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Equal Opportunity for the Disabled

The world has heard of the illustrious mathematician and physicist, Albert Einstein, whose name is indelibly etched in the ‘Theory of Relativity’. But did you know that Albert Einstein suffered a learning disability// and could not speak till he turned three years old? Einstein also had a problem with Maths in school. And, if he could go on to become a world famous Mathematician, it is undoubtedly, the will to surmount odds as well as the support enabled by the environment to fight the battle, turning his disability into an advantage.

It is estimated that nearly 610 million people are existing with disabilities across the world. In India alone, nearly 60 million people suffer disabilities. 'International Day of Disabled Persons' is a yearly reminder of what each nation, community, group, and individual can offer to improve the conditions for the disabled as well as muster world-wide assistance and support, to champion the rights of people living with disabilities.

'E-Accessibility', is the theme of the International Day of Disabled, 3rd December, 2006. People with disabilities often find it difficult to access information and communication technologies simply because information that is presently available is not designed to suit the needs of disabled people. Even the World Wide Web which should be universal is often difficult to navigate for the disabled. Inspite of access to information technology that has created new vistas for many, the disabled are simply at a loss to draw the benefits from these technological advances, because of inaccessible formats and design that hamper their active participation. Many of the websites are also inaccessible to the blind and the visually impaired.

On this day, several groups and initiatives around the world will seek to raise the awareness on the rights of persons suffering disabilities. The objective of this day will revolve around exploring better ways of accessing information and communi cation technologies that are as much a right to the disabled, as it is to the rest of the population. Significantly, it will be a day to help the disabled integrate into society by ironing out the impediments in their lives.

As part of the global initiative to improve access to information and communication technology for the disabled, new guidelines based upon global standards of website design is on the anvil. Once this initiative sees the light of day, the disabled will gain immensely from using information technology to improve their quality of life.

'Knowledge is love and light and vision', said Helen Keller, who herself a severely disabled woman, deaf-mute and blind, yet fought against her disability to become a world famous speaker and author. Helen Keller championed the cause of the disabled and indeed it is only through knowledge that the disabled will be able to overcome their handicap to fulfill the purpose of their lives.

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