People with disabilities seek political partake, inclusion

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On International Day for People with Disabilities, or World Disability Day, on Monday, the city’s disabled community may have released blue-yellow balloons while “walking to freedom” with glee, but it was not without demanding inclusion and political participation within the larger society.

Gathered in the Delhi’s heart, the India Gate, hundreds of people with disabilities participated in the “Walk to Freedom” programme by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and the American India Foundation (AIF).

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari was the chief guest.

Speaking at the cross-disability event, NCPEDP (National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People) Executive Director Arman Ali gave a call for unification across the categories of disability, region and class.

“We don’t need wheelchair distribution, no substandard products and services. We want political participation, inclusive schools in the neighbourhood, we should have a choice as to where are kids will study. We must speak now for our future generations,” Ali said at the event.

“Unity is strength for us. We must think about the disabled in backward areas as well. The onus lies on us in Delhi as to how far can our voice and impact can reach. We have to understand the challenges within ourselves, and then demand rights,” he added.

The event followed the year’s theme — “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” — declared by the United Nations (UN), which focuses on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and pledges to “leave no one behind”. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The event also saw the launch of a manual on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016 that simplifies the provisions of the Act.

The new Act is often hailed as a momentous victory for the movement and promises much more to the community, including recognition of 21 categories of disability, as compared to seven categories previously of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The implementation of the RPWD Act, however, is often questioned. It formed the subject of a study on ground realities of the Act’s impact, the status report for which was also released during the event.

The report, jointly prepared by the NCPEDP and the National Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NCRPD), was unveiled at the event by Ankit Rajiv Jindal of the Disability Rights India Foundation.

Key highlights from the report include the “sad state of affairs” when its comes to implementation of the RPWD Act.

“Under the law, it was necessary to notify rules about its implementation within six months. 24 states responded, but over 58 per cent of them haven’t notified it even after two years,” Jindal said.

Almost half the states, he added, have not notified about state advisory boards required to be made under the Act. “The number is even more dismal for district level boards.”

The Act also specifies appointment of state Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities, however, as per the report highlights read out by Jindal, “37% states don’t have any such Commissioner, and out of many of the states which do, some don’t have them in a full-time role”.

His call for building strong institutions — pushing, partnering, participating — as per the Act among the public and private sectors, is one that is not just required for people with disabilities but for everyone in a society moving towards inclusivity.

As AIF India Director Mathew Joseph put it: “It’s not the job of the government alone, not even the NGOs, to foster inclusiveness. Inclusiveness is everyone’s responsibility.”

Energetic performances by students from the National Association of the Blind, Muskaan School and SNS Foundation also held the audience’s attention. There was also a show by wheelchair dancers.

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