Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Disability, the Cabinet Reshuffle and Time for Change

By Dr. Padmani Mendis, Adviser on Disability

The long anticipated Cabinet Reshuffle brings a much awaited and rare opportunity for people with disabilities to have their aspirations addressed. The United Nations Convention for Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) was ratified by Sri Lanka on 08th February 2016, but until now the Government has taken no action to demonstrate that it is serious about making it a reality.

Disability has always been the responsibility of Social Services/Welfare as a subject of service provision. This may have been acceptable when action on disability (except in the instances of Health and Education) called for Government only to deliver services to meet the needs of disabled people such as supplying them with technical aids, providing vocational training, granting financial assistance for housing, medical care, education, income generation and so on. But now, with the commitment by Government to implement the UN Convention on Disability, action on Disability calls for two cabinet functions – namely the new subject of "Disability Inclusion" in addition to the subject of "Disability Service Provision". The new subject of "Disability Inclusion" is essential to make ratification of the UN Convention Disability a reality.

Simply put, the new subject is a strategy which includes disabled people in the mainstream of our communities, allowing them to participate in all the country’s development activity wherever they live, seeing them as equal citizens with the same access to all the rights and responsibility available to other citizens of our country. Ratification of the UN Convention must move Government action away from seeing people with disabilities as a special group who need special isolated and segregated services to seeing them equal citizens with equal rights in all things. This includes such programmes as children with disability being detected early and having the early interventions they need through our existing primary health care system; children participating in the same primary and secondary schools which have been adapted and made inclusive including teachers who can meet the varying needs of all children including theirs; young adults attending the same higher education and skills training centres which have again been suitably prepared and adapted to meet their needs alongside those of other young people; and children, youth and adults, both girls and boys, women and men participating in the same workplaces, the same social, sports, recreational, political and cultural activities as their neighbours.

People with disabilities supported by disability workers and activists have been lobbying for this change for well over a decade, ever since changes were visible globally. A radical shift was taking place throughout the world in thought and action related to disability and to the situation of people with disabilities. Sri Lanka responded early, with a Cabinet approved National Policy on Disability in 2003 and a Cabinet approved National Plan of Action on Disability in 2012 focussing on ensuring opportunities for disabled people in our country’s mainstream. Alas these well-intentioned documents were usually unread and unused but were considered to be attractive documents for distribution. They remained in the desks of administrators in the Social Services Sector.

Persistent efforts by disabled people and those who support them to have a dialogue with those responsible in Government have come to no avail. Disability is jealously guarded by the Social Welfare Sector. This is perhaps due to a misunderstanding that is resistant to discussion. It must be made clear to those who have fears that the Ministry of Social Welfare will not have to lose its responsibility for Disability Services. This Ministry will always have an important role to play and continue its mandate from Government to provide the special services required in the field of disability. This needs to be made very clear.

What should be equally clear to those who hesitate is that ratification of the UN Convention calls for an additional role by Government. It calls for another Government Body, to ensure that the Convention is implemented through disability-inclusive policies, legislation, planning and action. To include disabled people in the many dimensions of the country’s development mainstream calls for most, if not all, ministries and sectors to play their part. If this "Disability Inclusion in Development" is to be done effectively and efficiently then this Government Body is also called upon to provide oversight and coordination for the many actions being implemented for inclusion. No one Government Ministry can carry out these functions of oversight and coordination of disability inclusion. These functions must be carried out at the highest level of Government. What could be most effective in our country is a single Body (say a Disability Rights Commission) situated within the Secretariat of the President or Prime Minister and directly responsible to one of them. Only then will multiministerial and multisectoral oversight and coordination be possible in our country.

This is why Government action on Disability must be seen as two entities. One, the continued provision of "Disability Services" by the Ministry of Social Welfare, and two, a single Governmental Body such as a Disability Rights Commission with the mandate for "Disability Inclusion" responsible directly to the President or Prime Minister.

Has the time come for Sri Lanka’s People with Disabilities to be truly recognized as citizens with equal rights and responsibilities? The Opportunity is certainly here with a cabinet reshuffle due very soon. Allocation of subjects is done by the President. It is our experience that once subjects have been allocated, administrators are obstinate about "losing" something that they consider they own. This perhaps is their privilege. So for our people with disabilities this may well be a "Now or Never Moment" in their hope for a better life. Will a National Body such as a Disability Rights Commission be set up within the Secretariat of the President or Prime Minister to ensure that they really do become Sri Lanka’ citizens on an equal level? Or will they be ignored once more and remain as neglected, isolated, segregated and discriminated against second-class citizens?

