New Delhi: After a wait that's spanned over a decade, the differently abled in India may be empowered soon. Parliament reconvenes one last time before elections, and from left to the right of the political spectrum, there's unanimity over the new legislation for the rights of disabled persons in the country to make it a more inclusive law.
Javed Abidi, Founder of the Disability Rights Group explains why it's crucial for Parliament to clear the bill. "This is the first rights based disability bill the country is about to get. The first major paradigm shift in the new bill is from charity to rights. The present law, the 1995 act is limited to 7 impairments only...the obvious ones."
Merry Barua, Founder Director of Action for Autism adds, "There are many disabilities like hemophilia, thalassemia, learning disability, autism- all these conditions that were never there in the law, they all come in (in the proposed bill). When you are under a law, you have access to provisions and services."
The Rights of Persons with Disability Bill was cleared by the union cabinet in December 2013 but left many disappointed. The hope now is it will be introduced in Parliament with key amendments.
Of the 20 main recommendations, activists want the government to amend the definition of persons with disability as per the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. They also want altered the definition of autism spectrum disorder, citing that the current one is conceptually wrong.
Rights groups also feel the current process of getting a disability certificate is cumbersome. They have suggested the process of certification be universalised so that it can be valid across departments and states.
The Republic Day parade, this year at Rajpath was, for the first time, telecast with sign language. Zorin Singha, who himself is hearing impaired, helped make that possible. He said that this small gesture has touched the lives of many and hopes the promises made by political parties can now go beyond the tokenism.
Through sign language, Zorin tells us via his interpreter Angel, "When you look at a person like him (Zorin)...you can't make out the disability. They don't recognise and understand our disability. They think give them some hearing aids and they will be fine but they don't understand when it comes to communication and access to information it goes a lot beyond hearing aids."
India ratified the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities way back in 2007 but no new legislation followed. Now, activists hope political will can follow cross party political consensus.