Persons with Disabilities: Rights, Challenges and Solutions – UPSC Notes

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Differently-abled Population of India

— they should not be looked as victims who need protection, rather they should be looked as citizens who need rights and empowerment— 

  • 2.21% | 2.7 crore PwD population in India | highest locomotor disability 
  • Social Stigma — Inferior, incapable, inadequate, burden for society —> oppressed, marginalised and denied opportunities 
  • Core issues
    • Rehab 
    • Rights
    • Equalisation of opportunities 
    • Integration with the mainstream 
  • They also have all the needs — emotional, physical, spiritual, economic, social, intellectual, political — like other people
  • Social Empowerment ! — broad area of practice 
  • Constitutional Provision — ARTICLE 41 → Right to work, to education and to public assistance (old age, sick, disabled) 

Case Studies and Affirmative actions — disabled persons

  • Independence Day 2018 — special arrangements of sign language interpreter for the deaf children! Good work! #inclusive
  • e-dictionary developed by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre — to overcome the language barrier for hearing and speech impaired children.  
  • In Kolkata, Braille-enabled goddess idols became a centre of attraction for the blind people. 🙂 
  • ECI has under “Sugam Bharat, Shubham Nirvachan” has introduced braille compliant election slip for the blind population to vote easily  

Initiatives by the Government for disabled persons

  1. Reservations for the Divyang person in govt jobs raised from 3% → 4%
  2. Scholarship schemes to the students to pursue technical education. 
  3. Separate Dept at Ministry of Social Justice — Dept. for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities 
  4. Assistance to Disabled Persons — more autonomy and mobility  more social participation 
  5. Technology Development Projects in Mission Mode — developing assistive aids and equipments at affordable rates.
    • IITs | Research Divisions | Tech Advisory Groups 
  6. Accessible India Programme — social model of disability
  7. Persons with Disability Act, 2016
  8. Deendayal Disabled Rehab Schemes — multicomponent scheme
  9. ICT —
    • Mobile App with all the imp information — location of public utilities eg. ATMs, Banks, Malls, Toilets etc along with indicating how much disable-friendly the infra is.
    • Making TV more disabled-friendly — introducing more sign language programmes and news (starting with Doordarshan) 
    • Text-to-speech mode through screen reader programmes in government websites 
  10. Awareness Generation and Publicity — though media, print media and of course SOCIAL MEDIA | generate empathy 
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Implementation of Social Empowerment in levels — disabled persons

  1. @Individual Level — making the person more valuable in his own eyes and helping him to actively participate and aspire.
  2. @Family Level — where family gets guidance and support for social rehab of their family members with disability 
  3. @Community Level — where awareness programme can be conducted | Social Support from community + Govt policies  encouragement for the disabled person and an inclusive environment 
  4. @Social Policies Level at local and national level — an inclusive society | educational inclusivity | Socio-economic integration

Accessible India Campaign 

Social Model of Disability — Disability is caused by the way society is organised and not the person’s limitations and impairments.

  1. Sugyama Bharat Abhiyan to provide ease and dignity to our divyang sisters and brothers. 
  2. Make at least 50% of the Government Building in the National Capital and all State Capitals — ‘fully accessible’ for the divyang.
  3. Special camps for distribution of Aids and Assistive devices to 8 lakh persons with disabilities. 
  4. All the international and domestic airports of India to be made fully accessible to divyang — ramps, toilets, lifts, Braille symbols and auditory signals.

Right of Persons with Disabilities Act — 2016

The Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill (RPwDB) was one of the few bills passed in one of the least productive sessions of the Parliament. The bill presents several improvements over the existing 1995 law. The improvements over the 1995 law and limitations of the 2016 are discussed in this article.

Previous Law And Its Drawbackset

The previous legislation was the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. This law was inadequate as it treated disability as a medical model. The United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is more holistic. The Indian government ratified the convention, i.e. a tacit admission that the 1995 model needed to be upgraded. The RPwDB is more aligned to the UNCRPD than the 1995 law.