Dr. Padmani Mendis, Advisor, Disability and Rehabilitation
phone:    011 2587853; 
e-mail:    mendisnl@sltnet.lk;  
address:    7/1 Prince Alfred Tower, Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 03
BlogSpot; http://padmanimendis.blogspot.com

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sunday Island:  Sunday 29th May 2016


People with disabilities let down again?

An open letter to the President and Prime Minister

By Dr. Padmani Mendis

Advisor, Disability and Rehabilitation

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on behalf of Sri Lanka on February 08 this year. Sri Lankans with disabilities rejoiced. A Minister of Social Services went all the way to New York to place his signature on the Convention on March 30 2007. With this came the promise that our country would soon take the next step of ratification. That was not to be - not until 9 years later when Yahapalana government came along.

A committee was set up by the Chairman of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities to make recommendations regarding the mechanism required by our country to ensure implementation of the UN Convention for which we have a Cabinet-approved National Action Plan for Disabilities. The Committee recommended overwhelmingly that a NDC should be set up within the Presidential Secretariat, or failing this within the PM’s Secretariat. This was to demonstrate our country’s resolve to make a reality of the UN Disability Convention.

Keeping it within the social welfare sector (which still operates on the principle of charity) under a new Disability Rights Act will demonstrate that ratification was, in the words of the UNHCHR, merely "human rights window-dressing". It shows a poor understanding of disability rights on the part of the leaders of our Government. Without doubt it places in jeopardy the acceptance of new Disability Rights Law as a precondition for GSP+. It will pave the way for negative comment in the report to the UNHRC at the sessions in September. And worst of all, it puts our country to shame – that the highest in the land is not concerned with the poorest of its people.

It seems that the President and Prime Minister have rejected the suggestion to have a National Disability Commission (NDC) to be set up within one of their secretariats. That is what we, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, were told by the Minister for Social Empowerment and Welfare today, the 25th of May. We were told this has been discussed by the Cabinet, and you have both said the NDC must be set up within the Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare. We were very surprised and disappointed to hear this. Ratification of this Convention has committed our country "to promote and protect the rights and dignity" of our people with disabilities, young and old, women and men.

With this comes the commitment to include people with disabilities as equal citizens, in all government ministries and other bodies providing goods, services and opportunities to Sri Lankan citizens. Moving disability into a human rights framework in this way includes a commitment in the ratification process itself, that the Government will set up a mechanism (which we have called the NDC) to coordinate all these institutions and tasks. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a special report goes on to recommend that such a mechanism - in our case the NDC- should provide oversight and coordination and be placed "at the most senior level of Government …. at the heart of Government, in the Office of the President or Prime Minister".

Perhaps you were not aware of these responsibilities that came with ratification when you discussed this issue in Cabinet. Perhaps your thoughts were on the mandate for disability welfare work such as cash transfers, distribution of assistive devices etc., which should of course continue with the ministry of social empowerment and welfare; just as the education ministry will have the responsibility for ensuring educational opportunities for all primary and secondary school-age children with disabilities, the sports ministry for sports for persons with disabilities and transportation bodies to make public transportation accessible to all and so on as per the National Action Plan for Disability. We would like to know why you have rejected the suggestion that an NDC should be set up within the Presidential Secretariat, or the PM’s Secretariat.


Monday, April 18, 2016

UN Disability Convention: What Next?

Sunday Island:  Sunday April 17th 2016

April 15, 2016, 12:00 pm 


Advisor, Disability and Rehabilitation

Sri Lanka ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or UN CRPD on 08th February this year. We need now to take steps to implement this convention. In order to look forward to doing this, it would be apt to first look back so that we may have a clearer understanding of the context of this convention and its importance.

