Javed Abidi at India Gate holding the Indian Flag surrounded by 100s of disabled people

The World Lost it’s Brightest Crusader of Disability Rights

Remembering Javed Abidi (1965-2018)

Javed Abidi, Global Chair of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) and Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), India passed away on Sunday, 4th March, 2018. He was just 53 years of age.

Abidi was a pioneer in many ways and was known for his innate ability to speak truth to power. He forever questioned the status quo and encouraged others to do the same. It were these characteristics, along with his sharp acumen, clarity of thought and ability to mobilise communities, that led him to create Disabled Rights Group (DRG), India’s first platform for cross-disability advocacy in 1993 and fight for India’s first ever law on disability.

He was instrumental in setting up of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in 1996 and had been its Director since 1997. He was also the Convenor of the National Disability Network founded in 1999 and the National Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NCRPD), a think tank of leaders and experts from the disability sector working on mainstreaming disability issues and developing advocacy campaigns.

Interestingly, his foray into disability was quite by chance when he gave up his life-long ambition of becoming a journalist in order to set up the Disability Unit at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. However, it will not be an exaggeration to say that his 25 years of journey in the disability rights movement in India reads like a chronology of each important milestone that has elevated the discourse on disability issues to the level that it is at today. His path-breaking work includes passage of the Disability Act of 1995 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016;  inclusion of disability in the Census and the Five Year Plans; creating the movement towards accessible India in terms of public spaces, transport, etc.; making elections accessible; bringing about the government of India policy on website accessibility; creation of a separate Department on Disability Affairs. Most recently, he led the movement towards India’s new disability rights law – The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016.

Abidi took his brand of no-nonsense advocacy on to the international space as well. In 2011, Mr.  Abidi was elected the Global Chair of Disabled Peoples’ International, a position he had been re-elected to for the second time in 2016: a position held by an Indian/South Asian for the first time in DPI’s 37 year history. He led and galvanised the voices of people with disabilities especially from the Global South where nearly 800 million of the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities live. He coaxed and at times compelled the larger disability movement to start talking about issues of people with disabilities from the Global South. Under his leadership, DPI hosted the first Global Forum on Disability, the first and only such initiative for voices so far unheard in the global disability movement. He had also been instrumental in promoting cross-disability civil society participation from the Global South at multi-lateral platforms such as the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD.

Abidi strongly believed that empowerment of persons with disabilities is connected to education, which in turn hinges on accessibility. And all three are not possible without enabling laws and policies.And pressure can be built through awareness. In his death, the global disability movement has lost a rare and exceptional champion of the rights of the persons with disabilities.

‘Javed’ means ‘immortal’ and his name has proven to be prescient as he continues to live through the unparalleled legacy that he created in a short span of time.

To pay tribute to Javed Abidi, please write & share your comments below.

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23 thoughts on “The World Lost it’s Brightest Crusader of Disability Rights”

  1. we have lost an incredible leader his legacy is truly “immortal” and he will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

  2. I am a differently abled person. Doing PhD in public administration Javed Abidi was a doyen of disability rights. His mission of empowerment of , education and accessibility to differently abled have to be carried forward so that his dreams are realized.

  3. My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Javed Abidi. Through his work, he helped us understand and question discrimination. Gave us the tools for advancing the rights and dignity of People with Disabilities within a legal framework. He lit the fire that embarked us in our quest for ‘dignity, equality, equity, inclusion and justice’. Thank you Javed. Your legacy will be carried forward.

    The regret is you left us too early Javed Abidi

  4. I learned much from Javed, and I admired his leadership. He was an unwavering voice for the poor, the marginalized, and people with disabilities. I will always remember he stood up for people with leprosy when others have forgotten them. He was also a brother to me in the spina bifida community. Our world community will miss his presence, but our advocacy will be sustained by recalling Javed’s courage and commitment.

  5. Salute to this person who was a great visionary -could see the potential amongst PWD and identify their strength and build on them. A true leader . Making them part of mainstream and also getting them rights and today we have a sectoral initiative for skills development for PWDs exclusively. A tribute to Javed Abidi-former director of NCPE and Founder of Disbaility Rights Group.

