Disability may be generally defined as a condition which may restrict a person’s mental, sensory or mobility functions to undertake or perform a task in the same way as a person who does not have a disability. Disabilities affect people in different ways. Many people associate the word ‘disabled’ with someone who is in a wheelchair or who is blind deaf. They have the attitude that people with a disability are totally different and therefore should be treated differently. Unfortunately, this kind of stereotyping is itself a form of discrimination. People with a disability are similar to normal people and can be found in all societies and cultures. Only thing that separates a person with a disability is that, for one reason or another, they are unable to do certain things in the same way as the mainstream of society. They may require some form of adaptation or alteration to assist them to overcome the effect of their disability
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) identifies and defines the different categories of disability. Physical disability affects a person’s mobility or dexterity. Intellectual disability affects a person’s abilities to learn. Psychiatric disability affects a person’s thinking processes. Sensory disability affects a person’s ability to hear or see. Neurological disability results in the loss of some bodily or mental functions. A disability may be present from birth or occur during a person’s lifetime. However, when we think of names like Einstein, Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Sudha Chandran, Arunima Sinha, Rajendra Singh Rahelu and many more, one realises that these are not just disabled people, they are, in fact, people with very special abilities. The census shows that the population of disabled people has increased by 22.4% from 2.19 crore in 2001 to 2.68 crore in 2011. The increase is more in the rural areas and in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jammu & Kashmir and Sikkim. As per the census, a significant population with disabilities in India lives in the rural areas. In rural areas, people with disabilities are ostracized and denied to be included in the society.
According to the India Social Development Report (SDR) 2016, about 45 5 of all persons with disabilities (PWD) in India are illiterate. Because of lack of support services, they are denied basic education or vocational training and thus do not have any scope of employment. Lack of rehabilitation turns them poverty-stricken and the disabled people in the rural areas are therefore caught up in a vicious cycle of disability and poverty. Things may not be as bad in the urban area, but there are cases where the disabled are harassed and discriminated. Unlike in foreign countries, public places in India are not equipped with special requirements of the disabled people. It is as though the society has become visually impaired, turning a blind eye towards them.
Human Rights are universal. Even differently-abled persons are entitled the realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on equal terms with others in society, without discrimination of any kind. The human rights of differently-abled persons include certain indivisible, interdependent and inter-related human rights. These are
- The human right to freedom from any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on the status of differently-abled
- The human right to freedom from discrimination in access to education, social services, health care or employment.
- The human right to active participation in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life of society.
- The human right to full equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
- The human right to the highest attainable standard of health, to medical, psychological and functional treatment, including prosthetic and orthotic appliances, to medical and social rehabilitation and other services necessary for the maximum development of capabilities, skills and self-reliance.
- The human right to work, according to capabilities, to receive equal wages for equal work.
- The human right to be treated with dignity and respect.
India’s Disability Act of 1995 provides various facilities for both children and adults with disabilities in the country. The Act has been enacted under Article 253 of the Constitution. The facilities are
- Children with disabilities have the right to free education until they reach the age of eighteen in schools that are integrated or in special schools.
- Children with disabilities have the right to appropriate transportation, removal of architectural barriers, as well as the restructuring of curriculum and modifications in the examination system to suit their special needs.
- Scholarships, uniforms, books and teaching materials are all provided to children with disabilities for free.
- Children with disabilities have access to special schools that are equipped with vocational training facilities and non-formal education.
- Parents of children with disabilities in the nation can move to an appropriate court for the redress of grievances in regards to their children with disabilities.
- Parents of children with disabilities are required to obtain a Disability Certificate’ from ‘Office of the Commissioner for Disabilities’, in order to access the facilities.
- Every ‘panchayat’ is provided funding by the government in order to build roads, schools and public ramps for people with disabilities.
- Three-percent of all government jobs in the country are reserved for people with disabilities.
- Disabled people above 18 years and suffering more than 16 % of disability are entitled to disability pension.
- They are given train concessions and income tax concessions.
The Lok Sabha recently passed “The Rights of Persons with Disability Bill-2016”, which will replace the existing Disability Act of 1995. This new Act has widened the definition of disability and has also increased the types of disabilities from existing 7 to 21. For strengthening the Prime Minister’s Accessible India Campaign, stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time frame. Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability. The new Act will bring our laws in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
The implementation of the act requires a multi-sectoral collaborative approach by the appropriate governments, including various Central Ministries/Departments, States/Union Territories, local bodies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised, that the mindset towards differently-abled people must change and the word ‘viklang’ (disabled) be replaced with ‘divyang’ (endowed with special faculties). It is important for every citizen to realise the need for including the disabled people into the society. As we forge ahead into a brighter and a better world, we need to hold the hands of the disabled people and take them along with us. It is to make India a discrimination-free and inclusive society where the disabled have the right of space like all others.