Why in news?
India has an estimated 70 million PWDs, making it one of the larger disabled populations globally, however, the country only has 100 lawyers per lakh and only a few among them specialise in disability law.
What is the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 about?
- India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016 is a vital law that intends to secure and advance the rights of persons with disabilities.
- The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
- UNCRPD – It fulfils the obligations to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
- According to the law, disability has been based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
- The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21 and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.
- The 21 disabilities are given below:-
- Physical Disability – Locomotor Disability; Leprosy Cured Person; Cerebral Palsy; Dwarfism; Muscular Dystrophy; Acid Attack Victims; Visual Impairment (Blindness; Low Vision); Hearing Impairment (Deaf; Hard of Hearing); Speech and Language Disability.
- Intellectual Disability – Specific Learning Disabilities; Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Mental Behaviour – Mental Illness
- Disability caused due to – Chronic Neurological Conditions (Multiple Sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease); Blood Disorder (Haemophilia; Thalassemia; Sickle Cell Disease) and other Multiple Disabilities.
- Persons with benchmark disabilities are defined as those certified to have at least 40% of the disabilities specified above.
Rights and entitlements
- Reservation – In higher education (not less than 5%), government jobs (not less than 4 %), reservation in allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes (5% allotment) etc. have been provided.
- Government funded/recognized educational institutions will have to provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities.
- Free education – Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
What is the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) about?
- The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights treaty dealing with the rights of disabled people.
- It was adopted in 2006 in the New York headquarters of the United Nations and entered into force in 2008.
- Currently, the convention has received 177 ratifications.
- The UNCRPD is aimed at:
- Ending discrimination against persons with disabilities.
- Enabling persons with disabilities to live independently.
- Making the education system more inclusive.
- Making sure persons with disabilities are protected against all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation.
- India is a signatory to the convention.
What are the challenges associated with the PWDs?
- Barrier to justice – The lack of legal/para-legal professionals creates a barrier to justice for PWDs, who struggle to access their entitlements under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.
- The shortage of trained para-legal professionals is a challenge, with only a fraction of the 100,000 para-legal volunteers in India receiving training on disability law.
- Lack of course – According to a survey conducted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), only 10% of law colleges in India offer courses on disability law.
- Prejudice – Disability law is not given the same level of importance as other branches of law, and the Act itself being a relatively new legal framework.
- Lack of awareness – The lack of awareness about the rights of PWDs is among both the public and legal professionals.
- This lack of awareness and expertise could result in inadequate representation for PWDs, leading to further marginalisation and discrimination.
What is the way forward?
- Mandatory – There is a need to include the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act as a mandatory subject in law colleges.
- Training – Training should focus on building a comprehensive understanding of the Act and its provisions, as well as practical skills in advocacy and representation for PWDs.
- This will help in ensuring that legal professionals and para-legal volunteers are trained in disability law and are better equipped to represent PWDs.
- Investing in the training of legal and para-legal professionals in disability law has economic and social benefits.
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