Constitution.

Laws that violate

The Right to Education and the midday meal are legal entitlements in our country where reportedly lower caste children are still made to sit away from the rest, scolded, beaten, made to do menial chores by teachers, and not allowed to drink water from the same tap as the rest. The rigid systems of admissions, curriculum, and evaluation; and the lack of awareness among the school authorities, teachers, students and parents of non-disabled or privileged children make integration very difficult.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), the Right to Education (RTE), the National Food Security Act, the Disability Discrimination Act are all steps to bring to the mainstream those who have been left out, but the problems are those of implementation, of the absence of punishment for those that deprive others of their rightful benefits. The State that is steeped in blatant corruption at every level can offer redress only by creating honest channels of execution of these schemes and ensuring that the greedy middlemen do not siphon off taxpayers’ money and deprive the genuine beneficiaries.

Jeeja Ghosh, Head of Advocacy and Disability Studies at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP), and a frequent flier, was made to get off a plane by the pilot because she has cerebral palsy. Not a stray occurrence of discrimination, these incidents happen because there are no deterrents, no exemplary punishment for the perpetrators.

These disadvantaged groups are considered low on the hierarchy of concerns of the policy makers and votebank politicians. It is imperative for the disadvantaged groups to be included in the census and the election processes so that they are accounted for in future policies, action plans and allocation of resources.

Recently in Bangalore, 5,000 residents of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) had their homes demolished overnight, and were rendered homeless, when the government entered into a public-private partnership to develop the land occupied by them. With corruption so rampant in public departments, there is no certainty that when the homes are ready, any of these original dwellers will be resettled there. Development at the cost of the weaker sections of society is pointless as it only serves to widen social disparity. So while it may be argued that the proposed business establishment, namely a mall, that will come up in the area will create more jobs for these evictees, we also know of the poor working conditions and exploitation that takes place at these low-level, private enterprise jobs. If, on the other hand, the government were to undertake the development project, while it may have been able to safeguard people’s rights to some extent, the problems would be different — poor services, corruption, loss and wastage of public money.

Corruption annuls every effort towards development. We pay taxes for motorable roads, walkable pavements, public transport, safety and security of life and property, but the poor services and facilities the government provides are of little use to its physically and economically vulnerable citizens.

Islands of hope

“I am what I am because of who we all are” — this is the Ubuntu philosophy of the South Africans, the ‘essence of being human’, that no one exists in isolation. So, for every incident of government-run hospitals refusing admission to pregnant women, critically sick or injured, there are people like the autorickshaw driver in Bangalore who provides free transport for pregnant women to hospital.

For every child with disability who is denied admission into mainstream schools, there is one Mrs Mittal, a housewife and volunteer at an NGO who, when she could not spend the number of hours the student with visual disability she was reading for, needed, invited him to her home to help him study while she did her chores. She also encouraged her neighbours to read to him. This helped the student to complete his post-graduation and qualify for the Public Service Commission examination. For every one who thinks their life is hopeless, there is a Swapna, a young widow in a hamlet near Bangalore, who learned and passed on English and computer skills to underprivileged children. Working at the One Billion Literates Foundation, she turned her tragedy into inspiration for several others.

When we see these people with limited means doing their bit, we must know that it is not time or resources we are short of, just the intent. Life demands a lot from each one of us, a little more from some others. Everyone has their own struggles, their own challenges to overcome, which is reason enough for us to be kind to each other; to teach our kids to not laugh at people with mental illnesses, or bully the slow learner in class; to give the lower berth on the train to the elderly; to read out and write an exam for those with physical disabilities. 

Government can make policies, pass laws, but the shortfalls can only be filled by us. The government is us, the corrupt babus, the middlemen, the profit-making, self-serving public contractors are us. It is for us to reach out to our fellow human beings and create an inclusive society. It is time to move the focus from charity to rights, from sympathy to equality.

Those that have been left out too have to stand up to be counted, claim their place in the family, society and world. There is no dearth of positive examples of people who have displayed extraordinary grit and determination in overcoming their disability, their economic challenges, to become a part of the mainstream, to be of value to society. Those who realise their potential, merit social respect. Each one can contribute in some way. Technology continues to provide new aids to simplify life for the disabled, the aged, the poor. It will eventually reach and impact all. But for human love and care to stay in short supply would be our collective shame.

Source : Deccan herald ( 10th March 2013 ) 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Deepshikha organises workshop on disability and development sector : Ranchi

Deepshikha, an NGO working for children with mental disability, organised a state level workshop on the convergence of disability and development sector at Institute for Child Development and Mental Health, Namkum on Friday.

 The workshop was sponsored by the National Trust, New Delhi. The key objective of the workshop was to ensure that all development projects include a disability perspective and are fully accessible to all ‘People with Disability’ (PwD).

 The workshop was attended by 42 participants representing the National Trust in order to share working experiences with persons with disabilities in their disability specific and disability-inclusive projects. Resource persons were invited from both development sectors as well from disability sectors.

Sudha Lhila, Executive Director, Deepshikha stated that development sector should take initiative to include ‘People with Disability’ in their programs. She emphasized on the need for sharing of information and expertise for the empowerment of people with disability. Director Academic, Deepshikha Dr. Alka Nizamie explained the objectives of the workshop. Later, an introductory session of participants was started by her. In the workshop, resource person presented on lessons-learned from the cross cutting issues.

One of our resource person Binay Pattanayak, Educational Specialist, UNICEF, Jharkhand briefly discussed on the importance of ‘Child with Disability’ in their family and how ‘Children with Disability’ are focused and honest in their work environment.

The participants articulated that the workshop was really useful for them. They have received a lot of tips for empowering the ‘People with Disability’.

In the closing remarks Nizamie highlighted the need to address identified areas of the convergence and to develop a clear mechanism to monitor and implement policies on the ground for empowering of people with disability in disability specific and disability inclusive projects.

Source : The Pioneer , Ranchi ( 9th march 2013 ) 

Differently-abled Prakash Nadar to undertake 42 km swimathon

Prakash M. Nadar, 35, has been afflicted by polio in both legs and can move around only on crutches or a wheelchair. Prakas will make an unprecedented attempt to swim the 21-km stretch in the Arabian Sea from the Gateway of India to Rewas in mainland Raigad and make a return journey.

Differently-abled Prakash Nadar to undertake 42 km swimathon

After mentally preparing himself for the last 18 years Nadar is ready to take the plunge on Friday noon for the 15-hour effort, depending on the weather and water conditions. Nadar took his first swimming lessons over 20 years ago in the grimy, stinking gutter waters flowing into the Arabian Sea nearby.

  “I shall enter the waters at Gateway of India, swim to Rewas on the mainland at Raigad and without a halt, return to the starting point, as per the rules. The swim is going to be extremely difficult as I shall be battling two different types of tidal currents all along,” Nadar explained.

