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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Building an accessible and equitable world

Posted: 30 November 2022

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Disability, Experience, Impact, In Australia, Inclusion, Scholar,

International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1992. The annual observance of the Day on 3 December each year since then aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and wellbeing of people with disability.

This year’s theme for the day is ‘Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world’. The following snapshots highlight Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia scholars, alumni and Program initiatives that are contributing to a more inclusive and accessible world in line with this theme.

Australia Awards empowers future leaders, including those with disability, to drive change and contribute to development. Australia Awards offers Scholarships and Short Courses on the basis of merit, transparency and equitable access for all, and supports recipients with disability to achieve their educational aspirations.

With the aim of supporting and improving disability inclusion practices across the Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia program, an Alumni Disability Advisory Group was established in 2021, consisting of Australia Awards alumni from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In addition to highlighting the contributions and leadership stories of its members, the Group provides a platform for discussing key disability inclusion issues and building on synergies to seek innovative solutions to eliminate barriers to inclusion. This year, the Group celebrated one year of success since its inception. During its first year, a core focus of the Group has been to identify and map barriers that people with disability encounter in applying for, and undertaking, Australia Awards opportunities.

The Alumni Disability Advisory Group continues to provide support to scholars in Australia. To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Group member and Australia Awards alumna Usukhbayar Sainjargal from Mongolia interviewed current Mongolian scholar Battulga Ganbaatar about how he is adjusting to his new life in Australia as a person with disability, and the support he has received.

Australia Awards scholar Battulga Ganbaatar

For Australia Awards scholars with disability, studying in Australia presents the chance to build their capabilities and leadership skills. However, for Maldivian scholar Muawiyath M. Didi, and Sri Lankan scholar Tuan Rushdi, it has also meant the start of a firm friendship as they support each other to navigate their new lives in Australia.

Australia Awards scholars Muawiyath Didi and Tuan Rushdi

Across South Asia and Mongolia, Australia Awards alumni with disability have been overcoming barriers to become role models for the disability community and beyond.

In Bhutan, alumnus Pema Chhogyel is working to promote inclusive development in the country’s school system. As a professional with vision impairment himself, Pema also advocates for people with disability in society more widely.

Australia Awards alumnus Pema Chhogyel

Meanwhile, in Nepal, alum Pallav Pant is reducing disaster risk for people with disability through his foundation, Atullya Foundation Pvt Ltd. The work of Pallav and his team includes organising training for first responders to increase their awareness of the issues that people with disability face in disasters.

Other alumni are also advocating for building an inclusive environment to ensure no one is left behind.

Occupational therapist and Australia Awards alumna Arifa Jahan Ema is helping people in Bangladesh to prevent—or live better with—injury, illness or disability. In addition to her clinical practice, she is also contributing through teaching and research in the disability and rehabilitation sector.

Australia Awards alumna Arifa Jahan Ema

In Maldives, alumna Fathmath Nishan has been a strong advocate for inclusive education. Her work focuses on building community awareness, training teachers and providing support to parents of children with special needs.

Program initiatives

Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia continues to raise awareness and provide support to people with disability through various campaigns and initiatives.

In June, the Program developed a guide to help new scholars with disability commencing their studies in Australia to connect with Australian and state-based service providers, resources and social groups that support the inclusion of people with disability.

On 4 December, Australia Awards – Bangladesh will host an online talk for alumni across the region with special guest speaker Dr Rafat Hussain, Associate Professor of Population Health, College of Health & Medicine at the Australian National University. The talk, ‘Disability, Development and Rights,’ will focus on key issues in the description and understanding of disability within the international context, and how discrimination affects various aspects of development for people with disability.

On 7 December, Australia Awards South Asia & Mongolia will hold an online, interactive discussion for their scholars and alumni with guest speaker Michelle Ryan. Michelle is the Artistic Director of Restless Dance in Adelaide. Her work has empowered people with disability to feel the love of movement and dance for many years. Michelle has won numerous awards, including the 2020 Australia Council for the Arts Dance Award and she was been inducted into the South Australian Woman’s Honour Roll in 2015.

Inclusion of people with disability remains an important area of focus for Australia Awards beyond International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Learn more about Australia Awards’ year-round support for people with disability and other disadvantaged social groups.

Image on top: Australia Awards alum from Nepal Rajuna Singh who is a member of the Alumni Disability Advisory Group