Findings cover how the State is doing with regards to the rights of persons with disabilities
The World Bank estimates that one in twelve Indian households have a family member who has a disability. For persons with disabilities in India, life is full of obstacles and marred with awful scenarios. Most of them struggle to live a fulfilling independent life and almost 90 percent of persons with disabilities are below the poverty line.
Today, India is a long way from wholesomely including persons with disabilities in all its policies. Accessibility to some key information and communication technologies (ICTs) like TV, websites, mobile phones, websites, assisted medical devices and apps for disabled persons yet remain a mere lip service.
In an example of how persons with disabilities are left out of jobs, the Supreme Court directed the State of Tamil Nadu to fill more than 2000 backlog vacancies in government department under the reservation for disabled persons.
Taking a comprehensive view of the situation related to persons with disabilities in India, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, composed of human rights experts issued positive developments,concerns and recommendations with regards to India on September 18, 2019.
Welcoming the efforts to adopt legislations recognizing and enforcing the rights of persons with disabilities, the Committee issued the following important recommendations:
It asked the State to bring the guidelines for assessing and certifying disability into line with the human rights model of disability and to ensure that organizations dealing with the rights of disable persons are involved in the reform of these guidelines. It emphasized that the State move from only care and protection towards a more wholesome goal of eliminating attitudinal and environmental barriers that prevent their equality and inclusion in society.
It also placed special emphasis on ensuring that the State work towards repealing derogatory terminology like “mentally ill” or “divyangjan” from its legislation, policies, government regulations, and government websites and especially from public discourse.
Expressing concerns that participation of organizations with disabled persons is not prioritized in the decision-making processes related to them, it recommended that the State of India remove such barriers, provide resources for their participation and ensure that their opinions are given due weight in all decisions.
The Committee showed concern about multiple and intersecting discrimination and discrimination by association in legislation and in practice against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, particularly women. It was also concerned about absence of measures to combat multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities in the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, including Dalits and Adivasi, older persons with disabilities, persons with disabilities living with HIV/AIDS, indigenous persons with disabilities, persons with disabilities belonging to ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons with disabilities.
In its recommendation with regards to the above matter it asked the State to repeal all discriminatory legislation against persons affected by leprosy in all areas and assess the situation of and adopt anti-discrimination legislation and public policies to tackle multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, with the aim of achieving inclusive equality for persons with disabilities facing intersectional discrimination.
With regards to Women with disabilities, the committee advocated the State to strengthen measures to address multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, adopt national and state action plans for promoting equality, ensure that the national policy for women aims at reducing stigma, establish gender-responsive policies and budget allocations to address the rights of all women irrespective of their caste, location, ethnic identity, socio-economic status or religious background while ensuring the effective participation of women with disabilities in policy-making.
With respect to Children with disabilities, the committee recommended the State party to Allocate financial resources to ensure inclusion in basic public services and support for all children with disabilities; ensure the effective protection of all children with disabilities under the Child Protection Scheme and other programmes, prioritizing children in rural areas and children facing a risk of abandonment and institutionalization, strengthening measures to provide support in the community, including foster families and adopt measures to facilitate children with disabilities express their views in all matters related to their lives – including in administrative or judicial procedures.
In 2019, the NarendraModi government released a draft of the National Education Policy, which proved to be a disappointment for children with disabilities. Not only does it quote a Disability Act that doesn’t exist, its section titled ‘Education of children with special needs’ is vague and lacking in depth. The draft also skips any mention of students with intellectual disabilities.
In light of the article 9 of the Convention, the committee recommends that the State Implement the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by taking a cross-sectoral approach and enforce accessibility of transportation services, including transport concessions and licenses, accessibility of information, and accelerate the implementation of the barrier-free buildings.
Keeping in light the situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, the Committee recommended that State to ensure the provision of human rights-based response to internally displaced persons with disabilities particularly those who have been displaced for prolonged periods in all situations of risk. It also recommended the State to adopt measures to assess the situation of persons with disabilities in the state of Kashmir and ensure their access to assistance and community basic services.
Recommending provisions for Equal Recognition before the law, the Committee asked the State to repeal all types of guardianship (no ‘limited guardianship’) from its national and state legislation and practices and introduce supported decision-making systems respectful of the autonomy, will and preferences of all persons with disabilities.
With respect to rehabilitation, the Committee is concerned that the Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme emphasizes a medical and charity-based approach to disability, and that it discriminates against persons with disabilities from marginalized groups. Hence, it recommends that the State party promote community-based inclusive development, reframing the Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation scheme in consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities, particularly those in rural areas, ensuring budgetary allocation for habilitation and rehabilitation across the State party and quality standards of programmes, monitoring and evaluations on regular basis.
The Committee found that only 37 percent of persons with disabilities have access to employment and that only 1.8 percent of women with disabilities access to employment. It is also concerned about information about cases of sexual harassment in the workplace against women with disabilities and the lack of measures to prevent and protect them.
To combat this lacuna, the Committee recommends that the State adopt a national and state strategy for ensuring access to employment by persons with disabilities in the open labour market, through equal opportunity policies and recruitment and skill development training programmes. It also recommends decisively combating sexual harassment and exploitation of women with disabilities at the workplace by disseminating accessible public information and implementing redress for women facing sexual harassment.
It is time that policy makers in India take heed of the recommendations and involve civil society organizations, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities, in drafting frameworks, disseminating information and ensuring implementation and monitoring progress with regards to laws and participation for effective change.
The full report of the concerns and recommendations of the committee specifically with regards to India can be found here.