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Evolution of disability rights in India

  • Published
    31st Dec, 2022

India is expected to witness significant judicial activism in the space of disability rights with the court’s taking measures to make more inclusive and disability-friendly environment in the country, but it is also pertinent to trace the history of the disability rights movement and underscore its importance.


The evolution of Disability Rights in India:

  • From a charity-based approach to a rights-based approach: Through the years, an incremental change one will notice is the shift from a charity-based approach to a rights-based approach adopted while spelling out and enforcing statutory rights of persons with disabilities.
  • From the inception of the disability rights movement in India back to The Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities, this led to The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  • Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016:
  • Another significant evolution can be attributed to the shift from the medical model of disability that was envisaged in the 1995 Act to the social model of disability coupled with the human rights approach which gained prominence after the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the resulting Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
  • At the global level, the Incheon Strategy of Disability inclusiveness also played a role in giving effect to the 2016 Act. 

Efforts for the welfare of Persons with Disability (PwDs):

  • The Supreme Court, which led to reservation for PwDs in Group A and B posts.
  • The persons with visual impairment were allowed to write the civil services examination in Braille script or with the help of a scribe.

What are the challenges?

  • Societal perspective: Any disabled person was treated like dirt in Indian society. Most of these people were either seen as beggars or in better cases they were associated with the field of music.
    • Many people thought of disability as the result of someone’s previous life’s sins and thus held them responsible for their present condition. This absurdity led to various forms of injustice in India.
  • Judiciary’s view:
    • The judges even in the higher judiciary were not been sensitised to persons with disability. Many times, they are judged against sympathy rather than empathy.
  • Legislators' view: PwDs is often seen as a vote bank by the politicians in our country however the legislators are bound by the Constitutional provisions in favour of people with disability;
    • Article 25 – Health: States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities to health services that are gender-sensitive, including health-related rehabilitation.
    • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that State shall make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
    • The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.

Levels of Discrimination faced by PwDs:

  • Discrimination at workplace
  • Societal non-inclusion
  • Social boycotting
  • Considered abnormal
  • Seen by disability rather than a special ability

Some programmes and initiatives for PwD in India:

  • Accessible India Campaign: Creation of Accessible Environment for PwDs:
    • A nationwide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility that will enable persons with disabilities to gain access to equal opportunity.
    • The campaign targets at enhancing the accessibility of the built environment, transport system and Information & communication ecosystem.
  • National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities (RGMF)
    • The scheme aims to increase opportunities for students with disabilities for pursuing higher education.
  • DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme: Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to Persons with Disabilities, like special schools, vocational training centres, community-based rehabilitation, preschool and early intervention etc
  • Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP): The Scheme aims at helping disabled persons by bringing suitable, durable, scientifically-manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances within their reach.
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