Source : I am Made In India 

Concessions for differently abled : Kerala

Kerala government has issued guidelines for concessions that can be allowed to students with various kinds of disabilities for the diploma examinations.

"It has been stipulated that service of an interpreter and extra time of 10 minutes per hour for a paper can be granted to hearing impaired students for diploma examinations", the government order states.
The All Kerala Parents Association of Hearing Impaired state committee had represented to government to provide concession of grace marks in each subject to hearing impaired students.

After examining the matter, government granted 25 % of maximum marks in each theory papers as moderation hearing impaired students, who don't secure minimum marks to pass the examination along with other concessions already in force so as to enable them to secure minimum marks required to pass the examination.

Source : TOI , Kochi ( 8th March 2013 ) 

A special day for differently abled children : Tamil nadu

For the about 70 differently abled children, Thursday turned out to be an eventful day as they assembled at the Seethakathi Sethupathi sports ground here to showcase their prowess in the annual sports meet.

These children, brought from different homes in the district by their caretakers, threw balls, ran and jumped, vying with each other in the sports meet conducted by the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu.
Family members and caretakers cheered as the mentally challenged children threw cricket ball with smiles writ large on their faces.

In the open-to-all category, five differently abled persons were selected to represent the district in the State sport meet for differently abled people, an official said.

The selected five won the first places in 50 and 100 metre race, 100 metre wheel chair race, basketball throw and standing broad jump, he added. 

Source  : The Hindu , Ramnathapuram ( 8th march 2013 )

Assistive Devices

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation between the spinal joints, resulting in pain and stiffness that can make everyday tasks a challenge without the aid of assistive devices.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) typically affects the lower back; however, the condition can also cause stiffness in the upper torso, neck and in other major joints, such as the hip, knees, and jaw. The symptoms of the condition often require supporting tools like canes, reachers and mirrors.


“People who have difficulty reaching up high might benefit from a reacher, while others who have difficulty turning their heads quickly to look right or left might need special mirrors placed on their car so they can drive,” says Vicki Kaskutas, OTD, MHS, OT/L, assistant professor in occupational therapy and medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Work with your AS doctor and physical therapist to choose the tools that will most adequately serve you. A balance assessment is likely to be part of the evaluation process, since assistive devices such as canes are often useful tools to help you stay upright and mobile. Your AS professional will also watch as you attempt other tasks, such as getting in and out of a chair or walking for a set distance, to identify the assistive devices best suited for your needs.

Staying Mobile with Assistive Devices

  • Reacher. This is a tool that extends your grasp, allowing you to reach items on a high shelf without having to push your arms and chest beyond what’s comfortable for you.
  • Cane. A cane can help with stability for walking while taking some pressure off your joints. Other mobility aids for AS that offer more support are walkers and rollators (a walker with three or four wheels).
  • Dressing aids. A variety of tools can help you get dressed if you are having difficulty bending down and reaching around to do the tasks involved in dressing, such as lacing up shoes, using zippers, and hooking a bra. An extended shoe horn allows you to ease into your shoes while other devices are made to pull on socks or hosiery.
  • Braces or splints. These may be useful to take the stress off painful joints and tendons. Close to one in three people with AS experiences pain or changes in function to joints beyond the spine and lower back. If your wrists are affected, for example, you could find it helpful to have arm supports and wrist braces when using a keyboard and doing other tasks.
  • Orthotic shoes. Because AS can cause inflammation and changes in the structure of the foot, you may benefit from the support of specially designed shoes.
  • Raised seats. If pain in your hips, back, or knees makes it hard to get up and lower yourself down, using raised seats and cushions translates to less bending. Devices are available for office chairs, your sofa, and the toilet seat.
  • Supportive cushions. Particularly when seated, you may find that supportive cushions can help ease pain and maintain good posture. Ergonomically designed pillows and cushions for chairs, the bed, and your car bring comfort and support.
  • Mirrors on cars. Where state law allows, adding mirrors that enable you to see at all angles when driving will limit the amount of painful twisting and turning you need to do.
  • Rails and grips. These supportive devices include grab bars secured to the walls around your tub and toilet (a towel bar can’t support your weight) and assistive rails or handles that slide between your mattress and box spring and under a sofa or chair and can be used to pull yourself up. 
Source : Everyday health 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Highlights on women, minorities and persons with disabilities in science and engineering

Women, persons with disabilities and three racial and ethnic groups—African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians—continue to be underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E) according to a new report released by the National Science Foundation.

Women, persons with disabilities and three racial and ethnic groups—African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians—continue to be underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E) according to a new report released by the National Science Foundation.

Read more at:
The report, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2013, highlights the most recent data on S&E education and employment patterns for these groups. Data in the report demonstrate that women earn a smaller proportion of degrees in many S&E fields of study, although their participation has risen during the last 20 years in most S&E fields.

Women's participation is greatest in psychology, where more than 70 percent of degrees in that field were awarded to women.

 Women's participation is lowest in computer science and engineering—18 to 28 percent of degrees in those fields were awarded to them since 1991. Underrepresented minorities' shares of S&E bachelor's and master's degrees have been rising during the last 20 years. Since 1991, the greatest rise in the share of S&E bachelor's degrees earned by underrepresented minorities has been in psychology, the social sciences and computer sciences.

Since 2000, underrepresented minorities' shares in engineering and the physical sciences degrees have been flat, and participation in mathematics has dropped.

Unemployment rates are higher for minority scientists and engineers than for Caucasian scientists and engineers, and the rate is higher for Asian females than for Asian male scientists and engineers. Among employed scientists and engineers in all racial and ethnic groups, women are more likely than men to be employed part-time. Caucasian women are the most likely to be employed part-time. This report includes an interactive digest that highlights key issues and trends through graphics and text, along with detailed statistical tables that provide data on higher education enrollments, degrees, institutions and financial support and on employment status, occupations, sectors and salaries.

Links to other NSF and non-NSF sources of data are also provided in the report. Women, persons with disabilities and three racial and ethnic groups—African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians—continue to be underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E) according to a new report released by the National Science Foundation.

Source : Physics.Org ( 7th march 2013 )

Brushing disability aside, she paints picture of hope : Allahabad

Days like 'international women's day' are a gimmick suited to the urban populace as hardly any women in rural India would know or be interested to know about a day dedicated exclusively to them. So says a differently-abled woman of Sangam city, Sarita Dwivedi.

On the occasion of International Women's Day (March 8), TOI talked to Sarita, whose both hands and right leg had to be amputated at the tender age of 6 after she was electrocuted by an 11000-watt high-tension wire. This talented girl grew up not only become self-reliant but is the winner of various eminent awards of the country besides being a talented painter, expert in sewing, handicrafts, clay modeling, ironing etc. She is presently pursuing Bachelor of Fine Arts from Allahabad University learning painting, clay modelling and various other art forms, not just surprising people but also inspiring them.

