For the special ones

World Disability Day aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development.

Every year since 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been annually observed around the world on December 3. The theme for 2019’s IDPD is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’.

2019’s theme focuses on the empowerment of PwDs for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’.

Today, the world population is over seven billion people and more than one billion or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population live with some form of disability; 80 per cent live in developing countries. According to the Census of India 2011, there are 26.8 million people with disabilities (PwDs) in India who constitute 2.21 per cent of the total population.

As a UN recognised day, World Disability Day aims at increasing public awareness, understanding and accepting people with disability and celebrating their achievements and contributions.

Commenting on the same, disability activist Dr Malvika Iyer, a bilateral amputee, mentioned on a Twitter thread, “The most critical barrier PwDs face is the invisible barrier of attitudes. Attitudes are so significant that they represent more of a barrier to PwDs than any functional limitation caused by the disability.”

Disability is referenced in various parts of the SDGs and specifically in parts related to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and monitoring of the SDGs.

History of World Disability Day

In 1976, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons. It called for a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalisation of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities.

The theme was ‘full participation and equality’, defined as the right of PwDs to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development.

Significance of World Disability Day

Today, the world population is over 7 billion people and more than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability; 80 per cent live in developing countries.

Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them (like information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation) and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives.

Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability.

The United Nation’s Secretary General António Guterres said in his message, “On this International Day, I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to work with people with disabilities to build a sustainable, inclusive and transformative future in which everyone, including women, men, girls and boys with disabilities, can realise their potential.”

Here are some speech & communication applications available on Android for special needs kids:

Avaz App for Communication
The app was developed in collaboration with Vidya Sagar, a disability services and support organisation in Chennai, and schools, to help kids with speech difficulties. It uses pictures, symbols and voice synthesis to help users develop speech skills, high-contrast mode for users who are visually impaired and arrow keys for those who have difficulty in motor control. It is available in six regional languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi and Kannada.

Talk With Me
The app aims to help autistic kids learn social interaction skills. A symbol-based collaborative learning tool, it allows kids to share the app with other people and have social conversations with them. This app can be personalised as per the child’s needs.

Jellow AAC Communicator
This is an Augmentative and Alernative Communication (AAC) system which uses colourful icons and images to facilitate speech. Early learners can use this app to learn words frequently used in their day-to-day activities by associating pictures with corresponding word labels. Kids can also learn to generate new sentences and use the app to speak them out loud.

This AAC app is designed to help non-verbal children improve communication skills. Special needs kids learn to make words and sentences by combining personalised voice and images with a simple user interface.

This AAC app uses fun images to help kids express their feelings, actions and needs. It has a large bank of icons consisting of pictures with corresponding words with easy-to-listen audios.