Ms. Manique Gunaratne was a Resource Person at the “Capacity Building for People With Disabilities in Internet Governance” organised by the Asia-Pacific School on Internet Governance (APSIG) in Dacca, Bangladesh in June 2022. The programme was held at the Imprean Hotel in Bangladesh. APSIG, founded in 2015, is the premier regional initiative that imparts capacity building in Internet Governance in the Asia-Pacific region. Annual editions of APSIG enable Internet Governance practitioners; especially the organisers of national Schools on Internet Governance (SIGs) and national Internet Governance Forums (IGFs)-to enhance their capacity through lectures and presentations by international experts and through discussions. The present consultation is a special initiative targeted at Persons with Disabilities, with the objective of developing leadership within the communities and enabling them to participate in global, regional, and national Internet governance initiatives.
The “Disability Leadership in Digital Rights and Internet Governance” participants were from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. At the first Disability Leadership Training Workshop in Digital Rights and Internet Governance meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh June 2022 agreed on the following:
Expressing our appreciation to the organisers: the Asia Pacific School of Internet Governance in partnership with the Internet Society Accessibility Standing Group, the local host, the Bangladesh Chapter of the Internet Society and the support of Article 19 and the APNIC Foundation.
Respecting the culture, language and diversity of disability in being equally treated in the digital space. Effective participation by persons with disability in relevant decision-making processes based on the recognition of the disability movement’s mission: Nothing about us without us.
We, as disability leaders in South Asia agree that we advocate for:
The ratification and implementation of international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Marrakech Treaty and the Sustainable Development Goals (as related to persons with disability) in our region.
The commitment by Governments to make ICT and the digital environment in our countries accessible for persons with disability by formulating and implementing legislation and regulation in accordance with the international instruments. This includes making e-government services accessible and adhering to the current version of W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This commitment should be enforced by the governments with designated trained staff as well as reasonable financial resources. Furthermore, research and development in accessible technology be supported for the low-cost availability of digital products to persons with disability.
Making educational facilities and curriculum at all levels accessible through an equal delivery mechanism. Developing and delivering university courses on digital accessibility.
Providing an enabling environment facilitated by accessible digital resources in the public and private sector for creating employment opportunities for people with disability.
Businesses and the private sector making their online services accessible and adhering to the current version of W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
International donor agencies and IGOs provide accessible technologies, both hardware and software, to people with disability in their developing country programs. This includes training in the effective and safe use of the Internet.
Internet organisations welcome people with disability in their deliberations and make their programs and communications accessible. Concurrently, people with disability will build knowledge to proactively and productively participate.
The accessibility of communication, advertisement and public messaging through the provision of alternate formats.
Manique Gunaratne together with Madura Dassanayake took another initiative to support entrepreneurs with #disability by providing financial support to Kaveesha Ridmi to expand her business in April 2022. Kaveesha is a young girl with a hearing impairment in Anuradhapura, a remote village in Sri Lanka. Kaveesha is a very hard-working youth with a disability who is trying her level best to support her family. Since both her parents are not there she lives with her grandmother who is very old. All her siblings are hearing impaired and one sister is deaf-blind.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Vice-Chair Person – South Asian Disability Forum
People with Disabilities are more likely than the general population to suffer anxiety, discomfort, and animosity. To a significant measure, such attitudes arise from a lack of understanding of disability and what it’s like to live in a world with individuals who do not share that experience. As a result, in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), the Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre took the initiative to implement a project to provide recommendations on Disability Accessibility and Capacity Building of Local Government Authorities in Sri Lanka. The team from EFC led by #Manique Gunaratne, which included persons with diverse disabilities, did disability accessibility checking to give recommendations at Kahatagasdigiriya Pradeshiya Sabha, in Anuradhapura District, in North Central Province in November 2021 to give recommendations on how to make the Kahatagasdigiriya Pradeshiya Sabha access for all. Two Advocacy Group discussions were held with persons with disabilities belonging to Kahatagasdigiriya Pradeshiya Sabha and staff members (persons with non-disabilities) of the Pradeshiya Sabha on having an inclusive approach when providing services which already exist.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Manager – Specialise Training and Disability Resource Centre of The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon
People with disabilities are more likely than the general population to suffer anxiety, discomfort, and animosity. To a significant measure, such attitudes arise from a lack of understanding of disability and what it’s like to live in a world with individuals who do not share that experience. As a result, in Sri Lanka, collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre took the initiative to implement a project to provide recommendations on Disability Accessibility and Capacity Building of Local Government Authorities in Sri Lanka.
The team from EFC led by Manique Gunaratne which included persons with diverse disabilities did disability accessibility checking to give recommendations at Nuwaragam Palatha East Pradeshiya Sabha, in Anuradhapura district, in North Central Province in November 2021 to give recommendations on how to make the Nuwaragam Palatha East Pradeshiya Sabha access for all. Two Advocacy Group discussions were held with persons with disabilities belonging to Nuwaragam Palatha East Pradeshiya Sabha and staff members (persons with non-disabilities) of the Pradeshiya Sabha on how to have an inclusive approach when providing services which already exists.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Committee Member – SPRINT Committee of Family Planning Association
It is the time of the year when many look for calendars for the newly dawned year, either for personal use or as a gift. Visually impaired and low-vision people can now find a readable calendar of their own. The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre offers free pocket Braille and large print calendars every year.
“It is very important for vision impaired persons to expand their Braille-reading skills. The only method to evaluate the literacy rate of vision impaired persons is Braille. “Literacy is so important. There are talking devices, but there is nothing quite like the written word. It is so important for blind children and adults to learn to read, just as it is important for sighted people to read. EFC Braille calendars are an absolute must for any blind adult or child on the go. They are fast, easy to use, efficient and a real necessity today.
The EFC Specialised Training & Disability Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities removes barriers, creates solutions and expands possibilities so that the visually impaired can achieve their full potential. The Braille calendars are distributed free among EFC trainees and other vision impaired persons in all corners of the country.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Vice President – Sri Lanka Foundation for Rehabilitation of the Disabled