Today she is self reliant not only in terms of fulfilling her household duties but has also won a large numbers of awards, including two Bal Shree awards, National award for the empowerment of persons with disabilities, Godfrey Phillips national bravery award and first International award from the embassy of Arab republic of Egypt of Egyptian Ministry of culture.

"I had always wanted people to know me as a talented artist and not for the disability I suffer with because it hardly poses any difficulty in my routine life", said Sarita. For the woman fraternity, the brave girl feels that although every year people celebrate International Women's Day, women are subjected to domestic violence, rape, eve-teasing and other such. "People should respect women as if every day is women's day," says the talented Sarita. Those at the helm of affairs should make women more educated and aware so that they come to know their rights. "Those in the urban cities are much aware but do we think the same for women who stay in rural areas," she said.

"We as parents are worried for her as besides her physical challenges, two sisters and her brother have yet to get settled. We feel proud when she receives various awards but we would be happier when someone would come forward to sponsor her painting and cost of her studies, said Vimla Devi her mother. "I am so proud to be known as the mother of Sarita", she added.

"We are proud to be the classmates of Sarita as her paintings are adored everywhere and her disability never comes to our minds as she helps us so much. What better example of courage, could there be than Sarita," said Soni Tripathi.

Source : TOI , Allahabad (  8th March 2013 )


he United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday called for promoting the employment of persons with disabilities and removing the obstacles that impede them from working on an equal basis with others.

“The right to work is a fundamental human right that is inseparable from human dignity,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “Not only does it provide individuals with the means to make a living and support their families; insofar as work is freely chosen or accepted, it contributes to their development and recognition within their communities.

“Work carries no less meaning to persons with disabilities,” she told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as it held its annual discussion on human rights and persons with disabilities.

Pillay noted that when the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006, it embodied an “important shift” in the way that the global community viewed persons with disabilities.

“Prior to this, they had been regarded as mere recipients of charity, goodwill or medical care,” she said. “The Convention challenges these perspectives, establishing that persons with disabilities are holders of human rights on an equal basis with others.”

A study prepared by the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR) highlights good practices in promoting employment opportunities for persons with disabilities; delves into the barriers faced; and identifies the main challenges that States encounter in ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy access to, retention of and advancement in employment on an equal basis with others.

Pillay outlined three barriers that often confront persons with disabilities, beginning with the fact that many workplaces continue to be inaccessible to persons with disabilities – be it in terms of physical access, or via attitudes that create barriers to equal participation.

“Persons with disabilities are often seen as incapable of carrying out tasks required in the labour market, or better off in protected environments such as sheltered workshops. Efforts to promote employment of persons with disabilities often focus on creating jobs in separate settings, and fail to respect the Convention’s underlying principle of inclusion,” she stated.

“It is imperative that States move away from sheltered employment schemes and instead, actively promote opportunities for persons with disabilities to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted, in a labour market which is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.”

Another major barrier preventing persons with disabilities from enjoying the right to work is lack of access to education and training in relevant skills.

“In line with the Convention, we must ensure that persons with disabilities are able to take part in vocational training programmes that are non-discriminatory and that promote equality of opportunity as well as concrete outcome,” Pillay stressed.

A third barrier, she noted, is created through the lack of meaningful involvement of persons with disabilities in the development of legislation and policies related to their training and employment.

“Drawing upon the Convention’s essential pillar of full and effective participation, I call for capacity development of representative organisations of persons with disabilities to effectively take part in negotiations on their behalf.”

Pillay voiced confidence that the Council’s discussions will result in identifying practical steps that everyone – States, the private sector, civil society, UN entities, and others – can take to continue promoting the work and employment of persons with disabilities, in line with the Convention.

“In this critical time of building a global development agenda beyond 2015 that is firmly anchored in human rights, our joint efforts are more important than ever,” she stated.

Source : Nam News Network ( 7th march 2013 ) 

Effects of hyperbaric oxygen on motor function in children with cerebral palsy.

Abstract :

Despite limited data and significant controversy, hyperbaric oxygen treatments are frequently marketed for use in children with neurologic disease. These treatments are expensive and require significant investments of time and finances for families. This study was designed as a randomized, double-blind controlled trial of hyperbaric oxygen vs. hyperbaric air in children with spastic cerebral palsy. The Department of Defense funded the study, which should minimize potential conflicts of interest. The authors found no significant differences between treatment groups in two functional measures (Gross Motor Function Measure [GMFM] global score and Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory). Interestingly, the trial was halted at the second interim evaluation point because of the likelihood that no difference would be noted at the final endpoint.

The study did not control for concurrent therapies, though it was requested that no changes to concurrent therapies be made over the course of the study. Although the study did not directly address the possibility that hyperbaric air was therapeutic, the data showing no change in GMFM score before or after treatment make this possibility highly unlikely. Thus, this study addresses a timely and important question for patients and families affected by spastic cerebral palsy. The hyperbaric air group had a lower average age than the hyperbaric oxygen group, but it is unlikely this would explain any differences, given the ages studied. There were no other differences between treatment groups.

The significance of these results is that parents and providers now have more rigorous evidence on which to base a decision of whether to pursue this therapeutic option.

 Source :  F1000  Prime
Article Track !
Lacey DJ, Stolfi A, Pilati LE.
Ann Neurol. 2012 Nov; 72(5):695-703

NBJK realising rights of differently-abled

Differently-abled people are the most vulnerable groups of our society. If they are poor as in most of the cases, face acute hardship. All this happens despite the legislation, Person with disabilities Act, 1995 which says for equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation for people with disabilities.

With support of Action Village India / DFID - UK, Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra has initiated a programme in July 2010 with more than 32,000 differently-abled living in 20 blocks of Koderma, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Gaya and Nawada. There is minimal awareness of their rights & entitlements and ignorance prevails widely.
NBJK’s approach was primarily rights-based advocacy, supported with elements of service delivery in a difficult environment where the relevant Government services were either absent or limited. A survey by the organisation has revealed that only one out of five differently-abled people has the disability certificate (basic document to get benefits as per the law).

In 30 months only, situation has changed little and these people are now more organised. There are block and district level federations of differently-abled & their family members which works like a platform to raise issues, rights and demands related to disability. This combined effort resulted in medical assessment of 14,650 differently-abled people and issuance of 11,460 disability certificates from civil surgeon offices.
Workshops, training, events like quiz, essay / painting, sport, rally, street plays are the activities being performed. 476 children are enrolled in schools. Aids & appliances for 468, railway concession pass for 1034, social security pension for 4831 are achievements of this period. These people have formed 648 SHGs and there are 350 beneficiaries who have been provided more than Rs. 15 lakhs as micro credit to sustain with various income generation activities they are oriented with. 

Source :The  PioNeer , Hazari Bagh ( 8th March 2013 ) 

Three-year-old differently-abled girl allegedly raped by her father in Bhopal

In yet another horrific incident, a three-year-old differently-abled girl was allegedly raped by her father in Bhopal's Ambedkar Nagar area last evening. The man has been booked for rape.

