President Dr. Arif Alvi on Monday stressed that media can play an important role in protecting the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and eliminating the negative attitudes in the country and society. He said that the government, in order to make special persons active members of the society, was taking all possible measures including the provision of free of cost education to them from primary school to university level. The President expressed these views in an interactive session with senior journalists regarding issues of PWDs here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. He said the government had distributed health cards among over 26,000 persons with disabilities to facilitate them in access to medical facilities. The President mentioned that under Ehsaas programme, around two million disabled people would be provided financial assistance. He said that the government, under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China for the promotion and production of assistive technology for PWDs in Pakistan. The President lauded the role of media in creating awareness about breast cancer in the country which helped in saving of precious human lives due to the diagnosis of the disease at early stage. He further said that media was also playing effective role in creating awareness about women empowerment through their financial inclusion. Special day was also observed to create awareness about PWDs, he added. The President said that as there was lack of data about special persons, the survey being conducted under the Ehsaas Program will be completed by June 2021. He said though the number of special persons showed in census was 2%, but according to a survey the real number of PWDs in the country was 15%, and they lack appropriate facilities. He said with the minimum reported numbers, the special persons have to face difficulties in registration with National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), adding, there was a need to make this procedure simple and easy. The President said that as the special persons besides difficulties in mobility also have to face discrimination and negative attitudes in the society, media can play its role to discourage such attitudes. “We have to be compassionate about special persons,” he stressed. The President stressed providing education to physically disabled and also the persons with visual and hearing impairment at regular schools instead of separate institutions, which resulted in their detachment from mainstream. He said free education for special persons from primary to university level was under consideration, while efforts were afoot to also provide them professional and technical skills. Dr Alvi said special people were playing an important role in national development and mentioned that their contribution had also been acknowledged through conferment of Presidential Awards. The President said the government through National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) had inked a Memorandum of Understanding with China under the Belt and Road Initiative for promotion of high-quality assistive technology for disabled persons. He called upon media in the country to sensitize public about the problems faced by disabled persons and also raise awareness on being considerate towards them. The President said State Bank of Pakistan had launched special schemes for such persons, which needed projection so that more disabled people could benefit. He said there was a need to accommodate special people at workplace as per their capabilities and stressed equipping them with relevant education and skills to meet the demand of market. He said the trader community in Karachi had pledged to give jobs to special persons. The briefing highlighted that special people in Pakistani society were mostly confined to homes, though they made quite a large number of population. It was told that under the government rules, approval of PC-1 for new projects had been made conditional with provision of necessary facilities for disabled and an accessible infrastructure for them. The President said that special persons should also be included in the 50,000 scholarships being provided by the government for higher education. Information Minister Shibli Faraz said media could play an important role in reforming the attitude of society towards special people and assured that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting would play its part in this regard. Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser said a special committee had been formed in removing loopholes in laws relating to welfare of special people and issuing directives to the department concerned. The media-persons agreed that the special persons should not be mocked in television dramas, theatres and films and called for using social media and newspapers as an effective platform to highlight the issue.