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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality

Implementation of the
World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons

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V. Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993–2002)

By resolution 48/3 of 23 April 1993, member States of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) proclaimed the period 1993–2002 the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, with the goals of full participation and equality. During the period under review, the secretariat of ESCAP undertook, in cooperation with interested member States and the non-governmental community, a number of practical activities, described in the paragraphs below.

A. Promoting barrier-free societies

Improving the lives of diverse disability groups continues to be high on ESCAP’s agenda. The Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons aims to promote the active participation of disabled people in the mainstream development process. Regional networking and cooperation are in full swing. The main mechanism is the Subcommittee on Disability-related Concerns of the Regional Interagency Committee for Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP serves as the secretariat of the Subcommittee, whose membership includes United Nations agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with regional cooperation on Decade-related matters.

During the biennium 1996–1997, ESCAP issued eight volumes of technical material in support of the implementation of the Decade’s Agenda for Action. The volumes are being reviewed for accuracy and accessibility prior to publication on the Internet site for the Decade (http://www.unescap.org/decade). Monograph subjects include assistive devices, legislation, community-based rehabilitation, and self-help organizations of disabled persons.

Building on its earlier work in the promotion of non-handicapping environments, ESCAP has prepared a draft guide on training disabled persons as trainers for accessible environments. The draft guide will be field-tested in three cities (Bangalore, India; Penang, Malaysia; and Pattaya, Thailand). To further networking on accessibility initiatives, preparations are in progress for a training-of-trainers seminar, envisaged for 1999.

Education and technology for disabled children and youth is a new area of activity for ESCAP. Topics are being developed in collaboration with Subcommittee partners, and a regional consultation-cum-exhibition is envisaged for late 1999.

To date, 36 regional governments have signed the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region.

B. Selected experiences in promoting non-handicapping environments in Asia and the Pacific

Participation in mainstream development programmes is a basic entitlement of all. However, such programmes are often located in venues that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities. In most of the ESCAP region, physical barriers in the built environment prevent disabled persons from using buildings, the spaces connecting built areas, public transport systems, and other public facilities and services. This has the profound negative effect of excluding disabled persons from society. Exclusion from education and training programmes for gainful employment and self-employment means that disability groups are often over-represented among the illiterate and the poor. Since large numbers of disabled persons do not enjoy freedom of movement, they cannot be seen in public places, and there is an observed tendency to dismiss them as an insignificant minority.

Through a series of projects, ESCAP has initiated action, on the request of interested Governments, to highlight the need for barrier-free societies. ESCAP studies have established a clear link between the access needs of disabled persons and those of rapidly ageing societies and of other users whose needs have hitherto been neglected. Such users include children, women, people carrying heavy loads and those who may not identify themselves as disabled persons but who may, nevertheless, be infirm and have the same needs as disabled persons for safety and convenience features in the built environment.

In Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi, ESCAP action has facilitated the creation of model approaches to promoting awareness and understanding of non-handicapping environments for persons with disabilities and older persons. In the pilot project sites in these three major metropolitan areas, there have been tangible improvements, such as kerb ramps for wheelchair users and tactile Braille pathways for the blind and persons with visual impairments. Accessible facilities for banking, post and telecommunications, schooling, shopping, leisure and cultural activities are among other concrete benefits. Improvements have been introduced outside the pilot project areas. Videos were made of each pilot project.

In addition to the project sites, of value for technical cooperation among developing countries, ESCAP has promoted the indigenous production of technical guidelines based on its regional guidelines on non-handicapping environments. Access-related legislative development is well under way. Models also exist for capacity-building (on access issues) among professionals and policy makers concerned with diverse aspects of infrastructure development appropriate to developing countries.

ESCAP plans to use the pilot project videos in its production of a comprehensive video on barrier-free environments. Persons committed to access promotion in many cities in the ESCAP region have agreed to participate in networking on access initiatives. This networking will focus on exchanges of information and experiences, including exchanges in training professionals. ESCAP is field-testing a draft guide on training disabled persons as trainers for the promotion of non-handicapping environments.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development