Voice of the VoicelessLargest Minority By: Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera An estimated 20% of Sri Lanka’s population, for different reasons,haverestrictions in their abilities.  As the Supreme Court accepted in 2011,they formthe largest minority of peopleinSri Lanka. The International community measures a civilised society and a developing country by inclusiveness of its citizens. Dr. Lee [...]

Sunday Times 2

To become (dis-) Able in Sri Lanka


Voice of the Voiceless Largest Minority

By: Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera

An estimated 20% of Sri Lanka’s population, for different reasons,haverestrictions in their abilities.  As the Supreme Court accepted in 2011,they formthe largest minority of peopleinSri Lanka.

The International community measures a civilised society and a developing country by inclusiveness of its citizens. Dr. Lee Jong-wook, the Director General W.H.O. (2003-06), correctly said:“The way a country treats its dis-Abled population is a true reflection of its attitudes towards its people. It is a sure test and far more telling indicator of society’s development than GDP.”

In 1996 an Act (No. 28) was established in Sri Lanka;(i). To understand what rights people with dis-Abilities are entitled to enjoy by birth and (ii). To protect, promote and guarantee the full enjoyment of these rights on an equal basis with others in society.

Twenty(20) long years have passedsince then.Where are we today?Where is the reality of the promises we were given of inclusion and equality in January 2015?

Equal rights is for a better tomorrow.Hencethis assessment should bethemoral duty and legal obligationofall toppoliticians and decision makers.

The best time for usto open eyes and check the realities is this week:starting 03rdDecember -International Day of the people with dis-Abilities – and ending 10th December -World Human Rights Day.

Recognising dis-Ability and root causes

Many people suddenly encounter restrictions, either for a short time or a long time, concerning moving, climbing, getting around (mobility), physical coordination, eyesight, hearing, speech or recollections of facts, etc.

What are the real killers of the ability of man?

The UN Convention explains: dis-Ability is the restriction of normal activity through discriminatory practices of society in taking no account of the inevitable physical and sensory functional limitations that hinder their full and effectiveparticipation on an equal basis with othersfrom the mainstream of social activities.

These injurious practices of man, often going against the laws and Court orders,even mask the Ability within apparent dis-Ability.

As these are man-made,this is a low cost feasible reversible trend.

Open eyes and see the reality

Many dis-Abled children, adults and seniors lack the opportunities of the mainstream population as restrictions:

(i). Prevent them accessing class / lecture rooms, toilets and other essential facilities at schools and universities so as to deny from them an education – International Schools and degree awarding higher educational institutes havinglarge resources being the worst.

(ii). Prevent them accessingwork stations, toilets and other facilities and thereby gettingpaid employment, even when they are well qualified.

(iii). Discourage accessing information and e-commerce as most Websites are not easily accessible.

(iv).   Hinder disabled persons in obtainingproper healthcare with convenience.

Properly designed accessible toilets and wash facilities in wards areimperative even for the mandatory rehabilitation prior to discharge.Denial of accessible wash facilities for out-patients with severe burns are a stumbling block for burns surgeons.

Not even a hand rail to hold but perhaps 100 steps to climb! Just one example of a marginalisation at the front entrance at a NEW leading 'State' complex at Battaramulla that even house several ministries.

(v). Inaccessible tourism denies new profits for Sri Lanka. International theme for 2017 isAccessible Tourismbutwe still waste resources and prevent Sri Lanka becoming the destination of choice for a generation destined to transform the travel, hotel and tourism industry.

SLTB, as an imperative investment, must establish the services of a truly competent INDEPENDENT professional to asses and report compliance of accessibility regulations at 5 Star-Hotels, especially all the NEW ones.

(vi). A national policy on dis-Ability(2004);A national action plan (2014);gather cobwebs as 20% of our population continue to live in dismay.

(vii). Human Rights Commissionof Sri Lanka remains caged able to play only advisory roles.


UN Convention (CRPD) of 2006 – Its Significance

The UN Convention (CRPD) is aset of legally binding instruments(i). To guarantee people with dis-Abilities their birth rights and; (ii).Toafford productive opportunities to live life to their fullest potential.

Itcame into force on 3rd May 2008 with enforceable obligations on all countries.

Accessibility to built facilities – one of the eight key pillars of this convention- is the single right on which several other rights depend heavily.

Participation restrictions are now internationally recognised as causing denial of several rights and colossal waste.

Adopting this convention is good economic senseas when physical and social obstacles are eliminated dis-Abled persons are empowered to live up to their optimum potential enabling them to become productive employees, entrepreneurs and consumers, along with everybody else.

A Good Start – low cost and feasible

A change of perceptions focusing Ability within dis-Ability is an essential prerequisite here. Awareness raising as per Article 8 and its preamble,for Statesto recognizethe existing and potential valuedcontributions made by persons with disabilitiesdo not need legislations or added costs.

As the convention calls for progressive realization of its provisions, instead of a red-tape procedure in the form of a disability rights bill that has already killed 10 years,short term action is imperative.

The annual budget proposalswould have been the ideal starter to set the ball rolling.

Budget 2017Last chance to rectify grave omissions

Government now has a binding legal obligation to fulfil the requirements of the UN Convention.

ItsArticle 4.3 stipulates: To CLOSELY consult with and ACTIVELY involve People with dis-Abilities in decision making processes and developing policies, concerning issues related to them.

Hence,Government should have afforded us the equal right to participate in the decision-making processes in formulating budget proposals that affect our well-being.

Yes, the Budget Proposals have failed to recognise the existence of dis-Abled persons – country’s largest minority of people.