The CRPD was approved by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006. It is one that broke several records. On the day it was opened for signature at the UN in New York on 30 March 2007 there were 82 signatories, the highest number of signatories in history to a UN Convention on its opening day. It is the first human rights convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century and the first legally binding instrument with comprehensive protection of the rights of people with disabilities. It holds the record for the shortest time taken in the preparation of a UN treaty ever – this had taken only five years from 2002 to 2006, while UN treaties have generally taken around 10 years to negotiate. It was the quickest to come into effect with minimum requirement of ratification by 20 countries and entered into force on 03 May 2008. And now, eight years later, it has been ratified by 163 of the 193 member states of the UN. Its importance is further certified that it is today regarded as one of the 10 "Core UN Human Rights Instruments" receiving the same status as for example the Bill of Rights. All this is evidence of the realization by the global community of the unacceptable situation of people with disabilities the world over, the level of deprivation of their human rights, and the need for all member states to take action to mitigate this situation.

And our country was there in New York the day that the UN CRPD was opened for signature on 30 March 2007. Our Minister of Social Services of the time made the special journey to the UN to place his signature on the CRPD that very day. He had, or so we thought, indicated clearly Sri Lanka’s commitment to the treaty and that the next steps would soon follow. But alas, that was not to be. It soon became clear that the commitment demonstrated to the world on that day was only a paper promise. It took nine years and the Yahapalanaya Government for our country to take the next step. With Cabinet approval finally obtained by S.B. Dissanayake, Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare, the Government this year ratified the UN Disability Convention or CRPD in New York. With that Sri Lanka made a promise to our fellow members in the United Nations that the CRPD will be implemented in our country. It was a promise that the Government will put in place the administrative structures recommended by the CRPD for its implementation and that it will enact the necessary enabling local legislation for its enforcement.

So where are we now? What will our country do next? Or is this to be just another paper promise?

Immediate administrative actions to demonstrate commitment

CRPD is unique as far as human rights treaties go in that it is the first such treaty to include in detail how the convention should be implemented and monitored by a country. Incidentally these are two separate functions and are to be undertaken by separate institutions. Whilst implementation must be undertaken by Government, monitoring should be the responsibility of an independent mechanism, such as for instance, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. An important condition here is that people with disabilities and civil society must participate in monitoring. For domestic implementation we have agreed in the CRPD to have two strategies – focal points with responsibility for micro implementation within various Government sectors and another focal point as a broad macro mechanism also within Government for oversight and coordination of implementation.

Focal points for micro-implementation: Sri Lanka has already taken action to keep in line with this institutional requirement. The National Action Plan for Disability was designed to implement the CRPD and was approved by Cabinet in 2014. In this Plan focal points are called for in all government ministries which have to include disability within its frame of work (education, health, social welfare, sports, vocational training, housing etc). Focal points are also called for within the secretariats at all levels of the decentralized administration (provincial, district, divisional and local government). Focal points have the responsibility for seeing that the CRPD, through the National Action Plan, will reach people with disabilities in their homes and communities and impact on their lives both the international and local enabling laws to improve their situation and the environment in which they live. This is especially important in a country such as ours where over 70% of the population lives in rural and plantation areas.

The Need of the Hour – a National Disability Commission as a Macro-Mechanism

In ratifying the CRPD Sri Lanka agreed to address comprehensively all human rights of persons with disability. This then calls for the participation of practically all cabinet ministries, and perhaps even some state ministries. The CRPD recognizes that this is applicable in all countries to a greater or lesser degree. It recognizes also that a single ministry (health, social welfare, labour) is not able carry out oversight and coordination of all these other concerned ministries which is the key to successful implementation. CRPD therefore calls for a single overall mechanism to carry out these two functions (which within them includes policy-making and planning). The UN High Commissioner for Human rights elaborates on this further and calls for this mechanism to be placed "at the most senior level of government, …. close to the heart of government such as in the Office of the President or Prime Minister". Applying these requirements to Sri Lanka we urgently need to set up a body such as a National Disability Commission under the Office of the President or Prime Minister. This is not an option; it is an action we have agreed to in ratification. This is the first step Sri Lanka needs to take to initiate CRPD implementation. This first step will surely demonstrate our country’s commitment.

Legal Requirements

A draft Disability Rights Bill to provide the local enabling law for the CRPD has been in the pipeline since 2004. It has been open to the general public, to disability groups and to those who participated in preparing the previously approved National Policy on Disability. Their comments have been fed into periodic revisions of the draft. And yet the Bill remains in draft form to this day at the Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare. Once the National Disability Commission (or mechanism by whatever name it is called) has been decided on by Cabinet, it is imperative that the draft Bill is amended accordingly and enacted without delay so that the Government’s commitment to enforcement of the CRPD is demonstrated.

