- The differently abled are not ‘disabled’ only because they are physically or mentally ‘impaired’ but also because society is built in a manner that does not cater to their needs (1) .
- In the society, disability is understood to be biological. Whenever a disabled person is confronted with problems, it is taken for granted that the problems originate from her/his impairment. The very idea of disability suggests that they are in need of help.(1)
- The very term ‘differently abled’ challenges each of these assumptions. Terms such as ‘mentally challenged’, ‘visually impaired’ and ‘physically impaired’ came to replace the more negative terms such as ‘retarded’, ‘crippled’ or ‘lame’. (1)
- The disabled are rendered disabled not because they are biologically disabled but because society renders them so. Hence, as society and a nation, efforts have been shifted to make places and institutions more inclusive and accommodative, thereby tackling the “social” aspect of disability.
Issues faced by persons with disability
- Access to public places, institutions etc are restricted due to limitations of infrastructure and un-supporting public perceptions of disabilities.
- Opportunities in various domains of education, employment etc are highly restricted
- Disability and poverty have been deeply inter-linked. Poverty may lead to disabilities and similarly, disability may lead to an individual falling into the trap of poverty.
- Access to appropriate healthcare is further restricted due to inadequate public health care infrastructure and high expenses associated with private healthcare.
- Societal perceptions and stereotypes lead to further anxiety and exclusion for the differently abled.
- There have been multiple government interventions in the legal domain to ensure against any injustice to the persons-with-disabilities. Further, the state has recently instituted some schemes and initiatives to ensure that society becomes more inclusive for the differently abled.
- Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995- The Act has the following objectives
- To spell out the responsibility of the state towards the prevention of disabilities, protection of rights, provision of medical care, education, training, employment and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities;
- To create a barrier free environment for person with disabilities in the sharing of development benefits, vis-a –vis non disabled persons;
- To counteract any situation of abuse and exploitation of persons with disabilities; and
- To make special provision of the integration of persons with disabilities into the social mainstream.
- Office of the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities
- The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, provides for the creation of the office of Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities
- The Chief Commissioner coordinates with the State Commissioners, monitors utilisation of funds from Central Government, takes steps to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and also looks into any complaints regarding ingressions into rights of such persons
- The Chief Commissioner can also take suo motu notice of non-implementation of any Rule, law etc.
- The Chief Commissioner is vested with the powers of a civil court realting to summoning of witness, discovery, requisitioning and production of any document etc.
- National trust for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities
- The trust seeks to enable the persons with these disabilities to live independently , to extend support to organisations involved in the area and to evolve the procedure for legal guardians of such persons.
- Accessible India Campaign or Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan
- to enable persons with disabilities gaon universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in an inclusive society
- The campaign is in line with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities to which India is a signatory.
- It sets various targets such as
- Making railway stations and airports in the country fully accessible to the disabled
- To make atleast 10% of government owned public transport fully accessible to the disabled
- Making public documents more accessible to persons with disabilities
- program comes with an index to measure the design of disabled-friendly buildings and human resource policies
- Rehabilitation Council of India
- It is a statutory body responsible for regulating the training policies and programmes for various professionals in the areas of rehabilitation and special education.
Recent SC judgements
- In July 2016, the Supreme Court declared 2 office memoranda of 1997 and 2005, on the manner in which reservation of seats for the disabled should be handled, as inadequate.
- The case related to limitation of reservation for disabled to posts filled through direct recruitment in the groups A and B services as per the above memoranda.
- The Court ruled that the memoranda are in contravention of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995; also, that the disabled quota will extend to promotions.
- It directed that vacancies among posts identified for the disabled must be filled through reservation, regardless of the mode of recruitment — be it promotion or direct recruitment.
- Largely, the case highlights the manner in which implementation of the measures conferring rights to differently abled persons, is far from adequate on the ground.
- In October 2013, in Union of India v. National Federation of the Blind, the court had noted the “alarming reality” that the disabled were out of jobs not because their disability came in the way, but rather due to “social and practical barriers”
- An important aim of the society is to integrate persons with disabilities in the society so that they can actively participate in society and lead a normal life. Ideally, a disabled person should be able to commute between home, work place and other destinations with independence, convenience and safety. The more persons with disabilities are able to access physical facilities, the more they will be part of the social mainstream.
- Further, there is a need to Change public perceptions towards the disabled. They need to be treated in a special manner, neither looked at with pity. Accommodation and inclusive attitudes are the key.
- The various provisions meant to safeguard and empower persons with disabilities need to be implemented in the letter and spirit of law. Correct intent would automatically lead to correct implementation and application.