As Fiji commemorates its 50th anniversary of Independence the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation (FDPF) and its 4 affiliated organizations together with its branches reflects on its achievements over the past 5 decades.
Originally established as the Fiji Paraplegic and Paraplegia Association in the mid 1970s mainly focused on sports representation for Persons with Disabilities, Organizations for Persons with Disabilities in Fiji begun advocating and carry out awareness on and for issues relevant to disability. In the early 1980s as the members of the association grew with representation of cross-disability there was a change to the Fiji Disabled Peoples Association in 1984. The change in name and re-structure expanded its activities and functions representing persons with disabilities to meetings and forums national, regional and international.
Many of our pioneers during this period volunteered their time and committed to supporting their colleagues and friends to activities and functions of the organization. Without a registered office the homes of our pioneers were venues of operations and our public parks were often converted into meeting areas. Reflecting back to these times would leave people in awe but when talking to our pioneers the response commonly “those were the good old days.’’
This sentiment rings true as the numbers of its members grew and its reach beyond the comforts of the capital and urban towns. Realizing that whilst advocacy and awareness could be integrated in cross disability there were also specific issues that were associated specifically to individual impairments. On the 17th of December, 1993 the Spinal Injury Association Fiji was formerly registered to lobby specifically on behalf of persons with Spinal Injury in Fiji. On the 18th of March, 1994 the United Blind Persons of Fiji formerly registered specific to issues associated with persons with visual impairment and blindness. These were later followed by the establishment of the Fiji Association of the Deaf 14th April, 2004 and the Psychiatric Survivors Association on the 4th of September, 2006.
Whilst these organizations were established to address specific issues and implement activities for its members the partnership and relationship with the FDPA remained strong and true. Understanding that the organization had built its capacities to function independently in most areas there was still a need for a united approach to many activities to enable change. The establishments of the branches were also activated and begun formal partnerships with the FDPA by 2010.Today there are 18 Branches throughout Fiji. On 20th December, 2012 the FDPA realizing its role as the umbrella of these affiliated organizations formerly changed its registration to what it is today the Fiji Disable Peoples Federation.
The contribution of these organizations over the 50years have resulted in multiple milestones for inclusion in Fiji including the accessibility to Fiji’s currency for blind and visually impaired, establishment of a Fijis Sign Language dictionary, establishment for service delivery of mobility aid and appliances, achieving Fijis first gold medal in Paralympic Games and etc. The lobbying and advocacy of these organizations have also contributed greatly into the recognition of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in our National Constitution 2013 and Rights for Persons with Disability Act 2018. There have also been significant contributions towards the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in our other National Laws and Policies ranging from inclusive education, employment regulations and etc.
Whist these inclusive processes are in place a lot more still is need to be done in order for persons with disability to realize their rights. Our pioneers and predecessors dedicated time, efforts and sacrifices enabling the recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities. The responsibility is now not only with FDPF and its Affiliates nor only with the Disability Sector but with every Fijian as we commemorate our 50th independence is to ensure a barrier free and inclusive society for all Fijians.