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Editorial Articles


Issue No 36, 04 December-10 December 2021

Persons With Disabilities Welfare And Empowerment

Dr. Ankita Kumari

I n 1992, the United Nations proclaimed 3rd December as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The Day is observed the world over every year, intending to promote the rights and well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) by increasing awareness of the situation of PwDs in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. This year, the theme of IDPD is "Leadership and participation of PwDs toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world."

 In India, every year on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), National Awards for the Empowerment of PwDs are conferred to individuals/institutions/states/districts for outstanding achievements in the empowerment of PwDs. The awards are given under the following 14 categories:- i) Best employees/self-employed with disabilities (ii) (a) Best employers (b) Best placement officer or agency (iii) (a) Best individual (b) Best institution working for the cause of PwDs (iv) Role Model (v) Best applied research or innovation or product development aimed at improving the lives of PwDs (vi) Outstanding work in the creation of a barrier-free environment for the PwDs (vii) Best district in providing rehabilitation services (viii) Best state channelizing agency of National Handicapped Federation Development Corporation (ix) Outstanding creative adult PwDs (x) Best creative child with disabilities (xi) Best braille press (xii) Best "accessible" website (xiii) Best state in promoting the empowerment of PwDs and implementation of Accessible India Campaign; and (xiv) Best sportsperson with disability.

Various factors cause disabilities, some of which are known and some are difficult to ascertain. In case of known causes, preventive measures can help reduce the incidence of disability, both congenital and acquired. In the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016, disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept. The Act enumerates 21 types of disabilities instead of the earlier seven types and gives the central government authority to revise the list from time to time. It replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, fulfilling obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory. The Act broadly classifies disabilities under the following categories:

S.N

Domains of Disability

Types of Disability

1

Physical Disability

1. Locomotor Disability

 2. Muscular Dystrophy

 3. Leprosy Cured Person

4. Dwarfism

 5. Cerebral Palsy

 6. Acid Attack Victims

2

Visual Impairment

7. Blindness

 8. Low-Vision

3

Hearing Impairment

 9. Deaf

10. Hard of Hearing

11. Speech and Language Disability

4

Intellectual Disability

12. Intellectual Disability

13. Specific Learning Disabilities

14. Autism Spectrum Disorder

5

Mental Behavior

15. Mental Illness

6

Chronic Neurological Conditions

16. Multiple Sclerosis and

17. Parkinson's Disease

7

Blood Disorder

18. Haemophilia

19. Thalassemia

20. Sickle Cell Disease

8

Multiple Disabilities

21. Multiple Disabilities

 

Meaning and Definition of Disability

A person can be handicapped in a specific environment without being disabled or have a disability but not be handicapped in many places. A disability is often defined as the malfunctioning, disturbance, or loss in the normal functioning of physical, mental, or psychological processes, or difficulty in learning or adjusting socially, which interferes with normal growth and development. As per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act), Persons with Disabilities, Person with Benchmark Disability, and Person with Disability having High Support Needs have the following meanings:

Person with Disability- a person with long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others;

Person with Benchmark Disability- a person with not less than forty percent 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;

 Person with Disability having High Support Needs- a person with benchmark disability certified under clause (a) of sub-section (2) of section 58 of the Act who needs high support.

Population estimates of PwDs

According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore PwDs in India (2.21 percent of the total population). Out of the total population of PwDs, approximately 1.50 crore are men, and 1.18 crore are women. These include persons with visual, hearing, speech, and locomotor disabilities, mental illness, mental retardation (intellectual disabilities), multiple disabilities, and other disabilities. As per the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner India, about 36% of PwDs are working (male- 47% and female23%). Among the workers with disabilities, 31% constitute agricultural laborers. Fifty percent of the PwD population in the age group of 15-59 years is working, whereas 4% of children with disabilities in the age group below 14 years are working.

 Constitutional Rights

The Constitution of India, through its Preamble, inter-alia seeks to secure to all its citizens; Justice, social, economic, and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship; Equality of status and opportunity. The relevant extracts of the Eleventh Schedule (Article 243-G) ensures social welfare, including the welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded" (entry no. 26), and Twelfth Schedule (Article 243- W) speaks of safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded (entry no. 09).

 Laws dealing with protection and welfare of the disabled

 There are four legislations: Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992; Rights of PwDs Act, 2016; National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999 and Mental Health Care Act, 2017. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, deals with the first three legislations. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, deals with the fourth legislation.

