Radha R Ashrit & Ann Maria
Long-term impairments in physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory functioning might, in combination with other barriers, limit a person’s ability to fully and effectively participate in society on an equitable basis. Around the globe, more than a billion individuals are impaired in some way, this amounts to about 15% of the world’s population. To “leave no one behind,” as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states as its overarching principle, governments, public and private sectors must work together to ensure the full and equal inclusion and involvement of people with disabilities.
India’s policy paradigm of governance has been proactive in meeting the needs of the poor and marginalized, in line with the values enshrined in the country’s constitution. Because of the structural denial of social and economic rights, efforts must be made to ensure that people with disabilities are fully included in society. In light of this acknowledgement, the Government of India is working toward disability inclusion. Disabled people’s rights are established by the Constitution, providing a framework for Government action.
In an effort to better empower and include people with disabilities, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment established the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in May, 2012. Through its many Acts, Institutions, Organizations, and Rehabilitation Schemes, it seeks to make life better for people with disabilities so that they can live as independently and productively as possible.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation produced a paper titled “Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in India- A Statistical profile: 2021,” which found that 2.21 percent, or 26.8 million, of the population of India had some form of disability.
In 2016, the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participation) Act of 1995 was repealed and replaced with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act of 2016. The new law’s most notable provision doubled the percentage of disabled persons guaranteed a government job from 3 percent to 4 percent under a quota system. In addition to requiring that at least 5% of university spaces be reserved for underrepresented groups, the legislation mandates a 5-year reduction in the mandatory retirement age for faculty and staff.
Inclusive education, described as a system of education where students with and without disabilities learn together, is supported by the National Education Policy and is acknowledged by the RPwD Act. The use of Braille and Indian Sign Language in the classroom, as well as various forms of individual support, appropriate adjustments, and monitoring are all on the list of suggestions. The policy includes provisions for including disability awareness in teacher preparation and for recruiting special educators with cross-disability training.
Launched in 2015, the NIRMAYA Scheme offers disabled people access to low-cost health insurance. A revision to the Assistance for Disabled Individuals in the Provision of Aids and Appliances (ADIP) Scheme, which has been in effect since 1981, was made in 2014. Its goal is to provide disabled people in need with access to modern, standard aids and appliances that can aid in their physical, social, and psychological rehabilitation by mitigating the effects of their impairments and maximising their economic potential. The goal of the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), which was launched in 2015, is to make all areas of India accessible to people with disabilities.
As highlighted in the NITI Aayog Strategy for New India @ 75, it is imperative to disaggregate data of persons with disabilities by sex, age and socio-economic status in order to identify reliable and regular trends for informed policymaking. It is also crucial for the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities to focus on data collection, identifying gaps and evaluating the impact of various schemes. Programmes focused on improving specific issues related to persons with disabilities must be brought under the purview of the relevant line ministries.
With respect to education, courses in disability etiquette should be included in the mainstream curriculum to change attitudes towards persons with disabilities. Schools should also be made more inclusive by addressing the barriers related to the physical environment (e.g. accessible toilets), admission procedures as well as curriculum design.
In order to identify special needs at an early age, early diagnostic and intervention centres should be established at the district level for screening children.
Further, it is critical to set up dedicated training centres for persons with disabilities to meet the requirements of the private sector from an employment perspective.
The inclusion of people with disabilities in the process of co-creating a society in which disability plays no role in quality of life has to be accelerated through the joint efforts of go and non-government organisations.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
Read more on IMPRI: Taking Defence Beyond the Borders.