Editorial Articles

volume-35, 30 November-06 December 2019

Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

Dev Nandan Kumar &

Prof. (Dr.) Mala Tandon

According to the United Nations, more than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world's population, live with some form of disability. 80 per cent of persons with disabilities (Divyangjan) live in developing countries.

They are an integral part of our society. But most of us are seldom aware of how many divyangjan are there in our neighborhood and whether or not they are getting equal rights like every citizen of the country. Divyangjans have equal rights to lead a normal life and enjoy all the benefits accrue to them by law.  Society should have a basic understanding of their needs for special aids and our duties as responsible citizens to make our surroundings divyangjan-friendly. 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan)

Persons with the disabilities come under "the world's largest minority" and face a lot of obstructions in all the aspects of life because of the lack of proper resources and rights for them. 3rd of December was declared as International Day for Persons with Disabilities in the year 1992. Since then, it has been observed continuously every year. In India, on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, National Awards are conferred to Individuals/ Institutions/ States/ Districts for their outstanding achievements for the empowerment of persons with disabilities. These awards have been instituted with the objective to focus public attention on issues concerning divyangjans and to promote their mainstreaming in the society. The awards are given under the 14 broad categories.

What is Disability

The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. Disability is the interaction between individuals with a health condition (e.g. cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression) and personal and environmental factors e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports.

The Right to Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 defines "Person with Benchmark Disability" means a person with not less than forty per cent of a specified disability where specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with disability where specified disability has been defined in measurable terms, as certified by the certifying authority. (Refer RPWD Act, 2016, Chapter I, Clause 2, sub-clause (r)). The Right to Persons with Disabilities (RPD) Act, 2016 has come into force with effect from 19.04.2017; and according to new RPD Act the number of categories of disabilities has gone up from 7 to 21.

Disability Certification

The RPD Act, 2016 provides certain benefits to Persons with Disabilities who have not less than 40% of any disability, as certified by a Medical Authority. Thus, a person with a disability who wishes to avail the benefits under the Act has to obtain a disability certificate from the Medical Authority notified for the purpose. The certificates are issued based on guidelines framed by the Department of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India. The State Governments are responsible for issuing Disability Certificates on the basis of applications received from persons with disabilities. As per data available from the Office of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities as on August, 2017, 57.98% of persons with disabilities as per 2011 Census have been issued disability certificates.

Population of Persons with Disabilities

The percentage of persons with disabilities in the USA is 12%, in the UK is 18%, in Germany is 9%, in Sri Lanka is 5%, in Pakistan is 9%. This variation is due to the way we estimate disability. According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in India (who constitute 2.21 percent of the total population). Out of the total population of persons with disabilities, about 1.50 crore are male and 1.18 crore female. These include persons with visual, hearing,speech and loco-motor disabilities, mental illness, mental retardation, multiple disabilities and other disabilities. The existing census figures exhibit wide diversity as they includes persons with Seeing, Hearing, Speech, Movement, Mental Retardation, Mental illness, Multiple Disabilities and Other. 

After the enactment of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016 on December, 2016 the Government has taken the following steps:-

  1. It notified Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2017 on 15.06.2017 in terms of Section 100 of the said Act. These rules provide for:-
  2. a) Accessibility standards for built environment, passenger bus transport and website and content to be placed on website.
  3. b) Procedure for applying and grant of certificate of disability.
  4. c) Manner of publication of equal opportunity policy and maintenance of records regarding employees with disabilities.
  5. d) Mechanism for implementation of provision of non discrimination on the ground of disability.
  6. e) Manner of utilization and management of National Fund.
  7. Further in terms of Section 56 of the RPwD Act, 2016 the guidelines for assessment of extend of specified disability have been notified on 04.01.2018. These guidelines provide the procedure for assessment and certification of all the specified disabilities mentioned in the Act except Autism including the composition of medical authority. The State Health Department as well as the State Social Welfare Department have been advised to follow these guidelines vide letter dated 12.01.2018. The States have also been advised to follow the guidelines for autism notified by the Department on 25.04.2016.
  8. DoPT issued order to implement 4% reservation in Central Government jobs and manner of computation of vacancies on 15.01.2018.
  9. The Government has constituted Central Advisory Board on Disability under the Chairmanship of Hon'ble Minister (SJ&E).
  10. A Committee under the chairmanship of Special DG (now DG), DGHS was constituted to suggest incorporation of rules for assessment for persons with disabilities with high support needs as required under Section 38 of the said Act.
  11. Expert Committee has been constituted to identify posts for persons with disabilities in the Central Government.
  12. Regional meetings in 5 places were held in the country to sensitise the States about the provisions of the new Act and action to be taken by them.