The man who is in his 30s and is a daily wage earner allegedly assaulted the girl after returning home in a drunken state.

The neighbours heard the girl's screams and rushed to the house. When they saw the girl being assaulted, they beat up the accused and immediately called the police.

Police rushed to the spot and arrested the man. The girl was admitted to a local hospital, where medical tests confirmed she was raped.

The girl lived alone with her father after her mother passed away last year.

Source : ND TV , Bhopal ( 8th March 2013 )

"Cold, getting warmer, hot": New app helps blind people find each other


Emma tests a new prototype app that lets blind people find other blind people.
"We'd arranged to meet at a shopping mall but, as time went by, I began to wonder why my wife was so late," says Doug Wakefield, one half of a married blind couple visiting the CSUN accessible technology conference in San Diego last week. 

His wife Judy picks up the story: "Eventually, someone came up to me and said, are you waiting for a man with a guide dog? 

"We were to meet at the main entrance but I was to the left of the door and Doug was standing to the right, only ten feet away."

Lots of blind people have blind friends, so This game of cat and mouse takes place regularly. It can be funny but it's certainly a little frustrating.

As smart phones are fast becoming a basic part of a blind person's toolkit, it's perhaps not surprising that someone has now created "an app for that". 

People Finder has a very basic but accessible interface. Like mainstream products with similar aims, such as Grindr for the gay community and Spotme for networking at conferences, you have to have the app running if you want to meet up with people in your circle. 

It alerts a user, via a vibration and a noise, when someone else with the app comes within 50 feet. It uses Bluetooth to detect people.

As you search for your friend, the app will let you know how close you are, by saying "near" or "cold" as you walk around. 

To aid social niceties, There's the option to message the person through the app to say you've clocked them, before descending on them. 

Mike May is The brains behind People Finder, which is being developed by his company Sendero Group. They have 13 years experience of making accessible satnav solutions for blind pedestrians but Mike says he has wanted to make a people finding app for a long time. 

"As a blind person I'd love to be made aware of when somebody I know is near by, so that I can meet with them," he says. "As a bonus, you will also be careful not to talk about someone if you know they might be in hearing distance." 

Another attendee of the CSUN conference is Julian Vargas from California. He hopes to test out the app on a local bus route to see if he can spot the bus his friend is already on, so they can travel together. His friend can't see to wave to him through the window and so it's very easy to get on the wrong one, alone.
"The way we tend to do it now," says Julian, "is by sending text messages. This app would be nice because if my friends are running it, when their bus pulls up, theoretically, all of a sudden my phone should ding and say that it sees their phone."

Blind people already have a range of strategies for letting a sightless friend know they are nearby. The best way is to use your voice so your friend can hear you but, socially speaking, it looks a little odd just talking to yourself so blind people might pretend to be having a phone conversation or pet their guide dogs saying "good boy Buttons" a little more loudly than usual. 

It may have crossed your mind that there might be a big security risk with having already vulnerable people announcing themselves digitally over the air so others can find them. Some apps of the people-finding variety have caused concern but the dynamics seem a bit different here. Potential sighted stalkers can already see blind people at 50 feet, and are likely to know they can't see if they're using a dog, a white cane or that they're not negotiating obstacles very elegantly, so the app isn't going to betray them any more than normal in most circumstances. Blind users may consider this an acceptable risk if it means that they too can spot their pals.

One hundred people are currently testing the prototype app, which can be used indoors or outdoors wherever you are in the world. Mike May is having trouble getting funders to see why blind people would need it and wants all current testers to form a "fan club" to raise its profile.
Now for a blind access app that keeps track of your children in crowded shopping malls, a GPS app which is accurate to within 1 CM and perhaps, one that can plot a direct route into the arms of a soulmate.

Source : BBC UK ( 6th march 2013 ) 

विकलांग कैदियों को बुनियादी सुविधाएं उपलब्ध कराए सरकार

दिल्ली उच्च न्यायालय ने दिल्ली सरकार को तिहाड़ में विकलांग कैदियों को बुनियादी सुविधाएं मुहैया कराने के आदेश दिए हैं। उच्च न्यायालय के मुख्य न्यायाधीश डी. मुरुगेसन व न्यायमूर्ति वीके जैन की खंडपीठ ने सरकार को निर्देश दिया कि वह जल्द से जल्द तिहाड़ में बंद विकलांग कैदियों को व्हीलचेयर, अलग शौचालय आदि बुनियादी सुविधाएं उपलब्ध कराए। इसके साथ अदालत ने मामले में दायर याचिका का निपटारा कर दिया।
उच्च न्यायालय ने आदेश में कहा कि सरकार इस जनहित याचिका को एक शिकायत के रूप में लेते हुए इस पर कार्रवाई करे। बता दें कि उच्च न्यायालय में जनहित याचिका दायर की गई थी कि तिहाड़ में बंद विकलांग कैदियों को बुनियादी सुविधाएं उपलब्ध नहीं कराई जा रही हैं। इस याचिका पर दिल्ली सरकार व तिहाड़ जेल प्रशासन का कहना था कि उन्होंने विकलांग कैदियों को कई सुविधाएं मुहैया करा रखी हैं और अन्य सुविधाएं मुहैया कराने पर विचार किया जा रहा है।

Source : Jagran ( 6th march 2013 ) 

Physically challenged girl raped by neighbour in Kolkata

A 25-year-old physically challenged woman was allegedly raped by a 50-year-old man in Behala, on the city’s southern outskirts, police said Thursday. The accused is yet to be arrested.

“We have received a complaint against one Bikash Ghosh accusing him of raping a physically challenged woman. The accused has gone into hiding. But we are confident of arresting him soon,” Deputy Commissioner (South West Division) S. Mitra said.

Protests following the Delhi incident of gangrape. Agencies.

According to police, the incident took place Monday evening when Ghosh lured the victim to a secluded place and allegedly raped her.
Traumatised by the incident, the girl related the incident to her family members Wednesday, following which a police complaint was filed.
“We took the victim’s clothes for forensic tests. A medical test to confirm rape has already been done, reports of which are awaited,” Mitra said.

Source : First Post ( 7th March 2013 )

Sociology professor seeks better campus accessibility

It takes more effort for Sally Caldwell to navigate Texas State’s hills than it does for an average student.
Caldwell scans her ID at the basement door of the Alkek Library to avoid taking the stairs or ramps on her way to the LBJ Student Center. She then rides an elevator up to the second floor of the library. Despite these shortcuts, she still has to make part of the hike to the Student Center. The sociology associate professor must take these alternative routes on a daily basis because she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease seven years ago. The illness causes lung flare-ups, affecting her ability to breathe.

The constant possibility of her disease flaring up is what brought Caldwell to the Feb. 18 Office of Disability Services meeting. There she requested that benches be placed in the doorways of buildings throughout campus. Caldwell is one of multiple members of the Texas State community who has difficulty navigating the campus because of an illness or disability. This has led to an initiative to make Texas State’s facilities more accessible.

