[Model Answer QP2022 GS2] The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 remains only a legal document without intense sensitisation of government functionaries and citizens regarding disability. Comment.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 replaced the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. 
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 aims to provide certain rights to disabled people and protect them from social stigmatization and discrimination. Section 2(s) of the Act defines “person with disability” as a person who suffers from long-term mental, physical, sensory or intellectual impairment which, in collaboration with barriers, affects his effective participation in society.

Objectives of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

  1. The primary objective of the Act is to ensure that disabled people enjoy their right to equality and are able to live a dignified and respectful life. 
  2. The Preamble of the Act provides that it is aimed at protecting disabled people from all sorts of discrimination. The Act seeks to ensure the full social, political, and economic participation of disabled people. 
  3. This Act promotes inclusive education and provides employment safeguards for disabled people. Thus, it aims at empowering disabled people through inclusive growth and active societal participation.

Salient features of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

  1. Rights of disabled persons
    1. They have a right to equality and protection from discrimination. They cannot be discriminated against due to their disability. The appropriate government is responsible for ensuring that the dignity and integrity of the disabled persons is not violated. 
    2. The disabled persons have a right to live in the community and the government is responsible for protecting them from being forced into living in any specific arrangement. 
    3. The disabled persons enjoy equal rights and cannot be forced into undergoing infertility medical procedures.
    4. The Central as well as the state elections commissioners are responsible for ensuring that the polling booths are accessible to disabled people. 
    5. Disabled people cannot be forced to be the subject of research without their consent.
    6. The Act also provides that if an employee acquires a disability while he is in service, he may not be dismissed or removed from employment. He may be transferred to another suitable post but the pay scale cannot be reduced.
  2. Educational Safeguards
    1. Section 17 aims at promoting inclusive education. It provides that the government and the local authorities are responsible for setting up training institutes and for training staff and professions on how to promote inclusive education.
  3. Skills, development and employment of disabled persons
    1.  Under Section 20, discrimination against disabled people in matters related to employment is specifically prohibited. The government establishments are mandated to provide them with reasonable accommodation and are prohibited from reducing the ranks of those employees who acquire disability during the work.
  4. Equal recognition before law and guardianship 
    1. People suffering from disabilities have the right to equal recognition before the law in regards to the general people under Section 3. 
    2. Section 14 provides for the concept of a limited guardian. The limited guardian is to help the disabled person and can take legally binding decisions on their behalf. Limited guardianship implies joint decision making between the disabled person and the guardian on the basis of mutual trust and understanding.
  5. Social Security and Healthcare
    1. Section 24 of the Act imposes an obligation on the appropriate government to frame necessary schemes for improving the living standard of the disabled persons and to provide them with an independent living. The government may formulate the schemes keeping in view its economic capacity. 
  6. Duties and responsibilities of the appropriate government
    1. Under Section 41 of the Act, the appropriate government has to take appropriate steps to ensure that the modes of transport, such as railways, buses, and airports, are made accessible to disabled people.
    2. Section 48 mandates that the appropriate government must perform a social audit of the welfare schemes to ensure that they fulfill the needs of disabled people and do not have an adverse effect on them.

The Act remains only a legal document without intense sensitisation of government functionaries and citizens regarding disability:

  1. While the Act intends to promote inclusive education, this goal might be difficult to achieve considering the existing shortage of teachers in schools. Furthermore, children who suffer from severe disabilities would require greater support and a targeted approach as they might not be able to meet the needs of regular schools.
  2. Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan)  has failed to live up to its target of improving accessibility in 3 verticals: Government buildings, Public transport and access to information and communication technology. 
  3. The apathy of the public regarding disability is still rampant. For instance, parking of cars in areas reserved for disabled, the seats reserved for diabled in transport are overlooked by the general population. 
  4. The quota of jobs reserved for disabled are not filled completely and many state services fail to conduct the recruitment consistently which affects the livelihood of the diabled. 
  5. The disabled population from marginalized group face greater levels of discrimination and suffer apathy from the government officials as well as the general population. 
  6. The private buildings coming up because of rampant urbanization in India fails to design these buildings to be disability friendly. 
The definition of disability provided in the 2016 Act is much more inclusive than the definition in the preceding Act. The 1995 Act included only those persons within the definition of disabled persons who suffered from a 40% or more of a certified disability. However the true implementation requires intense sanitization of both government functionaries and citizens.

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