Implementation Mechanism of Right to Persons with Disability Act and National Policy

  1. The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities at Central level and State Commissioners at the State level play key role in implementation of the National Policy, apart from their respective statutory responsibilities.
  2. Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal Department to coordinate all matters relating to implementation of the Policy.
  3. The Central Advisory Board on Disability, with stakeholder representation, coordinates matters relating to implementation of the National Policy. There is a similar Board at the State level.
  4. The Ministries of Home Affairs; Health & Family Welfare; Rural Development; Urban Development; Youth Affairs & Sports; Railways; Science & Technology; Statistics & Programme Implementation; Labour; Panchayati Raj and Women & Child Development and Departments of Elementary Education & Literacy, Secondary & Higher Education; Road Transport & Highways; Public Enterprises; Revenue; Information Technology and Personnel & Training are also identified for implementation of the National policy for Persons with Disabilities.
  5. Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies are associated in the functioning of the District Disability Rehabilitation Centres. They are required to play a crucial role in the implementation of the National Policy to address local level issues.

Govt. of India Schemes for Empowerment of PWDs

The Government of India is operating various schemes for empowerment and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities (PwDs). The schemes aim to promote physical, psychological, social, educational and economic rehabilitation and development of persons with disabilities to enhance their quality of life and also enable them to lead a life with dignity. The major schemes for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities are:

  1. Unique Disability Identification Card (UDID)

The Govt. of India is in the process of implementing UDID Project with a view to create a national data base for Persons with Disabilities and also to issue unique ID card to each of them. The project will also provide an online platform for issuance of disability certificate. The disability certificates issued by any authority can be authenticated through the web portal across the country.

  1. Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/ Fitting of Aids/Appliances (ADIP)

The main objective of the Scheme is to assist needy disabled Persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances to promote physical, social and psychological rehabilitation of persons with disabilities through reducing the effects of disabilities and at the same time enhance their economic potential. Assistive devices are givens to persons with disabilities with an aim to improve their independent functioning, and to arrest the extent of disability and occurrence of secondary disability. Under the scheme biggest ever Samajik Adhikarita Shivir held at Rajkot, Gujarat where aids and assistive devices worth Rs. 11.19 Crore were distributed among 17589 Divyang beneficiaries. Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi graced the occasion as Chief Guest. Two Guinness Book of World Records were created in the event at Rajkot by the Department and ALIMCO:

  1. a) Highest ever participation of 1445 persons with hearing impairment in sign language at a single venue while performing our National Anthem. Previously, such a record was held by Taiwan (China) with participation of 978 persons with hearing impairment.
  2. b) (ii) Second Guinness Book of World Record in the category of highest number of Orthosis (Calipers) fitted to 781 mobility impaired persons on a single day.
  3. Scheme for Implementation of Persons with Disabilities Act (SIPDA)

To provide barrier free environment for the persons with disabilities which include access to built environment in schools, colleges, academic and training institutions, offices and public buildings, recreational areas, health centres/hospitals etc. This would include provision for ramps, rails, lifts, adaptation of toilets for wheelchair users, brail signages and auditory signals, tactile flooring, causing curb cuts and slopes to be made in pavement for the easy access of wheelchair users, engraving on the surface of zebra crossing for the blind or for persons with low vision, engraving on the edges of railway platforms for the blind or for low vision and devising appropriate symbols of disability, etc.