“This disease is absolutely maddening because you can be just feeling great, (but) then something happens and you are taken. It’s very scary,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said in a Feb. 19 University Star article she has come close to collapsing numerous times upon entering a building on campus.

“Sometimes I get to a door and think, ‘These are my last few moments on earth,’” Caldwell said in the article.

Clint-Michael Reneau, director of the Office of Disability Services, said he appreciates Caldwell bringing the addition of benches in building entryways to his attention.
“It’s on an ongoing list to make sure that we have these benches be placed,” Reneau said. “Our plan is to measure the entryways for spacing and size.” 
Reneau said he and Don Compton, associate director of Facilities Planning Design, have been working to identify the main entryways for each building on campus.
In the meantime, Caldwell said she checks with a lung transplant team in Houston multiple times each year.
“There’s a very good chance that I’ll be placed on the list for a transplant,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said she will receive a single or double lung transplant after getting on the list. Caldwell said her next hospital visit will be with heart experts to determine if she is healthy enough for the operation.
Kay Newling, sociology senior lecturer, said she would describe Caldwell’s attitude throughout her ailment as “incredibly resilient” and “determined.” Newling said she met the faculty member 10 years ago as a student in Caldwell’s class.

“(Caldwell) has had to put up with quite a few occasions where she’s been so sick that she’s been hospitalized,” Caldwell said. “But she loves teaching and will basically knock herself out to continue.”
Caldwell said her insurance company has paid for more than $10,000 in medication fees to alleviate the illness in the past year.

Caldwell returned to her office after being hospitalized for the duration of last November to find notes that read “sugarpie” and “glad to have you back” scattered across the desk. These notes were a reminder of the impact she has had on Texas State.

Caldwell said she truly missed her students during November’s extended hospital stay.
“I like to take a walk around campus at the beginning of each semester just to look at the students,” Caldwell said. “Kind of dream it all in and think about it. Because as far as I’m concerned, teaching is the definition of who I am.”

Source : The University Star ( 7th march 2013 ) 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Differently able journalists demand reservation : Kathmandu

The National Differently able Journalists' Association has submitted an 11-point memorandum to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), demanding reservation.

 A team of the differently able journalists led by the Association chair Rabin Thapaliya submitted the memorandum to FNJ Chair Shiva Gaunle at the FNJ head office on Tuesday.

 Through the memorandum, the differently able journalists have demanded reservation while opening vacancies in the FNJ central office, guaranteeing representation of such journalists in the FNJ's district chapters, construction of the disabled people-friendly buildings, amendment of the FNJ rule to address journalists' disabilities, and others.

Similarly, the FNJ's mediation was sought to ensuring pension for the differently able journalists working for more than a decade, reconsideration on the classification of the media run by the differently able journalists.
On the occasion, FNJ Chair Gaunle ensured that the general assembly of the FNJ would take initiatives to address the genuine demands of the differently able journalists.

Source : Sansar news ( 6th march 2013 ) 

Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin visits New York School for the Deaf in Greenburgh

Students at the New York School for the Deaf in Greenburgh got a special visit from Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin yesterday.

Video  at the time of Oscar ceremony

Matlin, who is deaf herself, was at the school to mark the airing of the latest episode of her current ABC Family TV show, "Switched at Birth." The episode broke ground in that it's the first TV show produced entirely in American Sign Language. Entitled "Uprising," it's about a demonstration organized by deaf students to save their school.

Matlin says the show's portrayal of several characters who are deaf is something these students can take to heart. "Deaf people can identify with characters on the show. That's never been done before," says Matlin. "I think it’s important to have the opportunity for them to be heard and understood."
The show's plot is something the kids could identify with since their school nearly closed last year because of budget problems.

Source : Long Island ( 6th march 2013 ) 

Interactive storybook iPad app especially for deaf children

The Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet University has released The Baobab, the first in a new series of three bilingual storybook apps to help with the acquisition of American Sign Language and English. 
As reported on Decoded Science, The National Science Foundation-funded VL2 at Gallaudet University research center has developed The Baobab and two other storybook apps. The aim of the storybook apps is to help language acquisition and reading in all young children but when developing the product the team’s main focus was on those children who are deaf and hard of hearing. In order to understand the needs of the hard of hearing population and produce a useful and successful product, the team of developers included deaf and hard of hearing members. Digital Journal contacted Melissa Malzkuhn, VL2 Digital Innovation and Media Strategies Manager, for further information about their innovative app. What age group are these storybook apps aimed at? Four and up, or you can say four-to-seven years old, as in early and emerging readers. In our focus groups, we had children as young as two years old enjoy the storybook app, and in some instances, there were eight or nine month old babies trying to follow and mimic signs.
The Baobab - interactive storybook app
Gallaudet University
The Baobab - interactive storybook app

Who is the target audience? We have received positive interest from people starting to learn American Sign Language, appreciating the storytelling (which is for all ages), and the glossary support. We plan to reach out to educators and parents through different magazines, publications, and news outlets. Where will the app be distributed, schools, libraries, individuals? Libraries and children’s museums are on our list in our effort to reach out. We are envisioning introducing them to every school in the country serving deaf and hard of hearing children, but at the same time, we see tremendous benefits for hearing children with deaf parents in using the storybooks. Melissa Malzkuhn also mentioned that they have hidden an Easter egg in the app and added that the ‘accelerometer’ when in the 'read mode' should help the kids search for this item. When asked why they had decided to add this Malzkuhn replied, “ We want children to discover something on their own.” More information about The Baobab is available on iTunes and users comments and reviews posted there seem very positive. Two other story book apps will be released later this year The Little Airplane That Could and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Important teaching principles for deaf children Interestingly, Gallaudet University states that research has proven that deaf children benefit more from deaf adults reading to them and that the academic achievements of deaf children with deaf parents are superior to those of deaf children with hearing parents. Taking this into consideration, Gallaudet has provided a list of principles based on the teaching methods used by deaf parents that hearing parents of deaf children can follow to help advance their children academically. 
Source : Digital journal ( 6th march 2013 ) 

Brain May Treat Wheelchair as Part of the Body

The brains of disabled people adjust to a wheelchair and treat it as an extension of their body, essentially replacing limbs that don't function properly anymore, new research suggests.

The findings provide more insight into how the brain compensates when it uses tools like a wheelchair, or even something as simple as a hammer or toothbrush, said study lead author Mariella Pazzaglia, an assistant professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, in Italy.

In the future, Pazzaglia said, this kind of research could lead to ways to enhance the body in people who are physically impaired. "Bodily representations can be extended to include exoskeletons, prostheses, robots and virtual avatars," she said.

