Disability no dead-end
LIVE WIRE: Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera
IDIRIYA: If you think disability has doomed you to a life of
inactivity and dejection, take a good look at Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera,
the live-wire of 'Idiriya' - an organisation dedicated to fostering
education and awareness on vital issues relating to restricted mobility.
Though confined to a wheel chair, following an accident about 10
years ago which paralysed him waist down, he took centre stage at the
Lower Crystal Room of the Hotel Taj Samudra on March 15 and almost
single-handedly conducted one of 'Idiriya's' awareness-raising programs,
to a packed audience.
" 'Idiriya' doesn't believe in NATO: no action talk only. On the
contrary, it believes in action, and in the abilities of man", Perera's
voice rang out, loud and clear as he announced the evenings programme to
the rapt audience consisting of a wide range of experts and authorities
who were expected to play an active role in helping to create
environments which provide easy mobility or movement for all, the
disabled in particular.
"Once you are disabled you are like a wounded horse", Perera
explained later, assisted by a power point presentation. Disability, he
said, brings exclusion and isolation.
One is abandoned as useless by society. The factors that bring about
disability, he said, are like robbers, who deprive a person of his or
her valuables. Who are these "robbers"? They are: (i)
accidents-particularly man-made ones (ii) Medical ailments (iii) ageing
The social exclusion that disability brings is the principal problem
in this context. Two other points which need bearing in mind is that we
should aim at achieving a solution to this problem and that measures
should be evolved as an answer to it.
The greatest asset a person has, according to Perera, is the ability
to go about one's daily living independently. The "robbers" deprive one
of this great ability.
Accordingly, the prime challenge facing those dealing with our built
environment - such as architects and designers of buildings - is to
create 'enabling environments', which facilitate the mobility of all -
the disabled included. For example, buildings with comfortable ramps
would enable the wheel chair-bound to go about their daily chores.
Since 'enabling environments' facilitate the movement of all, they
should be considered a useful investment by building owners and
employers. For, the productivity of the disabled would be enhanced and
they could integrate into mainstream life.
They could even help in producing goods and services through their
special abilities and skills if employed and provided these facilities
for easy mobility.
An evening of interesting presentations on the theme, 'Enabling
environments for all' followed Perera's address.
They were made by a galaxy of experts in the field. They ranged from
academics, policy planners, bureaucrats and productivity experts to
tourism experts and hoteliers.
The forum took the following decisions:
* Arousing public interest in enabling environments and according
them recognition in order to make them a reality.
The Institute of Construction Training and Development, the Institute
of Architects and the Institute of Engineers to work jointly in
formulating an award for construction excellence in memory of the late,
Vidyajothi A.N.S. Kulasinghe.
* Ceylon Chamber of Commerce to explore the possibility of including
a sector award at the Corporate Social Responsibility Competition to
encourage the construction of enabling environments.
* Sri Lanka Tourist Board, together with the Ministry of Tourism, to
explore the possibility of granting 5 star + grade to hotels that have
at least two rooms and other basic facilities for wheelchair users.
* Sri Lanka Standards Institution to introduce accessibility
standards for buildings.