This article has justified why and how the following proposals are low/no cost feasible investments bringing rich dividends, either economically and socially or to start fulfilling enforced legal obligations and moral duties of this government.

Too high and user unfriendly counters often at hospitals and pharmacies.

  1. 1.    Budget allocates several millions of additional rupees for improvements of the physical infrastructure facilitiesof state and private sector in fields such as education and health,Acland House and Mumtaz Mahal and, introducing light train facilities to upgrade lifestyles.

ADD a clause to make it mandatory that (Perhaps also include Lanka Sathosa Outlets) allthese workscomply with the Supreme Court order SCFR 221/2009 of 27 April 2011enablingphysical access.

  1. 2.     I propose:Fines for non-compliance, which could be used to establish a NEW fund named:Revenue with Relief fund.


3. Government should get funds from people who HAVE funds. None can justify why thoseunemployed due to permanent major dis-abilities and those terminally ill gravelyshould be equally taxed!!


They are much worse off than even the seniors, as travel and medical costs alone are extremely high. They are the people who make best use of the internet to pay utility bills, channel doctors, etc. but are now asked to meet a telecom levy enhanced to 25%.


Total benefits they receive far outweigh additional outgoings. Why rob Peter to pay Paul?Like in other countries we do not ask for financial incentives but appeal the generated monthly income through own investments with registered banks and financial institutions, be made totally tax-free,to prolong our survival.


  1. 4.    The Budget’s focus is on human development; BUT are dis-Abled persons NOT human to be overlooked?


From clause 326 onwards empowerment of youth and women are talked about BUT nothing about the youth and women with disabilities. IT being an employable skill, facilities at 3500 schools (clause 93) should afford increased opportunities for children and adults with dis-Abilities, and those with extra-ordinary skills amongst them (clause 97) should be further supported with the proposedRs. 2,500/- monthly grant.


  1. 5.    When new legislation is introduced (clause 98), international schools and non-state degree awarding institution at least, must ensure physical access to all facilities,so that Smart Classrooms (clause 92) also becomeaccessible class roomsto extend the 13 years of mandatory education and higher education EQUALLY to dis-Abled students.

5. Like price regulations for selected medications,exorbitant escalating charges by hospitals on pre-determined routine medical tests and rooms along with fees by doctors, should also be subjected to a maximum amount.


When pharmacies undergo compulsory registration with NMRA (clause 145) those remaining physically inaccessible and not user-friendly should be required to provide home-delivery services at no extra-cost for permanently dis-abled persons living within established distances.


6.    Sri Lanka Tourism should take measures from January 2017 to comply by design with the international theme: Accessible Tourism for all.

7. It is now mandatory for the dis-Abled,like others,to enjoythe protection enshrined in the Constitutionfrom the State and Private sector.

The proposed BILL of RIGHTS in the NEW Constitution should state:

No Person shall, on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste,gender,limitation in physical and / or mental ability or any one of such grounds, be subject to any dis-Ability, liability, restriction, marginalisation, safety hazard or condition with regard to access to both state and private sector buildings,facilities and services therein the public needs to use in day-to-day life, including shops, hotels, restaurants, banks, hospitals, sports stadia, places of education – employment – recreation – entertainment and worship of his own religion.

8. Budget must enforce introductionof laws and effective implementationfrom January 2017 to ensure that basic urban physical infrastructures;public facilities and services under new Mega-polis agenda,end-up accessible and inclusive of all people’s needs, regardless of the degree of ability.

The wake-up call.

It is amazing why even the vociferous joint opposition (SLPP), JVP,JNP,TNA, joint front of the civil societies the late most venerable Sobitha Thera gave birth to – every one of them – continue to remain as deaf, dumb and blind towards the dis-Abled – country’s largest minority of people!

Justice delayed is justice denied and,in this case,loss of profits, a better tomorrow and the country’s good name too!



  The final reading of the Budget 2017 is on the HUMAN RIGHTS DAY – the Judgement Day for the dis-Abled   people of Sri Lanka

        All Members of the Parliament have a moral duty to actively support them  -  that includes the heroic soldiers and all  victims of the war - in getting these proposals (No. 2 in particular) included in the Budget before passing. 


Promoter of Access Rights

Dr. Ajith Perera receiving the two APEX Awards at the UN observance day 2016 from Una McCauley, the UN resident coordinator in Sri Lanka for his outstanding contributions in promoting access rights.

Article 8 of the UN Convention stress the importance of awareness raising to project a positive image of the capabilities and outstanding contributions ofpersons with dis-Abilities.

Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera is Sri Lanka’s unsung crusader who over the past 18 years hasfoughtvoluntarily from eight sidesfor the rights of others focusing oninclusion by design for people of all abilities.

Perera -a Fellow of several reputed international bodyand a former senior manager in industry – was left instantly a Paraplegic for life by a fallen wayside tree in 1992.

Undeterred by this personal adversity and with the vision:Accessible Sri Lanka, he has defied convention with resilience and perseveranceto break away from the shackles of traditional roles of our scientists to become an outstanding achieverwith unreserved commitment– even as a wheelchair user – and impacted local society positively bybecominga fervent advocate of design for inclusion.

He was also instrumental in paving the way with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution to establish the first Sri Lanka Standardfor design in building construction SLS ISO TR 9527:2006.

His outstanding contributions extending simultaneously to many fields is testimony to his in-depth understanding of intricacies backed by practical experience and thorough working knowledge that goes far beyond what our university courses on architecture and civil engineering teach.

Today he is a widely experienced and highly competent accessibility advisor and accessor serving humanity befittingly recognised by reputed bodies both here and overseas.

For further information visit: http://goo.gl/3FWyW  and  http://goo.gl/VmYVSi

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