By Muhammad Aatif Ismaeel
MULTAN – God helps those who help themselves. In life, nothing is impossible to achieve, when one has enthusiasm, optimism, confidence, and commitment.
This was discussion among one dozen young disabled persons, when they convened an extra-ordinary and maiden meeting in October 2008, to establish an organization, “Society for Special Persons”, (SSP) with an aim to pursue and secure their due rights in an organized manner.
Initially, the organization, headed by a courageous and motivated wheelchair girl Zahida Hameed, comprised of 12 disabled persons only,including deaf, blind and wheelchair users.
The organization expanded with rapid pace and within short span of one decade, it became one of the biggest organization, not only of south Punjab but also the country.
Now, the organization was comprised of over 18,000 registered members, said Chairperson Society for Special Persons Zahida Hameed while talking to APP.
She informed that SSP conducted series of meetings with government officials, politicians and civil society workers. Similarly, it also organized walks, seminars, and
workshops to sensitize society about rights of the special persons, observed Zahida.
The organization struggled for delivery of rights towards the special persons round the clock and got immense fame across the region. The organization’s work instilled a new life in the disabled persons by ensuring their active participation in every event towards healthy life.
SSP won many laurels including improvement in infrastructure for special persons, easy accessibility, construction of toilets at public places, provision of jobs, establishment of customize wheelchair unit, participation in sports at local, national and international level, disability certificates, disability identification card, voters registration, confessional fare in transports, and establishment of technical training centres for special persons, stated Zahida.
Zahida recalled that SSP launched easy accessibility campaign in 2011 and managed construction of standard ramps in almost all important buildings of city including Bahauddin Zakariya University, Colleges, Schools, Hospitals,Parks, PIA, Railways Station, Historical Buildings, Metro Bus stations and many others.
SSP also worked for construction of disabled friendly toilets at public places. Although, the task was difficult but the organization succeeded to create awareness among masses about the issue and also got constructed disabled friendly
toilets. For construction of disabled friendly toilets, wash basin height, relay doors, smooth floor, hand-rills, and some other articles were essential, she informed. When questioned about cost for such toilet, she replied that about Rs 40,000 were enough to construct toilet for special persons.
The Chairpersons also informed that there were about 1000 special persons who were well qualified and SSP in collaboration with Social Welfare and Labour Department managed jobs for hundreds of unemployed special persons. Special persons were working almost in all departments.
Society for Special Persons had to face problems to manage wheelchairs for the disabled persons. The organization, itself established its manufacturing unit of customize wheelchairs. She stated that customize wheelchair unit was making
wheelchairs as per demand of the users.
Similarly, it is cost effective and is run by special persons. The unit is also providing training to disable persons for manufacturing of the customize chairs. How to handle chairs for long time, the SSP also offers training to the special persons, who used to purchase customize chairs.
Earlier, they had to import wheelchairs from different countries, she stated. The organization had also donated over 5000 wheelchairs among deserving disables.
Asif Iqbal, an international wheelchair cricketer and active member of SSP stated that SSP also focused on sports activities for disabled. Currently, 380 disabled persons of SSP were participating in different games, including Wheelchair Cricket, Blind Cricket, Wheelchair Table Tennis, Wheelchair Badminton, Tricycle race and many others.
Three wheelchair Cricketers including Asif Iqbal, Adnan Nisar and Muhammad Fiaz from SSP had represented country in International Cricket.
Zahida stated that SSP had trained in technical skills about 1000 handicapped girls, especially hailing from rural background.
She stated that almost all the girls were supporting their families economically.
SSP is providing technical training in different trades including Wheelchair making, Computer Graphics, Computer Applications, and Handicrafts. In future, some other trades like Cooking, Mobile Phone repairing, Stitching and Beautician Courses
would be introduced.
About 650 special persons got concessional fare cards from district administration, she said adding that 50 percent discount was being given on the card by transport companies. She however appealed government to make it an act so that special persons of other regions should also avail the concessional travelling facility.
She further informed that about 7500 special persons had achieved their disability certificates.
Zahida claimed that disability certificate was of vital importance as they could achieve nothing without the disability certificate, issued by social welfare department.
Tanvir Ahmed, another educated member of SSP, informed that they had sensitized society as well as disaster management authorities about rights of the special persons. In past, in case of any calamity, whether it was earthquake or floods, the special persons were not rescued properly.
Similarly, votes of special persons were also registered after struggle by the organization.
When questioned about future targets of the organization, SSP Chairpersons stated that they would work on promotion of sign languages in near future as it would help them in translating and interpreting their views to others. They would introduce electric wheelchairs, sports wheelchairs and some other facilities.
Arif Anwar, an active member of wheelchair users group, informed that there were many special persons who were fit to work especially for driving. The government had not given any facility for issuance of license to some fit to work special persons. Similarly, some signs should be inscribed on number plates of the Special Persons. Some persons were faced with issue of hearing, the special signs should be inscribed on number plates of their tri-motorcycles so that other road user should have knowledge of their co-road user, he suggested.