 Study suggests that devices that aid the disabled

At issue is what scientists call "brain plasticity," which describes the brain's ability to learn and adjust, something people do quite often when young and continue to do as they get older.
"If we learn how to play a piano or drive somewhere, that's plasticity in action," said Dr. Alexander Dromerick, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Human brains also can compensate for bodily changes such as the loss of a limb by adjusting what's known as the internal body map. The new study sought to understand how the brains of disabled people change their body maps to include wheelchairs.

The researchers surveyed 55 people in wheelchairs with spinal cord injuries about their lives, and then analyzed their responses. The study authors determined that the participants treated wheelchairs as part of their bodies, not simply as extensions of their limbs.

The study also found that people who had more movement in their upper limbs could interact more with wheelchairs, and this improved their ability to incorporate them into their body images.

Essentially, the participants' brains go into an automatic mode when it comes to using the wheelchairs. This leads to "more efficient and safer use, with lower costs, risks and dangers to the body," Pazzaglia said.
"To elude dangerous objects in the environment and the collisions that may occur during wheelchair use, the brain needs to encode an internal representation of the body that includes the wheelchair," she said.
"Moreover, the simple action of picking objects up from the floor without tipping out of the wheelchair implies a change in the representation of the body to enable this to happen successfully and without the risk of possible damage to the individual due to a fall," she added. "All daily activities become an automatic way of thinking, not merely a mechanical or practical process."

Automatic thinking -- based on body maps that encompass inanimate objects -- plays plenty of other roles in people's lives, Georgetown's Dromerick said. For example, people who can wield a hammer effectively or parallel park with ease have learned to treat hammers and cars as extensions of themselves, he said.
The study appeared March 6 in the journal PLoS One.

Source : Webmd ( 6th March 2013 ) 

SC Exam: Student with cerebral palsy allowed to use computer

The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) on Tuesday allowed a Class X student with multiple disabilities to use a computer to write his exam. This is the first time that a student in the state appearing for the board exam has been allowed the use of a computer for the purpose.

Siddharth Das (20), a differently-abled student of Rochiram T Thadani School for the Hearing Impaired at Chembur suffers from cerebral palsy as well as speech and hearing impairment. Siddharth's father, Basudeb Das, and his school management wrote to the Mumbai divisional board requesting them to allow him to write his papers on a computer.

"We verified the student's case and forwarded the application and our report to the chairman of MSBSHSE in Pune. Using special powers, the chairman granted him permission," said Laxmikant Pande, chairman of Mumbai divisional board.

Basudeb said, "Despite disabilities like hearing and speech impairment, my son was keen on appearing for the SSC board exam. Siddharth can neither speak properly nor can he write as he does not have 100 per cent control over his body."

For his first paper on Tuesday, Siddharth was provided a computer at his exam centre — Loretto Convent in Chembur. "We ensured that the computer did not have any files or internet connection. He was only provided a soft copy of question paper. We instructed officials of the exam centre to print his answer paper as soon as he completed writing. A barcode was stuck on the answer paper and sent directly to the Mumbai divisional board," said Pande.

"We are thankful to the state board and the school management. Siddharth said he did well in the exam. For us, it is important that he able to take the exam, how he fares is secondary," said Basudeb.

Board officials said the decision will be beneficial for students like Siddharth. "The state board has always been student-friendly. We have allowed ailing students to write their exam from hospital beds, ambulances and even provided beds for them at exam centres in the past. So far, we allowed the use of typewriters; this is the first time we allowed computers," said Pande.

Source : The Indian Express ( 7th March 2013 ) 

चिन्हित 659 विकलांग को मिलेगा उपकरण

 पूरे जनपद में ब्लाक स्तर पर आयोजित विशेष शिविर में 659 विकलांग चिन्हित किये गये। इन सभी को उपकरण चालू माह में वितरित किये जाएंगे।

जिला अल्पसंख्यक कल्याण अधिकारी शिव प्रकाश तिवारी ने बताया कि बीते 23 से 28 फरवरी के बीच जनपद के सभी ब्लाकों में आयोजित विशेष शिविर में कुल 659 विकलांग विभिन्न उपकरण के लिए पात्र पाये गये। इन सभी को सामाजिक न्याय एवं अधिकारिता मंत्रालय भारत सरकार द्वारा व्हील चेयर, ट्राईसाइकिल, वैशाखी आदि उपकरण शामिल है। उन्होंने बताया कि तहसीलवार चिन्हित विकलांगों में नौगढ़ सदर तहसील के 83, शोहरतगढ़ तहसील के 100, इटवा तहसील क्षेत्र के 83, डुमरियागंज के 231, बांसी तहसील क्षेत्र के 162 विकलांग चिन्हित है।

Source : Jagran , Sidharth nagar , UP ( 6th march 2013 ) 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

I'll stand and write my HSC exams, says physically challenged student

Hemita Shah suffers from muscular dystrophy since birth. She prefers to stand for three hours and write, as sitting for her is extremely painful.


This year, while HSC students take their three-hour-long examinations, 18-year-old Hemita Shah chooses to stand throughout the duration of each paper. The Vashi resident suffers from muscular dystrophy, which causes muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue, since birth. Standing, she believes, will increase her writing speed.

Shah, a commerce student from St Mary’s Multipurpose High school and Junior college, Vashi, says that standing and writing has almost become a habit.

Hemita Shah, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, at the examination centre on Saturday. Pics/Sameer Markande 

“Since I was in Class 5, I have written my examinations like this. I did have the privilege of taking a writer during my boards, but I feel he/ she will not be able to do justice to what I have studied,” says Shah, who adds that standing through three hours tires her out but at the end, it is all worth it. “I am not comfortable sitting on the benches at the examination centre. My school authorities have taken every effort to make me comfortable during class hours. If not for the constant help and support of my principal, teachers and my family, I would have never been able to achieve so much.”

The disorder

Explaining the condition, Dr Pawan Ojha, neurologist, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, says, “Muscular dystrophy is a rare disorder. The bones grow fine but muscles are underdeveloped. It affects two to three individuals in almost three lakh people. In fact, this condition is even rarer in girls.”

Shah’s mother, Pravina, who is a housewife, accompanies her to the exam centre every day. “I was unaware of my baby’s situation during my pregnancy. We came to know about it when Hemita was two years old,” says Pravina, who adds that Shah’s condition worsened after she met with an accident at the age of six while the family was returning from Gujarat and Shah fell off from one of her relative’s arms.

“Someone pushed my relative, who then lost her balance. We fell down on the platform. I ended up with a fractured leg and was required to sit in one particular position for six months, which further aggravated my disorder,” recalls Shah, who gets 20 minutes extra time for every hour of the examination.

KB Patil, chief conductor from Karamveer Bhaurao Patil College, Vashi, which is Shah’s examination centre, was surprised to see the girl write her papers effortlessly, despite the disorder. “She comes to the centre and revises her lessons before the exam starts.”

The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education chairman Sarjerao Jadhav said the girl is an inspiration for other students. “She has clearly shown the world that if someone is determined to do something in life nothing can ever stop him / her.

