[AI] Enact law to help disabled people

M Sivakumar svkriits at gmail.com
Fri Jul 3 00:57:03 PDT 2015

July 02, 2015, DHNS
Census 2011 has thrown up some worrying figures regarding India’s
physically challenged population. The number of people with
disabilities in the country has surged from 2.19 crore in 2001 to 2.68
crore in 2011 – an 18 per cent increase. While this increase may be
partly because the mentally challenged have been included in the count
in 2011, still, such a sharp rise is worrying, especially when early
diagnosis and treatment of disabilities have improved remarkably over
the decade. Malnutrition among expectant mothers and infants is said
to be an important reason for disabilities. Is this behind the rise in
numbers? Most of our physically and mentally challenged population has
movement disabilities (20.3 per cent) followed by the hearing impaired
(18.9 per cent) and visually impaired (18.8 per cent). Those with
multiple disabilities figure fourth in this list. In previous decades,
polio was the cause of most movement disabilities. With the
eradication of polio, road accidents have emerged as the main cause.
Seventy per cent of the disabled live in rural areas. This is worrying
as facilities for treatment, rehabilitation and employment
opportunities there are abysmal.

Persons with disabilities do not want pity or charity. They want a
supportive environment that enables and empowers them to be productive
citizens. And in this, India has failed them. Public transport,
buildings and toilets are not disabled-friendly. They are denied entry
into schools, colleges and jobs, as the general public tends to view
them as handicapped and a liability, rather than as people with a
variety of talents and skills, who can be an asset if appropriately
enabled. While special schools for children with disabilities do play
a role in their rehabilitation, their ghettoisation must end. They
must be empowered to join inclusive and integrated schools and
workplaces. Such inclusion is necessary at all levels: from the
crafting of policies to management and implementation of plans and
programmes. Piecemeal inclusion is no inclusion at all.

It is in this context that The Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Bill, 2014, is important. Unlike the 1995 legislation which covers
seven disabilities, the 2014 Bill includes 19 conditions. It provides
for reservations in education and employment, and preference in
government schemes. Disabled-friendly public transport, buildings,
voting booths, etc will become a right. It is unfortunate that a
legislation that can make a positive change in the lives of those with
challenges has been languishing in cold storage since February last
year when it was introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Parliament must pass
this enabling legislation during the
upcoming monsoon session.

m. sivakumar. P.hd.
 International Institute of Tamil Studies CIT Campus, 2nd Main Road,
Tharamani, Chennai, 600113

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