India's Disability Act of 1995 provides various facilities for both children and adults with disabilities in India. Under the Disabilities Act of India, children with disabilities have the right to free education until they reach the age of eighteen in schools that are integrated, or in 'special,' schools. Children with disabilities have the right to appropriate transportation, removal of architectural barriers, as well as the restructuring of curriculum and modifications in the examination system. Scholarships, uniforms, books, and teaching materials are all provided to children with disabilities for free in India.
Children with disabilities in India have access to special schools that are equipped with vocational training facilities, and non-formal education. India provides training institutions for teachers in order to establish manpower. Parents of children with disabilities in the nation can move to an appropriate court for the redress of grievances in regards to their children with disabilities.
Parents of children with disabilities in India are required to obtain a, 'disability certificate,' in order to access the facilities mentioned above; they can obtain this certificate from their nearest government hospital, where an Identity Card from the, 'Office of the Commissioner for Disabilities,' will issue it. People in rural areas can obtain this Identity Card from their Block Development Officer's Office (BDO).
In India every, 'panchayat,' is provided funding in order to build roads, schools, and public ramps for people with disabilities by the government.
Three-percent of all government jobs in India are reserved for people with disabilities, and India's Disability Act includes affirmative action for people with disabilities. What this means is that the allotment of land in India is made at concessional rates to people with disabilities for housing, business, special schools, factories with entrepreneurs who experience disabilities, and recreation centers. It also means that people with disabilities have, 'appliances,' and, 'aids,' made available to them.
People with disabilities in the nation of India who are seeking information in regards to the facilities available to them have to visit the Office of the Commissioner for Disabilities.
Should a school refuse admission to a child with a disability, or if a ramp or other means of access is lacking, parents have the option of taking the matter up with the Disabilities Commissioner for redress.
India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the nation has done little to protect the rights of people with disabilities in accordance with the Convention.
February of 2010 found the proposal by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in India introducing one-hundred and one amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act in the budget session; it came under criticism. Several groups of people with disabilities, with whom the government has held and continues to hold consultations, have demanded that a totally new law that is aligned with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities by the United Nations, which India ratified in the year 2007, be enacted. The groups state that the proposed amendments are inadequate and that a new law for India's seventy-million people with disabilities, one which contains everything in consonance with the Convention, is needed.
The nation of India currently has four different laws that pertain to people with disabilities. These laws include:
- The Mental Health Act of 1987
- The Persons with Disabilities Act
- The Rehabilitation Council of India Act
- The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities Act of 1999
The majority of the legislation in India related to people with disabilities is based on the medical model of disability; it adopts a welfare attitude, looking at physical impairments of people and labeling them as, 'disabilities.' The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities defines, 'disability,' as an evolving concept. The Convention believes that, 'disability,' results from the interaction of impairments with various barriers which hinder full and active participation in society on an equal basis with others.
The medical model of disability, a centuries-old norm, is one that sought, 'corrections,' for individuals with disabilities. A rights-based approach to people with disabilities, such as has been adopted by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, is one that seeks a society that is both designed and structured to assist in every category and section to access facilities and opportunities. 'Accessibility,' is not simply confined to constructing buildings that have ramps, or building roads - it means ensuring that people with disabilities have access to transportation systems, signs that are both audio and Braille, sports auditoriums, public facilities, hospitals, malls, clinics, and other facilities.
India's Persons with Disabilities Act has a set of policies and concessions in place for people with disabilities, yet does not include non-negotiable rights. People with disabilities are not able to claim accessibility features as a matter of right in India. Availability of accessibility features is something that is subject to either formulation of schemes by India's government, or as per the, 'economic capacity and development,' of the State. Saptarshi Madal of the Lawyers Collective points out that current legislation in the nation of India is not in tune human rights obligations, or with the advances in technology and medicine. With the technical advances that are available today it should be possible for people with visual impairments to access banks through ATM's for example, yet there is no legislation in India aimed at the adoption of such technologies. Laws that were framed during Colonial days that have yet to be updated to reflect current knowledge and sensibilities remain on the books. India's Railway Act, for example, states that a person with leprosy may not board trains, despite the fact that it is now know that leprosy is not contagious, and that a person with leprosy becomes non-infective within twenty-four hours of beginning treatment.
National Director of the Disability Rights Initiative of the Human Rights Law Network, Rajive Raturi, states that present legislation does not include as many as twenty provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; particularly those that pertain to political and civil rights such as freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment, access to information, freedom of expression, the right to marry and have a family, or freedom to participate in public and political life. According to current provisions of the law in India, people with mental health disabilities cannot enter into contracts; they also have no property rights. The Convention has clearly stated that even people with the most severe disabilities have rights and that the state must provide support networks to enable them to exercise these rights.
The Convention specifically addresses issues related to women with disabilities and the rights of children with disabilities, both are groups that current legislation in the nation of India attacks. To make matters worse, there are specific sections of law that are abused in ways that harm the rights of people with disabilities in India. The Center for Advocacy in Mental Health of the Bapu Trust in Pune has pointed out the way that Section 19 of the Mental Health Act dealing with, "Admissions to institutions under special circumstances," is many times abused in the nation of India by families for the purpose of dumping women with disabilities in institutions.
While every nation on planet Earth continues to struggle with disability-related issues such as accessibility, employment, housing, rights, and more; the nation of India very clearly has quite a ways to go before it reaches a sense of equality in relation to people with disabilities. The fact that India has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is promising. One can hope that the nation of India will pursue the Convention, and find itself with equality in society for their citizens with disabilities.
Statistics: Disability in India
- At least 1.2 million people with disabilities in India are living in households consisting only of people with disability.
- While the total people with disabilities increased by just over 22 per cent over a decade, from almost 22 million in the Census 2001 to 26.8 million in 2011, the number of people with disabilities living on their own has nearly doubled, jumping by 84 per cent in the same period.
- About 6.3 lakh people with disabilities lived alone in single member households and 2.7 lakh two-member households had two disabled people each (about 5.5 lakh in all) staying on their own in households without any non-disabled person.
- Among the larger states, Jammu & Kashmir has the highest proportion of households with at least one person with disability, over 12 per cent, followed by Odisha with 10 per cent of such households.
- Interestingly, in Delhi and Tamil Nadu, which have strong disability rights movements compared to other states, only 5 per cent of households were identified as having one or more people with disabilities. These movements have consistently maintained that official data is underestimating the actual number of people with disabilities in India.
- In the 2011 census, 92 per cent of the nearly 25 crore households in the country had no people with disabilities. Over two crore households had one or more people with disabilities. Almost 71 per cent of these households (1.46 crore) were in rural areas while the remaining 60.5 lakh-plus households were in urban areas.
- There was a fall in the proportion of households with one or more people with disabilities from about 10 per cent in 2001 to just 8 per cent in 2011, though the absolute number of such households has gone up by over 20 lakh or 2 million.