Communication > Campaign and materials
World Disability Day celebrations
World Disability Day holds immense significance for the disability sector. It is a day to take stock of the achievements of the past year. It is also a good chance to bring the needs, concerns and rights of persons with disability into the national limelight.
The first ‘Walk to Freedom’ was organised in Delhi on December 3, 1997, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the independence of our nation. The event symbolised the distance that disabled people still have to cover to achieve true freedom – freedom which can come with self-reliance and economic independence.
The march from India Gate to Vijay Chowk was, with over 2,000 people participating, a huge success, with extensive coverage from both the print and electronic media. The N.C.P.E.D.P. also tried to motivate N.G.O.s in other cities in the country to hold similar walkathons, and in the same week, there were similar ‘Walks to Freedom’ in Kolkata, Muzaffarpur, Aligarh, Guwahati, Chennai, Pondicherry, Ahmedabad and Bangalore.
The Walk to Freedom has now become an annual fixture. Each year, increasing numbers of people participate in the walks all over the country.
The eve of World Disability Day 1998 saw a candle-lit Walk to Freedom being organised. As part of the World Disability Day celebrations, the N.C.P.E.D.P organised a two day ‘National Disability Convention’ in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (C.I.I.). Over two days, six core issues concerning the lives of people with disabilities were discussed – education, accessibility, employment, women with disabilities, political participation and sports and recreation. It was a unique event, where disabled people from the grassroots level participated on a national level, and shared space with corporate bigwigs. It was an enriching and educational experience for both groups.
In the millennium’s last year, 1999, N.C.P.E.D.P. used the Disability Day celebrations to launch its ambitious ‘Disability 2000’ campaign. Ajay Jadeja, Nandita Das and Subodh Bhargava were chosen as ‘Ambassadors of Disability’ for the campaign. This year-long campaign saw the N.C.P.E.D.P. forging partnerships and alliances with various N.G.O.s and advocacy groups for implementation of the Disability 2000 campaign as a national campaign involving all the states of India. This network building has proved invaluable to the cause of the disabled. The year was a watershed in the history of the disability movement in India – World Disability Day celebrations were extended to all the States and Union Territories of the country.
Disability 2000 also saw a greater thrust in highlighting the cause of disabled people for industry as well as for the general public. The Disabled Friendly Corporate Logo and the presentation of the first Helen Keller Awards for employment opportunities without prejudice were among the initiatives for the corporate sector.
2001 saw ‘Accessibility’ as the theme, in the year when Professor Stephen Hawking’s visit to India gave the N.C.P.E.D.P. the opportunity to haul the government over the coals publicly on matters of access to public places for the disabled.
As a part of the celebrations, the partners conducted disability audits of at least five public buildings in their cities. N.C.P.E.D.P. also produced TV spots on universal access, which were telecast by many channels during the World Disability Fortnight. Also, with a great deal of mobilisation, over 5,000 people from different sectors turned up at India Gate for the ‘Walk to Freedom.’
In 2002, partners, N.G.O.s and hundreds of persons with disability – over 7,000 people representing almost all the States and Union Territories – turned up in Delhi for World Disability Day celebrations. N.C.P.E.D.P. led a delegation of 50 people to meet the president of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
The year 2003 was the seventh year of the celebrations; the theme was ‘Inclusion: To be a part and nor apart’. On the occasion of WDD last year more than 7,000 people were present at India Gate. Delhi’s Chief Minister, Mrs. Sheila Dixit and former State Disability Commissioner, Mrs. Neeru Nanda graced the event with their presence, enabling the disability sector and disabled people to voice their concerns and outline their demands in front of them.
One of the key objectives in 2003 was to expand the activities of WDD and to reach out to a much larger population. To achieve this goal, a unique Solidarity Campaign was devised. And with the help of National Disability Network (NDN) in the country, it was launched across the country through information leaflets, yellow and blue ribbons, posters, banners and a pledge form. To present a unified image, these were all developed centrally and then disseminated across the country.
On the eve of WDD 2003, special ‘Solidarity Booths’ were set up in all state capitals and union territories. These booths attracted thousands of people, who signed pledges in support of the disability sector and people with disabilities. In Delhi, NCPEDP and other disability organisations participated actively in the campaign and managed to set up more than 200 Solidarity Booths.
The campaign was not restricted to the disability sector but included a large number of corporates, schools and colleges. The success of the campaign can be judged from extensive coverage by the media and the fact that over a thousand pledges were signed in a single day.
N.C.P.E.D.P.’s constant efforts have made sure that many more people will now walk in step with the disabled. The celebration of disability on every December 3 has now given a special focus to the rights of disabled persons. It is a common bond shared by millions across the country, and celebrated by disabled persons from every region and every religion.