The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992: The Act provides for the constitution of the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) for regulating the training of rehabilitation professionals and the maintenance of a Central Rehabilitation Register (CRR) and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Across the country, approximately 750 Teacher Training Institutes and 14 State Open Universities are running RCI approved courses. They offer 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.

The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999: The Government of India enacted the Act with objective to provide for the constitution of a body at the national level for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The trust aims to provide total care to persons with mental retardation and cerebral palsy and also manage the properties bequeathed to the Trust.

The Rights of PwDs Act, 2016: The Act gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of PwDs and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Responsibility has been cast upon the appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that the PwDs enjoy their rights equally with others. Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.

The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017: The Mental Health Care Act, 2017 aims to ensure mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of such persons during delivery of mental healthcare and services and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

 National Policy for PwDs

 The Department of Empowerment of PwDs, Government of India, has constituted a committee under the Chairpersonship of Secretary, DEPwD, to review the existing National Policy for PwDs, 2006 and suggest a new policy document taking into account the provisions of the RPwD Act, 2016, United Nations Conventions on the Rights of PwDs (UNCRPD) and global best practices in managing disability.

 Some other Important Rights

Right to Education

 The Right to Education Act promises new stimulus to the education of Children with Special Needs (CWSN), irrespective of the kind, category and degree of disability, for education in an enabling inclusive environment. Teacher's Qualifications notified by NCTE under section 23 of the RTE Act recognize persons with Special Education (D.Ed and B.Ed Special Education) as teachers on par with other teachers and the deployment of such teachers in general schools for optimum utilization is a positive development.

Right to Admission in Higher Education

As per Rights of PwDs Act, 2016, all institutions of higher education that receive government aid have to reserve at least 5% seats for persons with bench-mark disabilities and give them an age relaxation of minimum five years for admission.

 Right to Employment

 The Department of Personnel & Training has issued circular on January 15, 2018 to all the Ministries and Departments specifying 4% reservation for persons with benchmark disabilities in government jobs as specified under Section 34 of the RPwD Act, 2016.

 Right to Legal Guardianship

 Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities are in a special situation as even after they have acquired 18 years of age, they may not always be capable of managing their own lives or taking legal decisions for their own betterment. Therefore, they may require someone to represent their interests in the legal areas throughout their lives. Under section 14 of the National Trust Act, the Local Level Committee headed by the District Collector is empowered to receive application and appoint for persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities. It also provides mechanism for monitoring and protecting their interests including their properties.

 Right to Accessibility

To enable PwDs to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, appropriate measures are required to ensure to PwDs access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public. These measures include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

 Right to Disability Certificate

 A person with a disability who wishes to avail of the benefits under the Right to PwDs 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 PwDs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. The State Governments are responsible for issuing Disability Certificates based on applications received from PwDs. Possession of medical reports explaining the type of their disability is essential, and the minimum degree of disability should be 40%. The certification process begins with the disabled person or the parents approaching the nearest District Hospital to obtain a Disability Certificate through the Medical Board. The Medical Board then forwards the cases to the medical sub-committees specialized for different types of disabilities.

Nodal Agency Ensuring Rights to Divyangjan

In order to give focused attention to policy issues and meaningful thrust to the activities aimed at welfare and empowerment of the PwDs, a separate Department of Empowerment of PwDs (Divyangjan) was carved out of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. The Department acts as a nodal agency for matters pertaining to disability and PwDs including effecting closer coordination among different stakeholders.

 Institutional Framework for Empowerment of PwDs

 Extensive infrastructure has been developed by the Central Government. The Government of India has established 13 National Institutes under various ministries for empowerment of PwDs. In addition to National Institutes, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has also established 20 Composite Rehabilitation Centres (CRCs) for Skill Development, Rehabilitation and Empowerment of PwDs (Divyangjan), approximately 200 District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRCs). Besides, 750 private institutions are conducting training courses for rehabilitation professionals. The details of the National Institutes are tabulated below:-

SN

National Institute/Regional Center

Core Area/Dealing

Disabilities

Headquarter

1

Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP)

Mental Illness

Ranchi

2

National Institute of Mental Health and Mental Illness

Mental Illness

Bengaluru

3

All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AIIPMR)

Physical Disability

Mumbai

4

Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities (PDUNIPPD)

Physical Disability

New Delhi

5

All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH)

