Odisha Association for the Blind be renamed as Odisha Association for Visually Challenged Persons Recommends Additional Secretary

Bhubaneswar : A State-level Consultation on inclusive, accessible climate resilient WASH was jointly organized by CFAR, Odisha Association for Blind and Odisha Vikalang Manch. The Consultation focused on ‘Sanitation for all free from discrimination and bias’.

Rights of the disabled to secure WASH services as guaranteed under Section 24 and 37 of the Rights to Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 was affirmed by all stakeholders present on the occasion of International Persons with Disabilities Day.

This is about going beyond the 488 households or 5.7 % of the disabled identified by community management committee in 57 slums and include all those facing diverse disabilities and finding it difficult to access WASH. Speaking about this Swagat Jhankar Mallick, Disability Lead in CFAR said that when we went house by house to 62 households in two slums we found 30 per cent struggling to access WASH because some could not see, some could not hear and some could not climb stairs and some could not follow instructions in public facilities.

Team of community researchers facilitated by CFAR fielded six questions developed by Washington Group of Centre for Disease Control.

The question that got posed was whether we are capturing disability related data meaningfully and effectively especially in the context of pandemic and climate threat.

Taking this forward, Samir Ranjan Dash, State Lead CFAR, said that given the global call to make realization of Sustainable Development Goal everyone’s issue and ‘leave no one behind’, our major concern is to ensure proper estimation and counting of persons with disabilities. “Without proper enumeration and count of persons with disabilities we cannot succeed in making WASH services truly inclusive,” he said.

All decision makers and duty bearers were concerned about going beyond intent and strengthening social inclusion with focus on ensuring meaningful inclusion of persons with disabilities

This was best reflected by Mr Sarada Prasad Director, State Urban Development Agency and Special Secretary H&UD, Government of Odisha who in his Inaugural address extended wholehearted support to CFAR and Community Management Committee and Single Window Forum in strengthening inclusive WASH. He said, “Let us join together for providing accessible WASH facilities to disabled persons like household toilets and accessible community toilets. We would like to partner with Odisha Association for the Blind so that we can involve students in marketing and conduct special training programmes for them.”

Shri. Sanyaashi Kumar Behera, District Social Security Officer (HQs), SSEPD during his opening address spoke about the rights of PwDs. He said that “Water Sanitation and Hygiene is a fundamental right enabling persons with disabilities to live with dignity. Disabled persons should be linked to AJVIKA Livelihood Scheme and short term vocational training to enhance their livelihood under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana. I also recommend regular health check-up and counselling support for visually impaired residents of Odisha Association for the Blind with support of Municipal Hospitals of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.”

Sharing experiences and insights of WASH, Shri Purna Chandra Mohanty, Programme Coordinator, Water Aid said that the three special elements for disability inclusion were safe water and sanitation, disaster preparedness and accessible sanitary toilets designed with support of persons with disability.

In his keynote address, Shri Kalyan Rath, OAS, Additional Secretary, H&UD stated that as a first step Odisha Association for the Blind should be renamed as Odisha Association for Visually Challenged Persons. Secondly, we must reach out to CSR platforms to provide inclusive sanitation products and services for disabled community members.

Speaking during the panel discussion, Sarojini Roul, Single Window Forum, Ward 20 said, “Special attention has to be paid for providing safe drinking water especially for disabled persons during disaster. As Jan Saathi (Water Facilitator) in the Ward, I ensure that all households are aware of safe water storage and management.”

Taking this forward Arundhati Nanda, Single Window Forum, Ward No. 26 said, “There are no special incentives for persons with disabilities to construct safe septic tanks. I suggest that the subsidy application forms have specific categories to highlight disability, transgender and other vulnerabilities so that they can be prioritized for service.”

“Safe drinking water, waste collection services and sanitary accessible toilet facilities must reach all households with disabled persons,” said Anand Chandra Behera, PwD representative, Slum Development Committee, Ward No. 21.

Ms. Abha Mishra, State Head, UNDP said that: “My three recommendations to the state government are mandatory disability audit in every school, offices, hospitals and public institutions for WASH infrastructure; skilled engineers to design disability inclusive infrastructure especially toilets; fast track implementation of welfare schemes with periodic impact assessment for course correction and enhanced outreach.”

On waste collection, Mr. Sushant Rout, Slum Development Committee and Secretary Santoshi SHG said that Government must designate special waste collection agencies to collect segregated waste from household with disabled persons.

Professor Santun Rath, Xavier University said that Behaviour change, increased awareness and empowerment of persons with disability needs an analysis of gaps in the existing government policies and their mitigation jointly by government, corporate and WASH experts so that rights of disabled persons to safe WASH can be realised.

Debabrata Das, Secretary, Pragati Yuva Sangha said that “Civil Society, Community Forums and Disabled Persons Organisations should set up advocacy groups to address any violence against persons with disabilities. Helpline numbers should be placed in accessible location such as water standpoints and community taps. Audit reports of WASH infrastructure should be publicised in media and submitted to designated officials for further action.”

Niranjan Behera, President, Odisha Viklanga Manch said that “We can overcome all challenges related to water and sanitation services for disabled persons if we all come together to address the concerns.”

On the occasion 14 SATO Toilet Pans were conferred to PWDs – Kalpana Barik, Rashmi Mohapatra, Prashant Pradhan, Anand Chandra Behera, Sushant Kumar Rout, Manasi Panda, Anandi Barik, Kasturi Patra, Biswaranjan Pursti, Arjun Swain, Amar Pradhan, Abhi Das, Sankashran Sahoo and Kanhu Charan Mallick.

The event was attended by representatives 117 of PwD SHGs, OABs, PwDs, OBM, Swachhasaathis, Swachhhagrahis, CMC/SWF members, Jalsaathi Civil Society, dignitaries of Housing and Urban Development, Government of Odisha.

The International Day for Persons with Disabilities, 2021 is a part of the Water for Women Fund, supported by the Australian Government to implement the project on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) by CFAR across 67 Wards of Bhubaneswar.