What if Sri Lanka fails to take these measures?

But what if Sri Lanka’s fails her disabled citizens once again and neglects to take these urgent measures to implement the CRPD? This will without doubt have unfortunate severe economic and other effects on our country per se. One effect will be on the review of GSP Plus status by the European Union and the other is on our status at the UN Human Rights Council.

UN CRPD and GSP Plus

The European Union has called on Sri Lanka to demonstrate that we are implementing all UN Human Rights Treaties as part of their review for restoring GSP Plus status to our country. The next mission (with the possibility of a final decision) is due in June. The CRPD, being a core human rights treaty, matters very much to the European Union. It was one of the first integrated organizations to ratify the CRPD. The prudent action for the Government to take to demonstrate that it is serious about implementing the CRPD is that it should firstly set up the National Disability Commission and secondly start processing the Disability Rights Act as the local law for the CRPD. These can be done immediately and certainly before June. If this is not done our GSP Plus status could be in serious jeopardy.

Sri Lanka’s standing in the UN Human Rights Commission

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is due to give a comprehensive report on Sri Lanka at the next General Assembly of the Council to be held in September. When he visited Sri Lanka last February, in his closing statement to the media (after our country had ratified) he expressed his concern about the human rights situation of Sri Lanka’s people with disabilities. They will no doubt be considered when he makes his statement in September. So if the Government does not want to be failing in this too it had better get its act together and take the two measures listed above in this article. It is worth recalling these words of the UN High Commissioner when he addressed the last HRC General Assembly in March this year.

"I am also disturbed by a widespread practice of what could be termed "human rights window-dressing". The ratification of treaties and agreements, and acceptance of recommendations stemming from UN human rights mechanisms, are not in themselves human rights achievements. There needs to be follow-up and real change to bring greater freedoms and dignity to the people. Unless consequential at the level of the rights of the individual, the work we do will remain bureaucratic – or even theatre. Human rights obligations should not be a "tick-the-box" exercise designed only to boost a country’s international image."


e-mail:    mendisnl@sltnet.lk;   padmanimendis@hotmail.com;


