Human Rights are for us all, but seldom do we see our society uphold these rights without any social or political bias. In that regard, the ‘Rights for Persons with Disabilities Bill’ has indeed come a long way, now amended and shaped to herald a more accommodating future.
Rights of Persons With Disabilities (RPWD) Bill:
The principal act for the empowerment of Persons with disabilities was the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. It was enforced 20 years back. In the years that followed, however, there have been drastic changes in the disability sector such as understanding disability and its social model of definition, new technology and process of rehabilitation etc.
The new Bill with amendments proposes to repeal the existing Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
The revised bill has come as a boon for many. With the types of disabilities having been increased from 7 to 21, and the Central Government holding the power to add more types in the future, the bill is a much-awaited move to effectuate the Indian government’s ‘Accessible India’ program.
The historic announcement was made on the occasion of ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ (3rd December). It saw the first-time inclusion of speech and language disability and specific learning disability, while acid attack victims, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy etc. were added as separate classes of specified disability. The new categories of disabilities also included three blood disorders: thalassemia, hemophilia and sickle cell disease.
This bill also provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities. Designated special courts have been proposed to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs, thus accommodating the long-pending concern of whether or not we legally cover all types of disabilities.
Further, additional benefits for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs have been included. For instance, every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education, while reservations in government jobs for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability have been increased from 3% to 4%. To provide financial support to the persons with disabilities, the creation of National and State Funds has been proposed. The need to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time-frame has also been stressed upon.
Another highlight from the bill is that it provides penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities. To handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs, the bill proposes the immediate designation of special courts.
This bill has given rise to expectations that it will be adopted at all institutions and public or private bodies in India at both national and state levels to achieve true empowerment and inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in a satisfactory manner.