General sharing of the Independent Living (IL) concept is our regular and ongoing process among the board members and staffs of Independent Living Society-Nepal (ILS-Nepal). While we are in office with a group of people we tend to talk about the IL concept and movements. But this month we are trying to widen our scope. So, we visited different places and attended a number of programs and trainings in order to share the IL concept. In particular, this month Ms. Anjana and Ms. Ranjata visited Myagdi district (78km form Pokhara) for this purpose.
This year, the celebration of 23rd International Day of Persons with Disabilities met its grand success with a huge mass rally in Pokhara. Hundreds of participants with differing type of disabilities – blindness, deafness and physical disabilities – who are engaged in disability-activities in various organizations come together to march campaigning for a disabled-friendly society and barrier free places. The strong voice was raised for a better system and policy, also for a clear statement of disability rights in the constitution and equity amongst all people.
Some volunteers and board member of ILS, such as Ashika Chand, Ganga Bahadur Khadka and Hem Bahadur Gurung, got honoured at the ending ceremony of the program for their wonderful contribution in the field of disability.
One of our volunteers, Ms. Sarita Puri, coordinated an interaction programme about ‘Personal Assistance Service’ (PAS) with Global Collegiate School. Some of our board members, PA Staffs and volunteers interacted with nearly 60 students there about PAS. Mr. Chet Prasad Adhikari gave an orientation, “Why do we need Personal Assistant Service?” Then Mr. Sudir san shared his own experience as a PA. Ms. Ranjata san shared her personal experience and said that as a PA she felt more responsible and happier than before though PAs do come across challenges from time to time. For example, she continued, it was very hard to push a wheelchair in an inaccessible area. Also, when they went out people would give them a strange look. One of our active volunteers, Mrs. Ashika Chand, also gave a speech about how a person could voluntarily support the disability movement and betterment of society. All students were listened to our orientation carefully but looked quite unfamiliar to disabilities issues. So we all felt this would a little long process for positive changed to take place.
These days we feel very safe, powerful and happy thanks to our PA Service. When we make any plan or organize a programme our PAs always come with us. And they are supporting us very nicely. When we conduct a school/college campaign they coordinate the event; when we organize a meeting with disabled people’s groups in rural areas disable group they come along with us. We are glad that they have become more familiar with us.
Mr. Sudir San teaching how to handle a wheelchair
All PA and members prepare New Year Party
As we all know, when a person became disabled by accident or for any other reason, it is very hurting. When this happens to a teenager this can be especially painful. Once a mother called ILS office and invited us to her place for tea. When we visited her, we met her daughter, Geetanjali Thapa. She is a girl who was age of 17. She had experienced an accident 2 years ago by falling from a tree and got Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). Geetanjali is a very talented girl and we saw her great passion for study. But her home town is in Myagdi District (78km from Pokhara). There is not a single accessible school/college there. This is why Geetanjali and her mother were staying in a rented house in Pokhara. Ms. Geetanjali seemed very depressed. She did not talk much and looked very shy. Her mother was very supportive and so were her other family members. Her mother wished if only an accessible school/college were built in Myagdi District, so that things would be a lot easier for them. At present, her family are separated and they do not feel happy. In Pokhara there is a College which have ramps from the 1st to 3rd floors. Our ILS-Members Mr. Hitman Chantya, Mr. Chet Prasad Adhikari and Ms. Anjana KC ad well as PA saffs, Ms. Ranjata Regmee and Mr. Sudir Gauli, visited them and listened to their problems.
ILS team did a follow-up visit to District Administration Office in Kaski. Last month Ms. Anjana visited there and all ILS team raised their voice for a modification of the ramp and the need to put a visible sign indicating the location of the ramp, so that people would understand it easily. When we visited them this time there was a visible signpost. We called the District Administration Officer to the ground floor and gave thanks to him. However, there was no accessible toilet for persons with disabilities. So, we requested for that, too. The District Officer replied that it would take a little longer time but he would surely try to install one in future days.
In Nepal life is very hard for those with disabilities because we don’t have a good system and we have lots of limitations. There are many more people who want to enjoy independent life. But as we all know, for independent life we need barrier free environment, self-empowerment and good systems. Because of our limitations and all restrictions upon us, we are unable to do a lot of things. This time we visited a cottage business office in Kaski. This office provides a loan/donation for marginalized group for starting up small businesses and also vocational training. Since we have an Independent Living (IL) group in a rural area, we sought a way they could get a loan or donation to start some economic generating programmes in their own places. But the reality is that persons with disabilities have very little chance to get a loan or donation. First of all our all government offices are inaccessible, and we are unable to visit them physically and talk to them about our issues. This time, after our visit they said if they conducted any training or programme the cost would be too high because of our travel costs and training location, and that after training disabled persons would not be able to sell their products because of market problems. For these reasons, they said, any investment would fail. So, we are advocating for equal rights to access governmental support programmes. We demand that if they don’t have any provisions or plans for disabled persons they need to develop ones. We also suggest them keep discussions with us while they plan for that kind of programme, so that they will be able to understand real needs and situations of persons with disabilities. The officer seems positive about our demand and he says that he will be serious about disability needs and issues and work on them with commitment.
The ILS members’ and volunteers’ school /college visit went very well on 23rd December, 2014. This was the event at Janapriya Multiple College Pokhara. Members of ILS presented their personal feelings as being a disabled person, what they wanted in reality and how they liked other people to behave. 2 Personal Attendants, Ms. Rajanta Regmi and Mr.Sudhir Gauli, talked about what was like to be a personal attendant. Likewise, a volunteer, Mrs. Aashika Chand, discussed 'What is volunteerism?', 'What is difference between volunteer and personal attendant?’ Then an ex-student of the college and a member of ILS, Bharat Adhikari, shared his difficulties during his college days because of troubling infrastructures. Mr. Bharat said, ‘Now the problem has been solved but there is no Accessible toilet.’ So, he requested the campus team for an accessible toilet. This way, effective interactions were held between students, school authority, teachers and ILS representatives. ‘We were unaware and insensitive about disability issues. You people have given an eye opening event,’ said Asistant Campus Chief, Mr. Rajendra Poudel.
We have been doing our best yet we still face certain limitations and challenges in pursuing a proper implementation of our action plan. The followings are examples of the challenges:
In January, we will be focusing especially on conducting our action plan in time.
Finally we have finished our December's action plan. We finished our all activities in time. We felt that, if we plan fewer activities and give a little more time for programme preparations that will be more effective. In absence of our General Secretary Mr. Hem, it has been a little more difficult to accomplish the activities but all members have been trying to do their best. This month our issues will become more popular and lots of people will watch our television appearance and listen to our radio interviews. We know changes take time to happen, but we are very hopeful for our ‘unity power.’ If we all people fight for common issues we will achieve our ultimate goal.
Thank you very much to you all.
Ms. Anjana K.C., Treasurer of Independent Living Society (ILS)-Nepal
(14th Duskin program trainee)