Sunday, March 13, 2016

 Disability and UN Convention
March 10, 2016, 9:26 pm 
By DR PADMANI MENDIS,  Advisor, Disability and Rehabilitation
Sri Lanka has a long tradition of sharing with our disabled citizens the state’s largesse when it comes to welfare. The state provides grants for medical expenses and self-employment, assistive devices free of cost, cash transfers to those who have low incomes and provides youth with vocational training in special institutions. The state also subsidizes homes which house children with disabilities and those special schools run only for them by NGOs and the private sector. These unfortunately reach limited numbers because budgets have of necessity to be restricted. Within our society, on our birthdays and in remembrance of our relatives who have passed on, we follow a tradition of giving alms as meals to people in residential homes and donate gifts to individuals. The state and society both see them as in need of "social services" synonymous with "charity" This has been the situation in Sri Lanka for many decades. People with disabilities are beneficiaries of goodwill and charity.
And yet this article puts forward the viewpoint that Sri Lanka neglects our citizens with disabilities. The context for this statement is that the World of Disability has moved on, has changed, and Sri Lanka has not kept up with those changes. Global Society has moved away from seeing people with disability as mere objects of charity isolated from the mainstream of society. No more is it enough for people with disabilities to be just beneficiaries of special state allocations and segregated services. Neither is it enough for them to be just receivers of other people’s largesse. People with disabilities are citizens with equal rights and responsibilities. Both as individuals and as a group they are of equal worth as any other. They are entitled to an equitable share of the country’s resources. They have the right to participate in whatever other citizens participate in –whether it be the same schools, the same workplaces, the same social institutions. These institutions need to change to accommodate and include people with disabilities. This is far from the reality in Sri Lanka – we still do not see people with disabilities as human beings in their own right with hopes and aspirations, dreams and desires like our own.
Changes in Disability
Global changes in disability came about as a result of a deeper understanding of disability and its causes. First came the acceptance that the situation of disability is largely caused by stigma and societal attitudes – we perceive them as being different as human beings with different needs. Because they cannot see, or hear or speak or behave or learn or move like we do they are not seen as "human beings just like us". And so the resulting discrimination, the inequalities, the separate services, the name calling. They cannot attend our weddings and our social celebrations. They cannot use our public transportation. It is time for us to change and catch up with the World. We must aim at removing those barriers that keep people with disabilities out of our lives, out of our communities, out of what we do. It is time to stop our neglect of them.
The acceptance of the social cause of disability was followed by a clearer understanding of the functional cause of disability. Disability follows an illness or accident which alters an individual’s health condition. This alteration we call disability. Any human being can have an illness, and so it follows that any human being can have disability. Therefore disability is a part of being human – it is a part of us, a part of the rich diversity of our human race.
UN Convention on Disability
It is this acceptance and understanding that led to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) which was approved by the General Assembly in 2006. This instrument recognizes in International Law that people with disabilities have the same Human Rights as all others. They have the right to equality of opportunity and to equal access to goods and services; the right not to be discriminated against; the right to decide what they will participate in, have access to those and be accepted and included; and most of all they have a right to live their lives in dignity and independence with the freedom to make their own choices.
We need to thank Hon. S. B. Dissanayake Minster of Social Empowerment and Welfare and the Government for having ratified the UN Convention on the 8th of February this year, 9 years after Sri Lanka placed its signature on it in April 2007. That this delay in ratification was an extension of our neglect of people with disabilities is a valid assumption.
And yet during these 9 years some fundamental measures called for to implement the CRPD have been put in place Affordable and Rights-Based National Policies and National Action Plans have been approved by Cabinet. Legislation to enforce implementation of these as well to serve as the local enabling legislation for the CRPD has been drafted but is yet to be enacted. One can justify asking the question of whether these were merely tokens over the years in an attempt to keep a small pressure group quiet?
The assumption of neglect has further grounds because of the absence of action. We need then to ask, how serious are we really about the ratification of the UN Convention? Was it just another token but this time to satisfy the "international community"? We need to take note of the fact that even after we ratified it the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his closing statement to the Sri Lankan media last month mentioned his concern about the human rights situation of our people with disabilities.
If Sri Lanka is serious about implementing the Convention and improving the lives of our disabled children and adults, we need to take the next step called for in the Convention. We need to establish a body such as a National Disability Commission to see that that the Convention is implemented through the cabinet-approved National Action Plan for Disability. Article 33 of the Convention describes how implementation is to be done within countries and the need for a mechanism within Government. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights elaborates on this further in a special report. This Report in no uncertain terms calls for this body to be placed "at the most senior level of Government close to the heart of Government such as in the Office of the President or Prime Minster .. ". The High Commissioner’s report states clearly that it should best not be under a single ministry such as social welfare, labour or education. Reasons for this are that this Body within the Government responsible for the implementation of the Convention needs to reflect" an understanding of human rights" which is a cross-ministerial issue of immense proportions. It needs to be at a level that can provide oversight and coordination, and hence in the Office of the P.M. or President. The mandate of this Body includes also liaising with a separate independent commission designated with the task of monitoring national implementation.
Hope for the Future