  1. Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)

The Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) of the Department is a Central Sector Scheme that includes projects for providing education and vocational training and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. The Scheme has been operational since 1999 with the objective of ensuring effective implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act (PwD), 1995, through creating an enabling environment and encouraging non-governmental organizations through financial assistance for undertaking projects for the empowerment of the Persons.

  1. National Fellowship for Persons with Disabilities

National Fellowship for Persons with Disabilities (NFPwD) Scheme was launched during the financial year 2012-13 to increase opportunities to students with disabilities for pursuing higher education leading to degrees such as M.Phil. and Ph.D. in any University recognised by University Grants Commission(UGC).

  1. National Overseas Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

The scheme of National Overseas Scholarship for Students with Disabilities has been launched with the objectives of providing financial assistance to the students with disabilities for pursuing studies abroad at the level of Masters' Degree and Ph.D. Twenty (20) scholarships are being awarded every year out of which six are reserved for women candidates. The scholarship amount includes Maintenance Allowance, Contingency Allowance, Tuition Fees, and Cost of Air Passage etc. Parental income ceiling is Rs.6.00 lakh per annum.

  1. Pre-Matric Scholarship and Post-Matric Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

The objectives of the schemes are to provide financial assistance to the students with disabilities for studying in the pre-matric level (class IX and X) and post-matric level (Classes XI, XII and up to Post graduate degree/diploma level).

  1. Scholarship for Top Class Education for Students with Disabilities

The Scheme aims at recognizing and promoting quality education amongst Students with Disabilities by providing full financial support for pursuing studies at the level of Post Graduate Degree or Diploma in any discipline. The scheme will operate in 240 institutions notified by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment as institutions of excellence.

  1. Accessible India Campaign

Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched Accessible India Campaign (AIC) on December 3, 2015, for creating universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Built Environment, Transport, and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem. The campaign is based on the principles of the Social Model of Disability, that disability is caused by the way society is organised, and not the person's limitations and impairments. The Campaign has the vision to build an inclusive society in which equal opportunities are provided for the growth and development of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) so that they can lead productive, safe and dignified lives.

Institutional Framework for Empowerment of PWDs

In addition to the legal framework, extensive infrastructure has been developed. The three statutory bodies, two central public enterprises, nine national institutes, sixteen Composite Regional Centers (CRCs) and 263 District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRCs) are working for empowerment of persons with disabilities. In addition to above, there are also several national institutions under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India working in the field of rehabilitation, like National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore; All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AIIPMR), Mumbai; All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH), Mysore; Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP), Ranchi, etc. In addition, certain State Government institutions also provide rehabilitation services. Besides, 500 institutions including more than 50 universities all over the country conduct training courses for rehabilitation professionals with due recognition from RCI.

  1. National Institutes for Persons with Disabilities

There are nine National Institutes under this Ministry working in the field of disability. National Institutes are autonomous bodies established for empowerment of different types of disabilities. These institutes are engaged in Human Resources Development in the field of disability, providing rehabilitation services to the persons with disabilities and Research and Development efforts. The eight National Institutes are as follows:-

  1. Composite Regional Centre for Skill Training, Rehabilitation and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (CRCs)

The existing national institutes in the field of disability deals with specific areas of disability, their present infrastructure is not adequate to provide services to all states, all types of disabilities, including less-developed regions of the country, for want of facilities. Therefore, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India has set up sixteen CRCs to provide both preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation like education, health, employment and vocational training, research and Manpower development etc.  Moreover, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Govt. of India decided in its Standing Finance Committee (SFC) Meeting held on dated 29.12.2014; that the possibility for opening of new Composite Regional Centres (CRCs) in each State and in big States two or more CRCs may be explored. Further, the President of India has already sanctioned 19 permanent posts for some CRCs. As per CRCs establishment scheme guidelines once the implementation of the project is complete, it would be run by as separate autonomous Society, to be formed for this purpose, on the similar to the existing National/ Apex institutes. 

