The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre started a course of study in “Smart Phone Operations” for persons with diverse disabilities in September 2020. Vision impaired persons, partially sighted persons, deaf and hard of hearing persons, persons with physical disabilities, wheel chair users, slow learners and persons with multiple disabilities are trained in both IOS and Anroid system. This training will enable them to use a smart phone equally capable as a person with a non-disability. Picture descriptions for vision impaired persons:
The Year 2020 has posed significant challenges to countries and people worldwide as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. People’s lives and the way we interact to each other and conduct our daily business has changed drastically. Much is said about death reports, number of infections, recoveries seen during COVID-19 however, there are profound and compounded issues and problems brought about by this pandemic. Isolation, fear and worry of losing loved ones, absence of the grieving processes, becoming sick due to weakening health systems, evolving changes in government policies and guidelines such as lockdown, physical distancing measures are major challenges. Loss of jobs, quarantines, economic and social consequences – all of which increases anxiety, depression and mental health problems. The uncertainty of the disease makes it very challenging to manage with its impact at a huge scale. People with already existing mental health conditions and other forms of physical disabilities suffer even more. Still, there is so much uncertainty and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 as we adhere to the “new normal” way of living. Myths and misconceptions about the disease and inability to obtain and share accurate and timely information adds on to the mental health and psychological stress of everyone. The strong stigma and marginalization of those with prior mental issues coupled with the stigma associated with COVID -19 makes things more complicated. The inability to access Mental Health and Psychosocial support (MHPSS) services during COVID-19 makes it more difficult for affected individuals to cope. Prolonged exposure to stress due to long duty hours have harmful effects to frontline workers. These can lead to burnout, anxiety and inability to think objectively for the people that they serve. In some cases, it may trigger onset of common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is alarmingly a need to strengthen advocacy mechanisms in addressing different sectors of society on the importance of mental health and psychosocial support during this pandemic. The need is increasingly important and will escalate substantially in the succeeding months. The recent “World Mental Health Day” celebration substantiates the World Health Organization (WHO) in calling on all governments to investment in mental health programs at all levels, and in making the mental health care services available to everyone. With the growing need for mental health and psychosocial support around disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, ADPC hosted the fourth cross learning event through a webinar entitled “Mental Health in Emergencies: Greater Investment, Greater Access” with a theme on Making Mental Health and Psychosocial Care Available for Everyone”. It is appropriate and important to understand MHPSS during disease outbreaks (i.e. COVID-19) which has unsparingly affected economic downturn that continues to bring about violence in all faces, stigma and discrimination, affecting all facets of society. This event was participated by representatives from various organizations and countries in the region. This year’s webinar coincided with the “International Day for Persons with Disabilities”. The inability to function mentally and psychologically and be productive as well as the incapacity to adapt change and cope with challenges as a result of emergencies, disasters and disease outbreak (i.e. COVID-19) becomes a disability hence, this event was very much aligned and timely. Leaving no one behind is a task strongly included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and people with disabilities (PWDs) needs to be included. There is a huge
spectrum of disabilities other than physical conditions which are common but unrecognized. Mental health is one of them. Learning on MHPSS challenges and good practices from disability organizations amidst COVID-19 will be a special topic in this webinar. Objectives of the Webinar:
To share experiences and good practices on MHPSS in response to Covid-19.
To learn from other countries approaches used in coping with COVID-19 pandemic.
To obtain recommendations on evidenced-based MHPSS approaches to greater investment and access for everyone. It is envisaged that through this webinar, people’s awareness on the importance of increasing investment in MHPSS applied to health service programs, making these services accessible and available to everyone will help strengthen the MHPSS programs in their respective countries. Participants are able to learn from each other on how other countries continue to manage mental health and psychosocial issues around the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Manique Gunaratne made the presentation on “Persons with disabilities during Covid-19 and MSPSS”. Picture description for vision impaired persons:
The Support Centre for Children and Adolescents at Risk Situation attached to the Department of Special Needs Education, Faculty of Education, The Open University of Sri Lanka conducted a Webinar to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in December 2020, via ZOOM. Ms. Manique Gunaratne spoke on “Developing employment capacity of women with disabilities in Sri Lanka” at this webinar.
Today, the representation of women in the IT sector has been increased almost equal to men. Even-though there are both pros and cons of being a woman techie. It’s time to talk about this topic and especially problems, difficulties, and obstacles when women are reaching up to higher levels in the IT industry. Women Internet Governance Forum (Women IGF) is the platform where to raise the voice of the women of their concerns, look for answers, and get the attention of the community in this regard. In 2017 the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter initiated to move with the “Global Women in IT” and “ Sri Lanka National Internet Governance Forum 2017”. The Women Internet Governance Forum 2020 was organized by the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter in December 2020 in Virtual (online) format. Ms. Manique Gunaratne moderated the session on “Women and Internet with inclusivity of women with disabilities”.
The Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon is pleased to inform you that we are undertaking assignments with regards to the preparation of communication materials such as Leaflets, Brochures, Flyers, Notices etc. in Braille, Large print, audio, accessible e-copies, and sign language in all three languages at a nominal fee. Access to public information is a basic human right. For corporates, by making such information and communication about your products and services available for your customers or employees with diverse disabilities in accessible formats will be an impactful exercise. Ms. Ayesha Ariyaratne, Ms. Sanjeevani Ranasinghe and Ms. Cheranika Narayana took the initiative to sponsore audio books required as reference materials for vision impaired under-graduates. The audio books were handed over to the vision impaired under-graduates who required these books to successfully complete their studies. Manique Gunaratne The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, 385 J3 Old Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka.
The Rupavahini TV Channel telecasted a documentary titled “Iri Thalunu Minis Mal”
featuring Manique Gunaratne and several persons with disabilities to celebrate the
International Day for persons with disabilities.
Watch the video on:
CISCO International Trainer for I T E (Information Technology Essentials) and CCNA
(Cisco Computer Network Associates)
The Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) was shortlisted for the ‘Zero Project 2021’- an initiative of the Essl Foundation which focuses on the rights of persons with disabilities globally. An Austrian foundation set up in 2007 by Martin and Gerda Essl and their children for social purposes and scientific research, its mission is to support social innovation, social entrepreneurship and persons with disabilities. The Foundation is also in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations since 2014 (ECOSOC status) and a member of the European Foundation Centre. The Zero Project of the Essl Foundation provides a platform where the most innovative an effective solutions to problems that persons with disabilities face, are shared. It is committed to assist in creating a world without barriers, based on the Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Each year the Zero Project focuses its research on a particular theme from the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD.) The themes revolve around the key areas of employment, accessibility, independent living, political participation and education. The EFC’s Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre was among the 178 nominations which made it through to the shortlist out of 475 nominations for the Zero Project Award 2021. ‘The nominated practices and policies have made it through a detailed quality check and through one round of peer-reviewing from experts, with and without disabilities, from around the world,’ according to the project details. Applauding Manique Gunaratne, Manager, Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre of the EFC for, “her commitment towards improving the lives of persons with disabilities,” in a congratulatory note, the Zero Project Team has further acknowledged her efforts to be having a “significant impact on inclusive economic development.” The Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre of the EFC which is now into its 11 th year, is a benchmarked platform for its ‘innovation’ and ‘uniqueness’, says its Manager. “The opportunities afforded by the Centre are multiple including employment opportunities for people with disabilities, additional training opportunities, app users etc. All these services are geared towards the open labour market in the country and extend to persons with diverse disabilities, diverse age groups, covering all corners of Sri Lanka,” notes Gunaratne who is a globally recognized activist for people with disabilities. Steered by a person with a disability for persons with disabilities, the Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre rests on the concept of ‘nothing about without us,’ says Gunaratne who herself is visually impaired, having lost her vision in her late twenties due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Calling for a national will to champion the rights of people with disabilities, Gunaratne urges for expeditious passage of Disability Rights Bill. “The COVID pandemic has taken a toll on everyone and it is imperative to identify the concerns of people with disabilities and empower them especially during a testing time such as this.” She also invites more companies and stakeholders to join hands with the EFC to provide more employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and promote inclusive workplaces. “It’s a huge honour for the EFC and would like to thank the members of Employers Network on Disability, those who have supported us over the years and especially those who have committed themselves in assisting persons with disabilities over the years.
Read the articles at:
EFC’s Specialised Training and Disability Resource Centre shines globally | Daily FT
Picture descriptions for vision impaired persons:
1 Manique Gunaratne 2 Zero project badge. 3 Daily FT article. Manique Gunaratne Vice Chair Person – South Asian Disability Forum
ASIA PACIFIC REGION INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM
The 11 th Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) took place in October
The APrIGF is a multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates the discussion of issues pertaining to Internet governance and its development in the Asia Pacific region. This year, the APrIGF was held virtually with the overarching theme “Internet Governance for Good: Norms, Standards and Mechanisms”. The event was hosted by the APrIGF Multi- Stakeholder Steering Group (MSG). Ms. Manique Gunaratne was a panelist at this webinar to speak about the Access to Internet for persons with disabilities. Picture descriptions for vision impaired persons: 1 Flyer
2 Manique presenting. 3 Manique presenting. 4 Manique presenting 5 Manique presenting. 6 Manique presenting. 7 Manique on screen. Manique Gunaratne Vice President – Sri Lanka Foundation for Rehabilitation of the Disabled