Source : Mid Day ( 3rd march 2013 ) 



विकलांग निराश, व्यवस्था को कोस बैरंग लौटे : UP

तहसील दिवस में मंगलवार को अधिकांश विकलांगों को निराशा ही हाथ लगी। कारण दिवस में आयोजित होने वाले मेडिकल कैम्प में तीन चिकित्सकों के पैनल में दो ही चिकित्सक मौजूद थे। इससे मौके पर ही विकलांग प्रमाण पत्र नहीं दिया जा सका। विकलांग व्यवस्था को कोसते हुए बैरंग लौट गए।
बांये पैर से पूरी तरह विकलांग इंद्रपुरवा निवासी राधे पुत्र स्वर्गीय अलियार लाठी के सहारे तहसील दिवस में पहुंचा था। उसे ट्राइ साइकिल, बैशाखी आज तक उपलब्ध नहीं हो पाई। काफी दौड़ धूप के बाद फोटो सहित अन्य दस्तावेज लेकर कैम्प में पहुंचा तो चिकित्सक के अभाव में निराशा ही हाथ लगी। बताया कि कागजात सहित किराया, भाड़ा में हजार रुपये खर्च हो गए। तहसील दिवस में चक्कर काटते-काटते परेशान हो गए। बिकापुर के रहने वाली गुड़िया पुत्री राम मूरत को लेकर पहुंची वृद्ध मां को जब मालूम हुआ कि चिकित्सक नहीं हैं, आज नहीं फिर कभी आना तो वह सिसक पड़ी। दोनो पैर से विकलाग रोहाखी गांव निवासी लालबहादुर पुत्र कांता का भी कमावेश कुछ यही स्थिति थी। कहा विकलाग प्रमाण पत्र जारी करने के नाम पर जिला मुख्यालय बुलाया जा रहा है। इसी प्रकार तेतरा, रामशीला, जगरोपन, आदि कई विकलांग ने व्यवस्था को खूब कोसा। बता दें कि मेडिकल कैम्प में आंख व हड्डी के ही चिकित्सक मौजूद थे। विभाग के बाबू की मनमर्जी और घुड़की के आगे विकलांग की एक नहीं चलती थी। बताया गया कि चिकित्सीय पैनल में गला रोग के चिकित्सक के स्थानांतरण से यह असुविधा हुई है।

Source : Jagran , Chandoli, UP ( 5th March 2013 ) 

Can the Jaipur Foot survive after Devendra Raj Mehta?

Devendra Raj Mehta was a career bureaucrat who rose to the top, advising prime ministers as the deputy governor of RBI and taking on big corporate names during his stint as the Sebi chairman. But as one sits in his 'office' of over a decade, at the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) in Jaipur, the absence of any trappings of power from that 40-year career is striking. Mehta himself arrives in a modest hatchback and carries his bottle of water as he enters the office, which is also not his alone.

The room has two long tables joined as one, and half-a-dozen chairs around it. Mehta dictates mails to his secretary Khaleel, who types away at a laptop. Soon, his pet dog enters and nonchalantly climbs on to a corner chair and gets comfortable. Khaleel hands over a bunch of envelopes and papers to Mehta. These are cheques from donors, proposals from prospective partners and official communication from the local administration.

Every few minutes, there is a stream of people. They don't need to knock or ask for permission to enter the room. They are all in need. Mehta addresses each of them and assigns his staff to help the visitors out.

Can the Jaipur Foot survive after Devendra Raj Mehta? 

"I'm sorry, we can't serve you tea. You see, we want to use each rupee for the poor. We don't even have tea during our board meetings unless a director sponsors it," says Mehta, the founder and chief patron of BMVSS, which is better known for its product-the Jaipur Foot. One of his associates later added that to cut costs each of them even gets water from home.
Over the past 38 years, parsimony has been one of the reasons why BMVSS has been able to provide limbs to 1.3 million people for free. It has also developed a model that impresses many, entrepreneurs included, with its simplicity. "I have always read in management books that the best way to have an efficient operation is to keep it simple. But, as an entrepreneur, I realised it is very tough. But Mehta has done it very successfully," says Praveen Kankariya, an NRI businessman from the US and a donor at BMVSS for the past three years.
The accolades continue to pour in. "The Jaipur Foot represents Gandhian or frugal engineering. Along with the Nano car, it shows that the best of technology can be brought to the customers at the bottom of the pyramid," says eminent scientist RA Mashelkar. "There may be other places in the world where compassion is that tangible; it is just that we had not seen any," says Armand Neukermans, an American entrepreneur and scientist who has tracked BMVSS through the last decade.
But even for an optimist who habitually looks at the brighter side, Mehta realises that the organisation he nurtured over four decades is today facing key existential issues. Can BMVSS survive after Mehta?
Tasneem Raja of Tata Trusts, the country's largest philanthropy organisation, says, "One reason why the Jaipur Foot can't be replicated is because it is driven by the passion of one man." Adds Neukermans, "They [BMVSS] are not going to find a person with the same charisma and stature."
The 75-year-old Mehta also has a financial problem. Though BMVSS is able to meet its annual budget of Rs 15 crore thanks to government grants, interest from its corpus and donations, once in a while Mehta has to dip into the organisation's corpus to cover expenditure. The grants, which help meet almost one-third of the budget, have been erratic in the past and are unpredictable. With the number of patients hovering around 60,000 for the last three years, Mehta now needs more money to take the Jaipur Foot to the interiors of India and also enter more international markets.
This has led well-wishers, like Mashelkar, who is also on BMVSS' Global Advisory Council, to call for a change in the free-for-all model. The former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) doesn't see any wrong in "making a business out of doing good".
Neukermans adds, "The way to develop the company is not by keeping the services free but by setting up a sustainable business." In other words, Mehta should start charging at least a nominal amount for his product, which costs about Rs 2,500 to produce.
Charging for the product might help Mehta to also fund R&D in improving the Jaipur Foot-despite its collaborations with Stanford University and MIT, which are on a voluntary basis. R&D becomes necessary as the product is still to pass muster internationally, despite there being significant improvement over the years. Past attempts to foster partnerships with international bodies, like USAID and Red Cross, have faltered because of issues with product quality.
Mehta is aware of the debate, but it has only reinforced his belief that the present model is the best one. "It [change in model] will happen only over my dead body," he exclaims. But with increasing calls for change and Mehta's family members-who had been firmly backing him-acknowledging that "there is a need to look at it", can the septuagenarian resist change when the iconic organisation's survival is at stake?
Thriftiness and compassion: A couple of years ago, a leading management guru from Cornell University did some research on the Jaipur Foot and told Mehta, "Though you have done a great job, your company can't sustain unless you change the free-for-all model". "With due respect," Mehta had replied, "You advise many leading companies in the US. Tell me, how many of them have survived for more than 35 years?"
A big part of that credit for BMVSS' success goes to Mehta himself. Since he set up the organisation in 1975, the former secretary to the government of Rajasthan has laid the foundation of BMVSS on two pillars-thriftiness and compassion.
The late management guru CK Prahalad hailed BMVSS for its lean structure and added that it is probably the most efficiently-run organisation of its kind. The simplicity in its structure has enabled BMVSS to build scale-fitting more than 60,000 limbs a year-which others just can't hope to replicate. Mehta has also been able to cut the red tape, which often bogs down patients at leading hospitals in the country. Scores visit the clinic in Jaipur every day. Many return the same day or the next. "Most of the time, the guard himself admits them. You don't need a doctor to see that someone is missing a limb and has a problem," says Mehta.
Once admitted to the clinic, a patient is assisted by a staff member till he or she checks out. And the whole process-from measuring and fabrication to fitting and training-resembles an assembly line approach. "At the same time, we make sure that the quality is good. It is part of our patient-centric management," says Veerendra Raj Mehta, elder brother of the BMVSS founder, who took the organisation international by setting up a branch in Manila, the Philippines, in 1985.
Mehta is also aware that 95 percent of his patients fall below the poverty line. "Many of them don't even have money to go back home," says Mehta. So BMVSS not only puts up the patients in its dormitories but also provides them with food and warm clothes in winter. Every evening, once the clinic closes, Mehta makes his second visit of the day.
In the morning, while he talks to each patient to find out about their medical problems, he notices the neediest of the lot. During his evening vigil, he turns Santa Claus and distributes everything-from sewing machines to tricycles and items to set up a tea stall.
"We need to make sure they have a livelihood," says Mehta. When he is not with patients, Mehta takes his visitors, including donors, on a tour around the clinic, looking as excited as a small boy. And like a superstar, patients and employees gather around him wherever he goes. "He goes about selflessly, without any ego," says Kankariya. Donors have gone back from BMVSS to become life-long supporters. But, says Mehta, "The moment I start charging, the donations will dry up."
A lasting legacy: Mehta is aware that money from donors alone won't be enough either to make BMVSS sustainable or expand boundaries. He studied business models of other organisations, like Arvind Netralaya, which treats its poor patients for free but charges the moneyed ones.