  1. Dr. Shakuntala Misra National Rehabilitation University

Dr. Shakuntala Misra National Rehabilitation University established by Divyangjan Sashaktikaran Vibhag Uttar Pradesh, Government of Uttar Pradesh at Lucknow. The first University of its kind, which also provides accessible and quality higher education to challenged students, in a completely barrier-free environment. The university is unique, much different from others. The mandate of the university is primarily to serve the divyang students of the society for which a horizontal reservation of 50% seats in all courses of the University has been provided, in addition to the normal reservation policy.

  1. Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University

The Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University was established to provide higher & professional education to persons with disabilities.

The university is only taking admission of persons with disabilities with believe that the coverage in formal school system is around 5%. The scenario of higher education is much grim. The socio economic condition and facilities available at higher education centre for persons with disability are considered to be major obstacle in accessing higher education. Though there are various institutions and organizations to cater for some of the needs of disabled persons, activities of such institutions/organizations were found to be very-very limited.

  1. District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRC)

District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRCs) started as outreach activity of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of Government of India for providing comprehensive services to the persons with disabilities at the grass root level and for facilitating creation of the infrastructure and capacity building at the district level for awareness generation, rehabilitation and training of rehabilitation professionals. 263 DDRCs have been set up (i.e. given grant-in-aid at least once) till date and the scheme of setting up DDRCs was initiated in Ninth Five Year Plan and is continuing till date.

  1. National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC)

The National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) was set up by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India on 24th January 1997. The company is registered under Section 25 of the Company Act, 1956 (section 8 of companies Act 2013) as a not for profit company. It is wholly owned by Government of India, and has an authorized share capital of Rs. 400 crore & paid up capital is Rs.361.95 Crore. The company is managed by Board of Directors nominated by Government of India.

  1. Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO)

It is 100% owned Govt. of India Central Public Sector Enterprises with an objective of benefiting the PwDs to the maximum extent possible by manufacturing Rehabilitation Aids for persons with disabilities and by promoting, encouraging and developing the availability, use, supply and distribution of Artificial Limbs and other Rehabilitation Aids to the divyangjans in the country.

Statutory Bodies and their Activities

  1. The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD)

The Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities was set up under Section 57 (1) of the erstwhile Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 and continues to function under Section 47 of the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Chief Commissioner is mandated to coordinate the work of the State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities, monitor utilization of funds disbursed by the Central Government and take steps to safeguard the rights and facilities made available to the persons with disabilities.The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has been assigned certain powers of a Civil Court for effective discharge of the functions.

  1. The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities

The National Trust has been set up to discharge two basic duties- legal and welfare. Legal duties are discharged through Local Level Committee providing Legal Guardianship. Welfare duty is discharged through the Schemes. The activities of the National Trust inter-alia include training, awareness and capacity building programmes and shelter, care giving & empowerment. The National Trust is committed to facilitate equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of persons with disabilities, covered under the Act.

  1. Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI)

The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) was accorded a statutory status by an Act of Parliament. The Council is mandated to regulate and monitor the training programmes for professionals and personnel in the field of disability rehabilitation and special education, promote research in field and maintain a Central Rehabilitation Register (CRR). Across the country, approximately 621 Teacher Training Institutes as on October 2019 and 14 State Open Universities are running RCI approved Courses in disability field from Certificate to M.Phil level courses. At present 60 Courses are operational through regular mode covering all the 16 categories of professionals/personnel allocated to RCI. So far, 1.40 Lakh professionals and personnel were registered in Central Rehabilitation Register.

The author is Rehabilitation Officer, Government of India at CRC Patna, email- devnkumar@gmail.com), Prof. (Dr.) Mala Tandon is Deputy Director & Head of Amity Institute of Education, Amity University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh (email- mtondon@lko. amity.edu).  

Views expressed are personal

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