Many persons with disabilities dream of the day Pakistan’s society would be completely inclusive of persons with disabilities, but others think that it is only that; a dream. While the government has instituted a quota for employment of persons with disabilities (PWDs), it is rarely enforced or
ensured in any organization. This is, primarily, due to popular misconceptions that PWDs are not fit to work. Myths that PWDs are a burden and that they cannot be productive permeate their though
But PWDs have continued the upward struggle to strive for their rights; making a place for themselves in multiple organizations. Once the employers are shown examples of PWDs working in gainful employment that is mutually beneficial to employer and employee, they consider piloting the same in their organization. However, they start off by demanding candidates from top universities. They fail to realize the
infrastructural and attitudinal barriers that are built throughout our society, including the educational system. The non-inclusive education system further secludes PWDs in the mainstream society.
In some cases, persons with physical disabilities and visual disabilities manage to be a part of mainstream educational system. But once they graduate, finding the right job opportunity which is accessible for them becomes a big hurdle. The situation is even more challenging for persons with hearing and speech disabilities, where lack of quality education in their special institutions further derails their career path.
It cannot be ignored that there are many talented and educated PWDs working at top-notch companies throughout Pakistan. But the case remains the same, as a lot of PWDs belong to such socioeconomic groups where they are unable to come out of their houses, let alone get an education and then employment. Even for PWDs that have the privilege of belonging to wealthier socio- economic groups, their disability often leads to marginalization when the attitudinal barriers of the society function as a wall closing in around them.
To combat these societal perceptions, many social institutions, NGOs and even private training centers are now assisting PWDs in gaining vocational skills so PWDs can utilize their abilities and be economically empowered. This works as an easier route towards quickly achieving employability skills, rather than the long-term major interventions that needs to be made in our formal education system. Nonetheless, a major hindrance remains the inability of employers to acknowledge the skills of PWD’s and giving them a chance. Leading by example, NOWPDP and some other organization have laid foundations of change and reflective discourse. With each day, many employers are now understating the benefits of hiring PWDs and are working towards their inclusion. Though this number is still very limited, slowly but surely undeniable progress is taking place. It will take a while for Pakistan to achieve a full state of equality and inclusion, but it does not look like an unrealizable dream anymore.