Salient Features And Improvements Over Previous Bill

New categories

The 2016 legislation covers 21 categories of disabilities compared to 7 in the 1995 legislation. These changes include:

  • Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability (for the first time)
  • Blood disorders (Thalassemia, Hemophilia and Sickle Cell disease)
  • Acid attack victims
  • Dwarfism and Muscular dystrophy (separate class of disability)

The central government can add three more types of disabilities, if required.

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Gender specific clauses

The current bill specifically deals with gender sensitivity in certain chapters like Health, Social Security, and others instead of having a general purpose chapter on gender specific issues. This reduces the vagueness when implementing the bill.

Inclusion of private sector

The 2014 Right to Persons with Disability Bill did not consider the private sector. The 2016 bill rectifies this by providing a definite period for all private sectors to make their organisations disability friendly. This can have wide ranging impacts especially in transport and accessibility in buildings.

All India Permit

The path to get disability entitlements is a lengthy one. For guardians of disability, this is complicated by practical difficulties such as transportation of the disabled person, waiting in queues etc.. Also the disability entitlements in one state are not transferable to another state meaning they will have to go through the whole process again.

The RPwD Bill mitigates this issue by ensuring all India’s validity for disability entitlements. This is achieved by the proposal for a “universal identity card for the disabled”, similar to an Aadhar card.


  • Higher educational institutes : 3% → 5%
  • Government Jobs: 3% → 4%
  • However the implementation is abysmal — >84% of the reserved seats remain vacant (National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled Persons data)

Right to free legal aid and Penal Provisions

  • The current bill specifies a two-year jail term and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against disabled persons.
  • Poor people suffer financially due to the additional costs in maintaining themselves such as medicine, difficulties in getting employment etc.
  • Also, the expensive legal process in our country deters them from seeking justice.
  • The provision of “Right to Free Legal Aid” and the above penal provisions in the law will ensure a better access to justice

Issues and Analysis

Guardianship Vs Person Liberty

Due to the varying degrees of disability, it is difficult to implement a universal solution for all types of disabilities. This is especially seen in the right of the disabled person to make his own choice vs guardianship.

The clause “ The appropriate Government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life and have the right to equal recognition everywhere as any other person before the law” guarantee personal choice for disabled persons just like ordinary persons.

However, persons with certain disabilities such as mental ones cannot be expected to have the same capacity to make judgements in their own interest. Hence there are other provisions that deal with providing guardianship to disabled persons.

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Defining the need for guardianship is specific to each particular case, and is thus out of the scope of the law. In this regard, the National Trust Act, 1999 (NTA) will be more useful. The scope of the NTA and its synchronicity with the RPwD bill will key in solving this issue.

The objectives of the National Trust in particular are :-

  • to enable and empower persons with disability to live as independently and as fully as possible within and as close to their community as possible;
  • to facilitate the realisation of equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation of persons with disability;
  • to extend support to its registered organisations to provide need based services; and
  • to evolve procedures for appointments of guardians and trustees for persons with disabilities.

Economic Capacity

The clause “appropriate Governments shall, within the limit of their economic capacity and development, formulate necessary schemes and programmes to safeguard and promote the rights of persons with disabilities for adequate standard of living, to enable them to live independently or in the community”- puts more focus on the government to do more than to just reserve jobs for disabled persons. However the term “economic capacity” is not clearly defined and is subjective. This can lead to differences in interpretation by different parties.

An objective stipulation of “the quantum of assistance to the persons with disabilities under such schemes and programmes shall be at least 25 % higher than the similar schemes applicable to others” being applicable for all poverty alleviation programs may be a step in the right direction. This is currently being pursued by activists.

Certificate Of Disability

The RPwDB does not define an timeframe for the implementation of the Certification of Disability to include the disabled persons who will fit in the new categories. This will result in disabled persons being stuck in administrative logjams and receive the entitlements they need.

Concluding Remarks

Disabled persons presently suffer discrimination on social and economic terms. The RPwDB is a step in the right direction in ensuring their potential can be maximised and thus overcome their difficulties.