Efforts required for dignified life of persons with disabilities
Dr Satyawan Saurabh
Our education system is not inclusive. Inclusion of children with mild to moderate disabilities in regular schools remains a major challenge. There are many issues such as availability of special schools, access to schools, trained teachers and availability of educational materials for the disabled. Furthermore, reservations for the disabled in higher educational institutions have not been met in many cases, and even though many adults with disabilities are capable of productive work, adults with disabilities have much lower employment rates than the general population. The situation is even worse in the private sector, where very few people with disabilities are employed. As per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, ‘Person with Disability’ means a person with a long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment who, with barriers, may interfere with, interact with, or participate in their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others hinders. Today there are crores of people with disabilities in India. The 2011 census pegs us at 26.8 million, which is 2.21 per cent of India’s total population; But activists, academics and world bodies such as the WHO estimate it to be between 40 and 80 million. Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy states that the State shall, within its economic limits, make effective provision for securing the right to work, education and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement. The subject of ‘Relief to the disabled and unemployed’ is specified in the State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. It becomes the duty of the Centre, States and Union Territories to take up this matter. It is also important to ensure that all government buses are disabled friendly as per the relevant guidelines. Disability is defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept. The types of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21. The Act covers a range of disabilities including mental illness, autism, spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disabilities, thalassemia, haemophilia, sickle cell disease, deafness, blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinson’s disease which were largely ignored in the first act. In addition, the Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability. It increases the quantum of reservation for people with disabilities from 3 per cent to 4 per cent in government jobs and from 3 per cent to 5 per cent in higher education institutions. Every child with benchmark disability between the age of 6 to 18 years shall have the right to free education. Government funded educational institutions as well as government recognized institutions have to provide inclusive education. With the Accessible India Campaign, emphasis has been laid on ensuring accessibility in public buildings within stipulated time frame. The Chief Commissioner and State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities will act as regulatory bodies and grievance redressal agencies to monitor the implementation of the Act. A separate national and state fund was created to provide financial assistance to persons with disabilities. Accessible India Campaign, a nationwide flagship campaign to create accessible environment for PWDs and achieve universal access to enable persons with disabilities to access equal opportunities and live independently and fully in all aspects of life in an inclusive society will be able to participate. The campaign aims to enhance the reach of the built environment, transport system and information and communication ecosystem. Under the Deen Dayal Handicapped Rehabilitation Scheme, financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to persons with disabilities, such as special schools, vocational training centers, community based rehabilitation, pre-school and early intervention etc Assistance to persons with disabilities for purchase/fitting of assistive devices: The scheme aims to help persons with disabilities by bringing suitable, durable, scientifically made, modern, standard aids and appliances within their reach. The objective of the scheme is to enhance the opportunities for students with disabilities to pursue higher education. Under the scheme, 200 fellowships are given per year to students with disabilities. The National Trust has schemes for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities. A large number of disabilities are preventable, including those resulting from medical issues during birth, maternal conditions, malnutrition, as well as those resulting from accidents and injuries. However, the health sector has failed to respond actively to disability, especially in rural India, besides lack of affordable access to proper health care, d appliances, and poorly trained health workers in rehabilitation centers is another concern subject to Our education system is not inclusive. Inclusion of children with mild to moderate disabilities in regular schools remains a major challenge. There are many issues such as availability of special schools, access to schools, trained teachers and availability of educational materials for the disabled. Furthermore, reservations for the disabled in higher educational institutions have not been met in many cases, and even though many adults with disabilities are capable of productive work, adults with disabilities have much lower employment rates than the general population.
The situation is even worse in the private sector, where very few people with disabilities are employed. Physical access to buildings, transport, access to services, etc. still remains a major challenge. Negative attitudes of families of the disabled, and often of the disabled themselves, prevent persons with disabilities from participating actively in the family, community or workforce. People with disabilities face discrimination in everyday life. People with mental illness or mental retardation face the worst stigma and are subject to severe social exclusion. The lack of hard and comparable data and statistics further hinders the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Major issues with data collection and measuring disability are that disability is difficult to define. Different purposes require different disability data. Reluctance to report a disability as a disability is considered a stigma in many places/societies. Poor implementation of policies and plans hinders the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Though various Acts and schemes have been laid down with the aim of empowering the disabled, they face many challenges in their implementation. Preventive health programs need to be strengthened and all children should be screened at an early age. Kerala has already started an early prevention programme. The Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) programme seeks to identify deficiencies early in infants and reduce the state’s disability burden. People with disabilities need to be better integrated into the society by overcoming stigma. Awareness campaigns should be conducted to educate and sensitize people about different types of disabilities. Success stories can be displayed. There is a need to empower adults with disabilities with employable skills. The private sector needs to be encouraged to employ them. There is a need to improve the measurement of disability to better understand the scale of disability in India. There is a need to prepare state wise strategy on education for children with special needs. There should be proper teacher training to meet the needs of children with disabilities and facilitate their inclusion in regular schools. Also there should be more special schools and ensure educational material for children with disabilities. Safety measures should be taken like road safety, safety in residential areas, public transport system etc. Also, it should be made legally binding to make buildings disabled friendly. More budgetary allocation for welfare of disabled. There should be a disability budget on the lines of gender budget. Proper implementation of the schemes should be ensured. There should be proper monitoring mechanism and counting of public money.
(The author is a poet, freelance journalist and columnist, All India Radio and TV panelist).