"But that model can't be applied here," says Mehta. His brother adds, "Most of us, irrespective of being rich or poor, do have cataract problems with age. But when it comes to limbs, most of our patients are the poorest of the poor." So even if 5 per cent of the patients are charged, it won't be enough to cover for the rest.
One way to improve finances is to increase the corpus. While Mehta shared the corpus amount with Forbes India, he requests that it should not be disclosed. "If I can increase this corpus amount by 50 percent, then I will be relieved, as income from interest will cover our costs."

Last year, he received a shot in the arm when the UK-based Paul Hamlyn Foundation gave a one-time grant of Rs 8 crore. Now Mehta is hoping that the new Companies Act, which stipulates companies to spend 2 percent of their net profits on CSR (corporate social responsibility), will also bring in more funds.
He has also developed a 'franchisee model' that lets him expand the 'footprints' in India and abroad without incurring costs. "We needed regional centres to absorb the demand and also offer better post-fitting training," says Mehta. He has roped in some well-known companies and entrepreneurs to take over a branch or an associate centre.

Entrepreneurs like BK Modi, former bureaucrats such as PC Parekh and companies including TCI have opened BMVSS centres in second-tier cities like Varanasi and Guwahati. Mehta has followed the model internationally too, with the latest one in Columbia being opened with the help of a local organisation. A similar centre in Sudan will soon open in partnership with leading oil company ONGC. While these partners put in the money, Mehta ensures supply of product and the know-how.
But further international expansion, especially in developed markets like the US, would depend upon the product itself. A low-quality product would make them vulnerable to litigation in the US. Ken Endo, a Japanese researcher in MIT who was part of the team that improved upon the Jaipur Foot, recently brought four patients from his homeland to Jaipur. While the Jaipur Foot was much cheaper than a similar product in Japan, "they all complained [about] their socket". They hurt more when they use daily... I also found that there is no rehabilitation after amputees getting their prostheses," says Endo.
Adds Amit Mukherjee, director at the world's largest prosthetics company Otto Bock: "It is not important that you need to fit the limb and send patients back the same day. Training is needed." The German company fits about 1,000 limbs every year in India. But its product, which costs from Rs 20,000 to Rs 3 lakh, caters to the other end of the market.
Mehta admits there are issues with the product that need to be sorted out. This includes longevity. A Jaipur Foot lasts for a little over three years, almost half the lifetime of the products manufactured by Otto Bock. Endo says, "Otto Bock uses titanium usually to satisfy ISO standards. However, the Jaipur Foot mainly uses HDPE [high density polyethylene] and rubber, which are cheap but not so durable."
Fortunately for Mehta, technical collaboration with MIT and Stanford has brought in more suitors. The two American institutes have renewed their partnerships. After creating a new knee for BMVSS, researchers in Stanford are now testing a 'Jaipur Hand'. Mehta has also signed research collaborations with IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi to improve specific aspects of the Jaipur Foot.

The next Mehta: The most important step that Mehta has taken towards ensuring that his legacy is in safe hands is that he's handpicked his successor. After 'experimenting' with young professionals, social activists and retired bureaucrats, Mehta has chosen 'distant' relative Bhupendra Raj Mehta to succeed him. An architect who had his own construction business, Bhupendra spends up to four hours at BMVSS every day. "I have been trying to observe Mr Mehta and learn from him. His discipline, patience and management style are exemplary," says Bhupendra, who now takes care of finances, HR and purchase functions. "It is good that he is handling responsibilities. I tend to be emotional," says Mehta with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Though initially there was hesitation [none could see anyone taking Mehta's place], I have been able to create a rapport with the employees here," says Bhupendra. He has also brought in an element of systems and processes within the registered society by making a five-year 'verbal' contract with employees on their salaries and making sure that 95 percent of its purchases happen through tendering.

Second, like his senior cousin, Bhupendra is a firm believer that the present model should continue. "We have our limitations [financially]. A significant amount of our expenditure is covered through donations, which can be unpredictable. But we are sure that to serve the needy, this model should continue," he says.
Helping Bhupendra would be a network of accomplished gentlemen whom Mehta and his brother have roped in to form the Global Advisory Council of BMVSS. The panel met for the first time in December 2012. With eminent personalities like former Chief Justice AM Ahmadi, former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra and top lawyer Harish Salve, Mehta is assured of sound advice. "These are accomplished people. They also come with fresh thinking, which can make a difference," he says.

The first initiative propagated by the Council is to hold a limb-fitting camp in Afghanistan that will also see participation from Pakistani civil society. "It promises to be a great event," says Mehta. He will be hoping that the camp would be the beginning of a journey that will make the Jaipur Foot a lasting legacy.

Source : Ibn7 Live , 5th March 2013