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 Elahera Pradeshiya Sabha, in Polonnaruwa district, in North Central Province in January 2022 to give recommendations on how to make the Elahera Pradeshiya Sabha access for all. Two Advocacy Group discussions were held with persons with disabilities belonging to Elehara 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.
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 Madawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha, in Anuradhapura district, in North Central Province in November 2021 to give recommendations on how to make the Madawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha access for all.
Two Advocacy Group discussions were held with persons with disabilities belonging to Madawachchiya 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 exist. 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. Therefore, this initiative greatly supported bringing a change to create an inclusive approach.
Disability inclusion at work is about more than hiring people with #disabilities. An inclusive workplace values all employees for their strengths. It offers employees with disabilities — whether visible or invisible — an equal opportunity to succeed, learn, be compensated fairly, and advance. Ms. Manique Gunaratne did an awareness programme on “How to make an inclusive workplace” at Hidramani Garments in Wathuragama in July 2022.
Ms. Manique Gunaratne was a Resource Person at The Asia Pacific Peoples’ Forum 2022, held in Thailand in March 2022both as a physical and virtual event. The programme was organized by the Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM), which provided an inclusive space for discussion and sharing among civil society organizations (CSOs) and peoples’ movements in the region on their positions on key sustainable development issues. The Peoples’ Forum carves its space against a backdrop of shrinking civic spaces, widened inequalities, and the digital divide brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum aimed to serve as a platform that harnesses the collective voice of the region’s people towards transformative and genuine development that serves the needs of the most marginalized.
The Peoples’ Forum was titled “Confronting Corporate Power and Demanding State Accountability for Just and Equitable Recovery from the COVID-19 Crises in Asia and the Pacific”. This forum aimed to serve as an avenue for civil society organizations, peoples’ movements, and grassroots sectors and communities to build solidarity, foster sharing, and create a progressive narrative on sustainable development and development justice in the context of the systemic barriers worsened by COVID-19.
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.
Ms. Manique Gunaratne spoke on “Promoting entrepreneurs with disabilities” at the UNESCAP conference in July 2021. The presentation focused on the Overview of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon with a focus on its work in supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities, including female entrepreneurs; good practices, challenges faced and lessons learned in developing and implementing programmes to support entrepreneurs.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, 385 J3 Old Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka.
Ms. Manique Gunaratne and Mr. Yasal Samarajeewa spoke on “Microsoft Excel training for persons with #disability at a half an hour programme titled “Anduren Eliyata” produced by Mr. Sujeewa Manage at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in October 2021.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Board Member – Navajeevana Rehabilitation
Ms. Manique Gunaratne together with Mr. Madura Dassanayaka took the initiative to provide financial support to Ms. Chandra Malkanthi (a partially sighted and a hard of hearing person) in a remote village in Sri Lanka to start up her own business in February 2022. Persons with #disabilities in Asia are constantly taught to be subservient. They are taught only to listen and not speak up. The lack of self-confidence leaves them with hunched shoulders, unable to stand tall and make their voices heard. In such a society, the situation of these people is worse and they are often more timid and backward than their counterparts of persons with non-disabilities.
Of late, Sri Lankan persons with disabilities have shown a tendency of combating outdated cultural norms and securing their rightful place in society. They have gathered the strength to pursue their ambitions. The number of career men and women has increased considerably in the recent past. However, the same cannot be said of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have difficulty in finding vocational training and employment or setting up one’s own businesses. This is not purely due to the lack of hard skills or educational qualifications. Even if a person with a disability possesses the requisite qualifications and intellect for a particular profession, they fail because they lack the personality traits that employers and clients look for.
Modern-day employers specifically look for candidates who possess soft skills such as interpersonal skills, presentation skills, etiquette, adequate grooming, team spirit, the right attitude, flexibility, appropriate dressing sense and presentability, presence of mind, time management, work ethics, personal hygiene, listening skills, communication skills, street smartness and common sense. Research has shown that in this competitive era, mere hard skills do not make a person employable and enable that person to sustain in professional life. Unfortunately, most persons with disabilities are unable to acquire the skills which are required for personality development and employability skills due to their impediments. People with non-disabilities follow visual cues and learn from others or join a vocational training Institute. People with disabilities are unable to join mainstream vocational training centres as most training centres do not offer individualized lessons nor can they learn through observation. It is expected that the training courses specially designed to cater to the needs of this marginalized group of people with diverse disabilities will give them the ability to project themselves better and create an impression on others and eventually find a sustainable income. Therefore, it is very important to promote and support #entrepreneurswithdisabilities.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Manager – Specialised Training and Disability Resource Centre The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon
In line with the National vision of a Technology-based society, The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka launched the Digital for Everyone (D4E) National initiative. Ms. Manique Gunaratne was recognized as an important stakeholder to ensure the successful implementation of this national initiative. Ms. Manique Gunaratne did a presentation on “Digital inclusion for persons with #disability” at the soft launch and the stakeholder consultation workshop in June 2021. The Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) hopes to take digital technologies to the citizens thereby pushing the national vision of a digitally empowered nation.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Visiting Lecturer – University of Colombo