Javed Abidi

Chairperson of Disabled People’s International and Honorary Director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).

With his election as the World Chair of Disabled People’s International (DPI) in October, 2011, Abidi is now focused on the global disability movement. He strongly believes that the voice of disability should always first focus on the global South, where nearly 800 million of the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities live.

Javed was affected with spina bifida at birth and  has been a wheelchair user since 15. After graduating summa cum laude from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A, he came back to India to pursue a career in journalism. He made his foray into the Indian disability sector after a chance meeting with Smt. Sonia Gandhi. This led to his appointment as the Programme Officer in charge of the Disabled Persons Welfare Unit at the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. He served there for five years from 1992 to 1997.

In those five years, several pathbreaking initiatives were launched, the most noteworthy being the Lifeline Express Project and the Motorised Tri-wheeler Scheme. It was during this period only that work began specifically on cross-disability issues, particularly the drafting and passage of the Disability Act 1995.

In 1993, he founded the Disabled Rights Group (DRG). He was also instrumental in setting up of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in 1996 and has been its Director since 1997. As an impassioned advocate for India’s disabled citizens, he has given voice to an “invisible minority”, one that has been denied to them by both political and social sectors for decades.

He has successfully led several path breaking advocacy initiatives in India. This includes filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India in 1997 regarding the non-implementation of The Disability Act. The case continued for over a year, at the end of which the Court directed the Union of India to undertake several measures, for example the appointment of the State Disability Commissioners, etc.

Abidi has also drafted the chapter on disability which has been reproduced as it is in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007 – 2012); catalysed 3% reservation for disabled people in Indian Administrative Services; ensured inclusion of disability as a category in Census 2001; facilitated the 2005 Inclusive Education Policy for Children and Youth with Disabilities to ensure education will be disabled friendly by 2020;  played an active role in creating awareness and expediting the ratification process of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Other successful advocacy campaigns include ensuring the inclusion of disability in the Right to Education Act; revision of Guidelines for Indian Government Websites mandating WCAG 2.0 compliance; proper enumeration of people with disabilities in Census 2011; inclusion of people with disabilities and disability experts in the various Steering Committees formulating the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) to ensure that disability is looked at a cross-cutting issue and the creation of a separate Department of Disability Affairs

Has formed the one and only cross – disability network across India called National Disability Network (NDN) with a reach in 324 districts,  He is an Ashoka fellow and has been awarded the IBN 7 Bajaj Allianz Super Idols – Lifetime Achievement Award.