Perhaps the biggest barrier in Sri Lanka to eliminating neglect of disability issues is the lack of interest in people with disabilities on the part of politicians, professionals and administrators - namely those who have the power to change the situation. People with disabilities are among the poorest and most marginalized of our vulnerable groups of citizens. They have no voice. Who will voice concern for their future? Will the National Disability Commission, the enactment of a new Disability Rights Act and the implementation of the UN Convention through the National Plan of Action for Disability become a reality? When they do, we could say that Sri Lanka has stopped neglecting her citizens with disabilities. We can have hope that they will be recognized and accepted as citizens with equal rights, included in the mainstream of Sri Lankan Society.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Padmani Mendis’ work in disability and rehabilitation
On completing her education at Ladies’ College Colombo Padmani proceeded to England in 1958 for professional studies in orthopaedic nursing and physiotherapy that would lead her to a career in the field of Disability and Rehabilitation. Since then until the present, spanning a period of 57 years her work in disability has taken her from the villages of rural Sri Lanka to those high in the Andes Mountains of Venezuela; from villages in the Mekong Delta to those in the arid deserts of sub-Saharan Africa; from the land of the Vikings to that of the Masai;  from the shores of the Caribbean to the Cedars of Lebanon; and from the biblical cities of the Middle-East to the rich cultures of China and Japan, sharing experiences in over 50 countries.
Her most significant contribution in her chosen area of work has been as a consultant to the World Health Organization. She was fortunate to have been invited by the WHO in 1979 to participate in pioneering a strategy that would enable WHO to put on the ground their new disability policy directed at reaching people who have disabilities yet unreached with opportunities to overcome the effects of their conditions. The strategy that Padmani helped pioneer together with two co-consultants, Einar Helander and Gunnel Nelson, came to be called Community-Based Rehabilitation or CBR now sometimes called  Disability-Inclusive Development.  CBR is  currently implemented  in  over 90  countries  throughout  the  world. It addresses the needs of people with disabilities and their family members and aims to provide rehabilitation, reduce poverty, equalize opportunities and promote their socio-economic inclusion in the development mainstream. To implement this new strategy Padmani together with her co-consultants authored and developed a tool in the form of a Manual. Called “Training in the Community for People with Disabilities”. The Manual has now been translated and used in over 60 languages. Padmani’s role in her first 10 years was to evaluate globally both the strategy and the Manual which was finally published by WHO in 1989. For purposes of this field evaluation Padmani had tasks introducing the strategy and teaching various categories and levels of personnel to implement it. At the same time tasks involved developing a monitoring and evaluation system so that CBR would evolve continuously to meet the changing needs of people living in varying social, economic and cultural environments.
Padmani’s work at this time continued to help expand the CBR strategy as a comprehensive approach to provide people with disabilities with opportunities including knowledge and skills for personal development, communication, health care, education, income generation, family and social inclusion and participation in the development of their communities and their countries. Interventions start in the homes and communities in which people with disabilities live. Programmes then continue to develop support and referral systems which will include them at all levels of a country’s administration and development.
Over the years in addition to taking on a broader role as a Consultant for WHO Headquarters and Regional Offices, Padmani was also requested to undertake work in disability by several International NGOs (Save the Children Sweden and U.K., Christofel-Blinden Mission (CBM), Norwegian Association for the Disabled(NAD) and other UN Agencies (UNDP, ILO, UNICEF).  Recognizing the leadership that Padmani was providing to the development of rehabilitation and CBR she was appointed to the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation from 1980 until she reached the customary age of retirement from that panel – a period of 25 years.
At home in Sri Lanka in her role promoting the development of CBR to benefit people with disabilities, she facilitated the setting up of the Disability Studies Unit (now Department of Disability Studies) at the University of Kelaniya, the first of its kind in a developing country.  Also a first in a developing country is the Centre for Excellence in Disability Research, Education and Practice established recently at the University of Colombo. During these 5 decades and more Padmani’s’ work in disability and rehabilitation in Sri Lanka has involved also the following at various times; Member, National Council for Persons with Disabilities; Adviser, Disability Organizations Joint Front; Senior Consultant on Inclusive Education, Faculty of Education, The Open University of Sri Lanka; Member, Advisory Committee on Special Education, Ministry of Education; Consultant, Ministry of Social Services; National Disability Adviser, Social Care Centres Project implemented by Queen’s University, Canada; Adviser on CBR, Japan Overseas Volunteer Corps, JICA Sri Lanka; Founder-member Sri Lanka Evaluation Association; and tasks for WHO, ILO, UNICEF and The World Bank besides many local and international NGOs.
Padmani chaired the Committee that prepared Sri Lanka’s National Policy on Disability which was approved by Cabinet in 2003, and chaired also the subsequent Committee that drafted a Disability Rights Bill to give effect to the Policy. As a consultant to WHO she assisted in the preparation of the rights-based multi-dimensional, multi-ministerial National Plan of Action for Disability approved by Cabinet in 2014. Most recently as a consultant to The World Bank she assisted the Ministry of Health prepare “National Guidelines for Rehabilitation Services in Sri Lanka”. In the same role she presently assists the Ministry of Health to put these Guidelines into practice. She also works with people with disabilities and others to have the UN Convention on the Rights of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities implemented in Sri Lanka to fulfil the vision of a disability-inclusive Society.
In recognition of the contribution she has made in the field of disability and rehabilitation Padmani has received two prestigious international awards. In 1990 Uppsala University, Sweden, awarded her “Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Honoris Causa” in recognition of her pioneering role and contribution to the global development of Community-based Rehabilitation. More recently, in April 2015 she was awarded the “Leadership in Rehabilitation 2015” award by the World Confederation of Physical Therapy. This Award is made every 4 years to recognize an individual or group/organization that has made an exceptional contribution to international rehabilitation and/or global health.

03rd March 2016