    Type a message…

  6. A champion,leader and a fighter for the rights of all disabled people around the world. Your legacy to empower the poorest among us will continue to ripple around the world as we fight for meaningful inclusion of all.
    Judy Heumann

  7. Never met Javed bhai but worked very closely with Amir bhai and got to know so much about Javed Bhai’s inspiring personally. As someone has rightly said ” I is illness and We is wellness. Javed Bhai stood for the wellness of the challenged. His definition of wellness meant actualization of rights for all , especially the challenged. His limitation never limited his voice for the voiceless. As we remember Javed bhai let us pray to almighty to grant each one of us the courage to take side of our less advantages sisters and brothers. May Javed bhai ‘s life and work keep inspiring us in the times to cone. May his soul rest in peace. My hearty condolences to Amir Bhai and family .

  8. We have lost a friend, a mentor and a guide. But the best way to save his memory is to keep fighting for the Rights of the people with disabilities as he always did.
    Rest in peace dear Javed Abidi!

    From BOHOUO Vincent
    Executive Secretary
    Confédération des Organisations des Personnes Handicapées de Côte d’Ivoire (COPHCI)

  9. Central Athletic Sports Club of Disabled Persons of Turkmenistan
    Sincerely Express Condolences on the death of Mr. Javed Abidi
    to the relatives and members of your organization.

  10. Heartfelt condolences to all of the honourable Mr. Javed Abidi’s family, relatives, friends, colleagues, and all of humankind. The world has lost an incredible leader in the cross-disability movement in India and around the world. The meaning of his name says it all — his legacy is truly “immortal” and he will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

  11. Javed Abidi will be remembered for the great and courageous crusade he carried on for promoting and establishing the rights of Persons with Disabilities, not only in India, but all over the world. He was an inspirational leader whose life was dedicated to championing the rights of the disabled in all spheres of life.

    Our sincerest condolences go to his family and friends of our late and dear colleague.

    FROM: Korisha Mohammed
    Secretary

  12. World disability movement lost its great leader Mr. Javed Abidi. Javed Abidi has delivered important services in the field of the elimination of disability discrimination and the formation of inclusive society globally. At the same time, he has been instrumental in combining forces for eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal participation all over the world, by leading a reputable global network DPI.
    His decisive actions, fortitude, persistence and humanist approach resulted in ensuring that persons with disabilities and their organizations from the CIS countries, which gained independence after the Soviet regime collapse, have international representation and participation.
    Javed Abidi gave great contribution to the disability movement in Azerbaijan. He as leader of his organization supported us in preparation and submission of a parallel report on CRDP, supported our representation and speech in such international organization as United Nations, helped in attracting various international organizations to Azerbaijan and these and other activities are very important and unforgettable for us.
    I sincerely express my condolences to his family, relatives, friends and representatives of the nation he is representing, and I wish them patience. Let his soul rest in peace.

    Davud REHIMLI
    DPI Azerbaijan
    http://www.udpo.az

  13. World disability movement lost its great leader Mr. Javed Abidi. Javed Abidi has delivered important services in the field of the elimination of disability discrimination and the formation of inclusive society globally. At the same time, he has been instrumental in combining forces for eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal participation all over the world, by leading a reputable global network DPI.
    His decisive actions, fortitude, persistence and humanist approach resulted in ensuring that persons with disabilities and their organizations from the CIS countries, which gained independence after the Soviet regime collapse, have international representation and participation.
    Javed Abidi gave great contribution to the disability movement in Azerbaijan. He as leader of his organization supported us in preparation and submission of a parallel report on CRDP, supported our representation and speech in such international organization as United Nations, helped in attracting various international organizations to Azerbaijan and these and other activities are very important and unforgettable for us.
    I sincerely express my condolences to his family, relatives, friends and representatives of the nation he is representing, and I wish them patience. Let his soul rest in peace.

  14. Javed was a great leader…I met him when I was working at DPI. I’m sure he inspired other to follow his path…RIP Javed!

  15. He was a first disabled activist in the country And he was a think tank of disability sector I am really thankful to him that he done very hard work from disabled people and sir strongly believed empowernment of person with disability is very important to country’s over all development now we lost important part of disability sector Allah will give him place in jannah

