A Talk by Dr. Shaheen Pasha at GCU: Removing Barriers to Create an Inclusive and Accessible Society for All

Recently Dr. Shaheen Pasha has given a talk on "Removing Barriers to Create an Inclusive and Accessible Society for All" as a guest speaker at Government College University Lahore.

Talk Script

I am very thankful to the organizers who have provided me the opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge. “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all” is the theme of   the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme is aimed at creating and improving understanding of those living with disabilities and to encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being.

Today, more than one billion people live with some form of disability. They are more likely to experience poverty and discrimination, and less likely to have access to social welfare services, while their position does not always make it possible for them to uphold and claim their rights. We must support their dignity, rights and well-being as essential conditions for equality and justice. Disability is a development issue that we must address to achieve all internationally-agreed goals.

Dear Sir, Disabilities are an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.  Impairment is a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation in executing a proper function. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features where he/she lives. To let these people live in society, the difficulty barriers are needed to overcome.

Education as a right for ALL children has been recognized since the Universal Declaration of 1948. However, in real life, particular groups and disabled children were especially vulnerable to exclusion. The right to be educated WITHIN the mainstream system and not to be discriminated against was highlighted in many international declarations such as the Jomtien declaration, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right to Inclusive Education is more clearly stated in the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action which emphasizes that education institutions need to change and adapt. Similarly, the importance of proper resourcing for inclusion is highlighted in the UN Standard Rules. Apart from these efforts, recently, the UN reports have given a reality check which claims that Education for All (EFA) has not worked, and will not work unless there is more grass-root participation and real allocation of resources. Inclusive Education will not work unless measures are not taken at all level.

The key issue with Inclusive Education is that it is based on rights and social model. Inclusive Education is not just about schools and Educational institutions, it is much broader, and encompasses a wide range of community initiatives and involvement. Movement that upholds key values, beliefs and principles in relation to children, what education is, diversity and discrimination, participatory processes, and resources can bring positive results. Many of these are challenging to the status quo, but necessary if society and development as a whole is to become inclusive, and benefit all its citizens. It is a common thinking that putting Inclusive Education into practice is just about introducing specific techniques and methods to enable individual children to learn. These methods have their place and can provoke a deeper debate about Inclusive Education; but on their own, they will not lead to appropriate, sustainable Inclusive Education programmes. However, three ‘key ingredients’ can produce a strong, dynamic organism that can adapt, grow and survive in a range of contexts.

  • Skeleton: a strong framework – covering values, beliefs, principles, and success indicators;
  • the flesh: implementation within the local context and culture - taking account of the practical situation, resource utilization, and cultural factors;
  • the life-blood: on-going participation and self-critical reflection –which means who should be involved, how, what and when).

Together these three ingredients can produce a strong, locally appropriate, flexible and sustainable education system that includes all children.

Although a large number of literature is available regarding the development of Inclusive Education in a range of cultures and contexts. Often these examples are the best way to learn about how to disseminate Inclusive Education, still, there are many common challenges and opportunities that we have to respond to promote inclusive education in Pakistan. In order to face challenges and to overcome barriers, on-going participation and efforts are required from children, parents, teachers, administrators and other key stakeholders. Pakistan is also working to build inclusive knowledge societies, where persons with disabilities must be included at all levels. These initiatives can produce more positive results through the use of newly developed technologies. Assistive technologies, especially those with personalized disability-friendly features, can improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities through providing better access to information and knowledge, to education and healthcare, as well as to employment.

Recent literature has identified four categories of key barriers for inclusive education:

  •  the physical environment (e.g., narrow doorways, ramps);
  •  intentional attitudinal barriers (e.g., isolation, bullying);
  •  unintentional attitudinal barriers (e.g., lack of knowledge, understanding, or awareness);
  •  physical limitations (e.g., difficulty with manual dexterity/ neatness).

Evidences and experiences show that when barriers to their inclusions are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to facilitate fully in social life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are therefore, a disadvantage to society as a whole.  It would not be out of place to mention that providing resources in a segregated environment make them dependent which may not make them productive members of society.  Providing these resources in a normal setting means that we are disseminating inclusion from grass root level in which our masses will have more opportunities to interact with each other and there will be a productive socio-economic culture around us. In this way Persons with disabilities can create significant impact on society, and their contributions can be even greater if we remove barriers to their participation. With more than one billion persons with disabilities in our world today, this is more important than ever. It is a point of great concern and I hope today’s gathering will help us to devise some action plans for Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all


Hope 4 the best: Thank you