Among the many inspiring people I have encountered in my life, Javed Abidi is someone I am happy to have come across and interacted with.
Born with congenital spina bifida, a developmental disorder, Javed went abroad, got trained as a journalist and did become very well known in the field.
Later, he decided to join the disability movement and has truly make a difference. He has now traversed the world on a wheelchair, advocating the rights of the disabled. Considered a pioneer of the Cross-Disability Movement in India, he was instrumental in the drafting and passing of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and in the setting up of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in 1996. He has been its director since 1997. In October 2011, he was appointed world chairperson of Disabled People’s International (DPI), a global organization working for the rights of people living with disabilities.
In the process, Javed has introduced cross-disability culture to the movement. This has been vital for getting groups dealing with physical and mental disabilities to learn of, and listen to, each other. He sees the lack of information-sharing and communication between disability groups as having kept them apart and virtually disinterested in larger issues of the field. Thus he is spearheading nationwide surveys and researches – the first in the history of the movement – to assess the roles, potential, strengths, and weaknesses of the citizen, business, and government sectors vis-á-vis the disabled. The results have exposed grave areas of weaknesses and spurred the movement to address them.
Javed has been systematically training these various disability groups in campaigning and negotiating skills, and helping them to campaign in the political arena for disabled rights. Through lobbying and recourse to litigation (in an historic public interest case that will affect considerations of the disabled in Indian airports), Javed is now concentrating on the successful implementation of the recently passed Disability Act. Simultaneously, as head of the National Council for the Promotion of Employment of People with Disability (NCPEDP), he is working with the corporate sector to define clear employment policies for the disabled within their agenda.
The latest success he has had is spearheading along with others, the passage of the disability bill by the Rajya Sabha in the winter session of 2016.
Many sceptics still say this may achieve nothing much but the fact is, each step does make a difference in the journey of the society becoming a little more human and yes, humane too.