Speech and Hearing Disabilities

Mysore

6

 Swami Vivekanand National Institute for the Rehabilitation Training & Research (SVNIRTAR)

Physical Disability

Cuttack

7

National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities(NILD)

Locomotor  Disabilities

Kolkata

8

 National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities (NIEPVD)

Visual Disabilities

Dehradun

9

Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Speech and Hearing Disabilities (AYJNISHD)

Speech and Hearing Disabilities

Mumbai

10

National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (NIEPID)

Intellectual  Disabilities

Secunderabad

11

National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities, (NIEPMD)

Multiple Disabilities

Chennai

12

Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC)

Sign Language

New Delhi

13

National Institute for Mental Health Rehabilitation

Mental Health

Bhopal

14

Composite Regional Center for Skill Development, Rehabilitation and Empowerment of PwDs (Divyangjan) (CRCs)

All Types of  Disabilities

21 State Head quarters

 

Statutory Bodies Ensuring Rights to PwDs

Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD):

·         The Office of the CCPD falls under the ambit of Section 74(1) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Chief Commissioner for PwDs is entrusted with reviewing the safeguards provided by or under this Act or any other law for the time being in force for the protection of rights of PwDs and recommend measures for their effective implementation; reviewing factors that inhibit the enjoyment of rights of PwDs and recommend appropriate remedial measures. The Chief Commissioner also may, on his own motion or on the application of any aggrieved persons or otherwise, look into complaints relating to deprivation of rights of PwDs or non-implementation or rules, bye-laws, regulations, executive orders, guidelines or instructions, etc., made or issued for the welfare and protection of rights of PwDs and take up the matter with the concerned authorities. The Chief Commissioner for PwDs has been assigned certain powers of a Civil Court for effective discharge of the functions.

·          The National Trust for the welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities: The National Trust is a statutory body set up under the National Trust Act 1999. The National Trust has been set up to discharge two basic duties- legal and welfare. Legal duties are discharged through Local Level Committee and welfare duties are discharged through various schemes implemented by registered organizations. The activities of the National Trust inter-alia include training, awareness and capacity building programmes and shelter, care giving and empowerment. The National Trust is committed to facilitate equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of PwDs (Divyangjan), covered under the Act.

·         Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI): The Rehabilitation Council India was accorded a Statutory status by an Act of Parliament, namely, the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992. The Council is mandated to regulate and monitor the training programmes for professionals and personnel in the field of rehabilitation and special education, promote research in rehabilitation and special education and maintain a Central Rehabilitation Register.

·         Skill Council for Persons with Disability (SCPwD): A separate Sector Skill Council for PwDs has been created by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship which has a Chairman from the private sector and a full time CEO. The Council has various members representing stakeholders from government and private sector and NGOs working for the cause of PwDs.

 Recent meaures taken by the Government of India for the empowerment of PwDs

1. The Government of India notified the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules on June15, 2017. These Rules provide for accessibility standards for built environment, passenger bus transport and for websites, besides specifying the procedure for applying and grant of certificate of disability, manner of publication of equal opportunity policy, manner of utilization and management of National Fund, etc.

2. The Government of India notified the Guidelines for Assessment of Extent of Specified Disability in a person on January 04, 2018. These guidelines provide a detailed procedure of assessment as well as the composition of the medical authority competent to issue certificates of disability for various categories of disabilities.

 3. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Government of India, notified the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Amendment) Rules on March 08, 2019 specifying the manner of assessment of persons with benchmark disabilities seeking high support needs by an Assessment Board and also the composition of such boards.

 4. The States have been advised from time to time to frame rules in terms of Section 101 of the Act. As on March 31, 2020, 31 States/UTs have notified the rules under the said Act.

 5. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Government of India has constituted the Central Advisory Board on Disability vide notification dated November 08, 2017. The Central Advisory Board has met four times so far.

 Challenges

 Bringing an attitudinal change in the perception of general public towards Divyangjan remains the biggest challenge in India. Awareness generation is therefore key to change the mindset not only of the general public but also of persons with disabilities to increase their confidence. There is a greater need for the State Governments and the local bodies to imbibe the culture of accessibility standards at the designing, planning and execution stage for creating barrier free environment for PwDs.

(The author is guest faculty, Audiology and Speech Language Pathology at Dr. Shakuntala Misra National Rehabilitation University (DSMNRU), Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow. She can be reached at ankitaa.kumari@gmail.com.)

Views expressed are personal