The degree of evolvement of a society is gauged by the manner in which it cares for those on its fringes or those placed at any kind of disadvantage vis-a-vis the rest of society at large due to force of circumstances such as birth, age or disability. A truly compassionate society makes allowances for such infirmities in a non-intrusive, participative and sensitive manner, ensuring equal opportunities to all by providing a level playing field.
As per the 11th Plan (412 KB) Persons with Disabilities could be as high as 5 – 6% of India’s total population. We need to make our society and systems inclusive for this substantial portion of our population, enabling them to lead a dignified, independent life while recognising them as valuable human resource to our country. All this is possible through an integrated approach, to include legislation, policies and concessions by the government, coupled with active participation by organisations, employers and, in fact, every citizen.
The Government of India has been proactive in terms of empowering the differently abled. Several schemes and acts have been framed to ensure that they have plenty of opportunities to become self reliant.
Some major milestones in ensuring that Persons With Disabilities are assured a life of dignity and self sufficiency are the enactment of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation Act) (1.15 MB) in 1995, adoption of The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities in 2006 and signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – (UNCRPD) by India in 2007. The Government is presently in the process of making comprehensive amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 (1.15 MB) , to make it more inclusive and in keeping with international conventions.
Some highlights of the proposed amendments (340 KB) – PDF file that opens in a new window are:-
- Inclusion of new disabilities such as autism and enlarging the scope of existing disabilities.
- Setting up of a National Fund for Persons with Disabilities.
- Ensuring an inclusive environment in education, on roads and in built environment.
- Restructuring of the Central and State coordinating Committees as Advisory Boards with enhanced roles and responsibilities; creation of committees at district levels.
- Emphasis on means to prevent disabilities.
- Affirmative action, including reservation of dwelling units and shops for Persons with Disabilities.
- Introduction of Disability Pension and Insurance Scheme.
From providing aids and appliances, scholarships, awards and monetary benefits to reservations in government jobs and incentives for private employers to promote employment of such persons, the government’s approach has been multifaceted. The endeavour is to ensure overcoming the restrictions imposed by their condition and allowing them to lead a normal, self reliant life. Some schemes for empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and concessions offered by the government are:-
- Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase / Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP Scheme)
- Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme to promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities
- Scheme of National Awards for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities
- Scheme of National Scholarships for Persons with Disabilities
- Scheme of Integrated Education for the Disabled Children (134 KB)
- Schemes arising out of the Implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995
- Scheme for providing Employment to Persons with Disabilities in the Private Sector – Incentives to the Employers
- Conveyance Allowance
- Income Tax Concessions
- Reservation of Jobs & Other Facilities For Disabled Persons
- Financial Assistance to Person with Disabilities
- Equal Insurance Benefits
Ensuring public spaces, facilities and systems are easily accessible to Persons with Disabilities is another area of focus. Accessibility norms being followed by the government websites are endeavouring towards inclusiveness of Persons with Disabilities. A person with visual disability can now access the Government portals using assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnifiers. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has issued comprehensive guidelines for ‘Barrier Free Built Environment – External website that opens in a new window‘ to make buildings and facilities friendly for use by Persons with Disabilities.
The Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Mukul Wasnik, announced the institution of three National Awards – External website that opens in a new window from this year for Websites having the best accessibility features for persons with disabilities. One Award each will be given in the category of Websites belonging to Central and State governments, Public Sector Undertakings, and the Private Sector, respectively.
As citizens, we also need to be sensitive towards the needs of the differently abled persons, provide them the opportunity to live with dignity by removing all barriers – physical and perceptual – that inhibit them.
Source : http://india.gov.in/spotlight/spotlight_archive.php?id=59