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Groundbreaking disability rights activist Javed Abidi dies at 53

Posted by Ambika Tandon at Mar 06, 2018 02:42 PM |
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The Centre for Internet & Society (CIS) expresses profound regret at the demise of Mr. Javed Abidi, a groundbreaking disability rights activist.

As Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), he was instrumental in bringing issues pertaining to various disabilities under an umbrella organisation, and ensuring greater visibility in mainstream media. He labored to make educational resources, employment opportunities and public spaces more accessible for PwDs across barriers of class and gender.

A noted voice in the field of disability rights, Abidi contributed immensely to shifting the conversation around disability from a welfarist and paternalistic approach to one that was grounded in rights and freedoms over the past two decades. He worked at the intersection of civil society and government, and under his aegis, the NCPEDP played a key role in the passing and implementation of the landmark Rights for Persons with Disabilities Act, 2018.

Dr. Nirmita Narasimhan, Senior Fellow and formerly Policy Director at the CIS, says, “I met Mr. Javed Abidi when we started CIS way back in 2008. At that time I was completely overwhelmed by his personality and totally in awe of him and his work. This feeling only grew over the last decade. We first worked on pushing the National Policy on Universal Electronics Accessibility. He also supported our right to read campaign and spread the word about our copyright work. Over the years, he supported and promoted our work on multiple issues, and included us in key discussions amongst the disability leadership in India.”

As part of his work with CIS, he advocated for greater legislative rights and institutional support through measures such as universally accessible government data and services in the digital space, and affordable aid technology. Dr. Narsimhan continued, “He looked to CIS as an ally and expert in ICT accessibility and always ensured that we were included in discussions on this topic in government committees and outside. At a personal level, I feel privileged that he took a keen interest in my work.” A central concern within this work was to highlight the intersection of disability with poverty, gender disparity, lack of education, and social stigma.

“The fire and passion in his work, his fearlessness in advocating for what he believed was right, the sheer strength of his personality and mind, his systematic and meticulous approach towards any issue all served as important learning points for me. He made me feel proud to be an Indian and working for the rights of persons with disabilities in India. He has truly touched the lives of millions of people in a way which very few people have done in their lifetime. I hope that we continue and expand our work in digital accessibility and contribute to making his vision of an inclusive India a reality,” concluded Dr. Narsimhan.

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