  16. We are very sorry for the death of our colleagues and friends of disability worldwide – Mr. Javed Abidi whom we respect, I personally really shocked with his death last week, a few years ago we communicated a lot with Mr. Javed in the context of disability and leprosy, even GPDLI (Movement for Disability Care and Leprosy Indonesia) and the Hansen Reintegration Federation of Indonesia (FARHAN) were invited to a round table meeting in New Delhi, India with Nepal, Indonesia and India – focusing on the establishment of discrimination laws championed by Javed Abidi and colleagues government, community and disability communities. We are truly amazed by everything that happens in India and even Nepal, hopefully Indonesia can continue to be inspired by what India does with my brother Javed Abidi, we are ready to work with his successor colleagues in the future, the spirit that Javed has built around the world, including Indonesia will continue to bloom and roll toward a bright future for people with disabilities and leprosy. Sincerely, our greetings and deep sorrow, and the Almighty God can provide true comfort to Javed Abidi’s family and friends of the late Javed in India and around the world.
    Greetings from us
    Dr Nuah P. Tarigan
    Hermen M Hutabarat
    and GPDLI and FARHAN Team in INDONESIA
    http://www.pedulidisabilitas.org

    BAHASA INDONESIA:
    Kami sangat berduka cita atas wafatnya rekan dan sahabat disabilitas seluruh dunia – Bapak Javed Abidi yang kami hormati, saya sebagai pribadi sungguh kaget dengan wafatnya minggu lalu, beberapa tahun yang lalu kami berkomunikasi banyak dengan Bapak Javed dalam konteks disabilitas dan kusta, bahkan GPDLI (Gerakan untuk Peduli Disabilitas dan Lepra Indonesia) dan Federasi ReIntegrasi Hansen Indonesia (FARHAN) diundang pada acara pertemuan round table di New Delhi, India bersama Nepal, Indonesia dan India – fokus membicarakan tentang pembentukan Undang-undang diskriminasi yang diperjuangkan oleh Javed Abidi dan rekan rekan bersama pemerintah, komunitas dan masyarakat disabilitas. Kami sungguh kagum dengan semua yang terjadi di India bahkan Nepal, semoga Indonesia dapat terus terinspirasi dengan dengan apa yang dilakukan oleh India bersama alm saudaraku Javed Abidi, kami siap bekerja sama dengan rekan pengganti beliau kedepan, semangat yang telah dibangun Javed diseluruh dunia, termasuk Indonesia akan terus membahana dan bergulir menuju masa depan cerah bagi penyandang disabilitas dan kusta. Salam hormat kami dan duka cita yang amat sangat mendalam, dan kiranya Tuhan Yang Maha kuasa dapat memberi penghiburan yang sejati kepada keluarga Javed Abidi dan sahabat-sahabat Almarhum Javed di India dan diseluruh dunia.

    Salam duka dari kami
    Dr Nuah P. Tarigan
    Hermen M Hutabarat
    and GPDLI and FARHAN Team in INDONESIA
    http://www.pedulidisabilitas.org

  17. Most people remember Javed for how he cared for the disabled. While that is cherished, it is his idealism in institution building that should be remembered with this legacy. Firstly, for being clear that advocacy is not charity of direct benefaction. So, artefacts such as land, building and infrastructure would be anathema to advocacy. To then get support from donors who would rather have direct impact than indirect influence was courageous leadership.
    Secondly, in the network ecology of partner institution collaboration for the spread of advocacy across India. The local and national rhythm to have a sensory apparatus on the field and a dissemination process from the nerve center to the rest of the country. If direct benefit NGOs could even study this form of organization, change in society would be more systemic and ecologically effective.
    While advocacy itself may have a share of personality in it, sharing the leadership space is the selfless cooperation required to address the scale that India is.
    I would like that this page remember Javed for these dimensions too, as these are also part of Javed’s uniqueness. Similarly, that each such network institution is founded by the specially abled. It’s not just his personality, but it’s complex extension that his legacy is. He impacted the intangibles with unwavering integrity. That his story was even possible, is the miracle that India is blessed by in eternal glory.

  18. The biggest tribute to Javed Abidi will be to ensure that the “Right for the Disabled” movement does not loose steam. In fact, Javed will be happy, smiling, satisfied and on the 7th heaven if we can get a person who can do much better and achieve much more than what Javed did. It would be like fulfilling many of Javed’s dreams. Today there is no significant law for the disabled in the country which does not have a big Javed stamp on it. India needs a visionary, strategist, and crusader like Javed. A leader like Javed.

  19. Javed Abidi ji was other name of protection of Disability Rights in India. Javed has given birth to hundreds of activists throughout India. Some may have parted from the NDN, DRG or NCPEDP but all the activists love and honour Javed even when he is no more. Personally I admit that being a severe person with disability what knowlege I have at present is because of Javed Abidi ji. I cannot compensate his love, guidance and training he gave. He wasiton hearted, well disciplined and saying everything on face. Thus some may know him as hot man. But he was genuine and honest towards the independence of persons with disabilities.