The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD Act) is an important legislation in India that seeks to protect and promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. Read here to learn more about the act.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was enacted in 2016 and has replaced the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, of 1995.
The RPwD Act recognizes the evolving understanding of disability and the need for a more inclusive and rights-based approach.
The RPwD Act, like any legal framework, is only as effective as its implementation. Sensitization efforts are crucial to ensure that the Act is effectively enforced and that the rights and needs of persons with disabilities are recognized and respected by government functionaries and society at large.
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act
The Act provides an expanded and comprehensive definition of disabilities, covering a range of physical, mental, intellectual, and sensory impairments.
It recognizes 21 categories of disabilities, as opposed to the seven categories listed in the earlier legislation.
The Act covers the following specified disabilities:
- Physical Disability
(i) Locomotor Disability
- Leprosy Cured Person
- Cerebral Palsy
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Acid Attack Victims
(ii) Visual Impairment
- Low Vision
(iii) Hearing Impairment
- Hard of Hearing
(iv) Speech and Language Disability
- Intellectual Disability
(i) Specific Learning Disabilities
(ii) Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Mental Behaviour (Mental Illness)
- Disability caused due to
(i) Chronic Neurological Conditions such as
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
(ii) Blood Disorder-
- Multiple Disabilities
Other important provisions of the Act are-
- The Act mandates a reservation of not less than 4% in government jobs for persons with disabilities, as well as a 5% reservation in higher education institutions.
- This is in addition to the existing reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- The RPwD Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and ensures that they have equal access to education, employment, and other opportunities.
- It promotes a barrier-free environment and reasonable accommodation in workplaces and educational institutions.
The legislation calls for the establishment of a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and State Commissions to monitor the implementation of the Act and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
Significance of the RPwD Act
- Access to Justice: The Act recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities in the legal system. It mandates that courts be accessible and sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities. It also allows for the appointment of “guardians” to assist persons with disabilities in legal matters, where necessary.
- Protection against Abuse and Violence: The Act contains provisions to safeguard persons with disabilities from abuse and violence, whether at home or in institutional care. It establishes mechanisms to report and address cases of abuse.
- Access to Healthcare: The legislation ensures access to healthcare and medical services for persons with disabilities. It promotes research on disability-related issues and the development of assistive devices.
- Education: The Act advocates for inclusive education and the development of curricula and teaching materials that cater to the needs of students with disabilities. It encourages the training of special educators.
- Accessibility: The Act emphasizes the creation of accessible infrastructure, transportation, and information and communication technology. It mandates that government buildings and public spaces be made accessible.
- Social Inclusion: The Act promotes the social inclusion of persons with disabilities by providing opportunities for skill development, employment, and participation in community activities.
Other government initiatives for PwD
- The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999
- Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
- The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, 2006
Concerns with enactment of RPwD Act, 2016
While enacting disability rights law is a crucial step towards ensuring equal opportunities and non-discrimination for people with disabilities, it’s equally important to ensure that these laws are effectively implemented and that there is widespread awareness and sensitivity about disability issues.
- Awareness and Sensitization: Effective implementation requires a comprehensive awareness and sensitization campaign. This includes educating government functionaries, law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, educators, and the general public about the rights and needs of people with disabilities.
- Training Programs: Government functionaries, such as bureaucrats, police officers, and healthcare workers, should undergo training programs to understand the provisions of the disability rights law, as well as to develop sensitivity and empathy towards people with disabilities. This training can help ensure that these individuals are well-informed about disability issues and can provide the necessary support and services.
- Community Engagement: Sensitizing citizens, including employers, teachers, and neighbors, is essential to create an inclusive and supportive society. Disability awareness campaigns and community outreach programs can help break down stereotypes and misconceptions about disability.
- Accessibility and Infrastructure: The Act also mandates that public spaces and services should be accessible to people with disabilities. Ensuring such accessibility, along with sensitizing the authorities responsible for public infrastructure, is a critical part of the implementation process.
- Promoting Inclusive Education: The Act includes provisions for inclusive education. Schools and teachers should be sensitized to welcome children with disabilities into mainstream education and provide them with the necessary support.
- Advocacy and Civil Society Involvement: Disability rights organizations and civil society groups play a vital role in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. They can also conduct awareness and sensitization programs to ensure the effective implementation of the Act.
- Legal Aid and Support Services: The Act includes provisions for legal aid and support services for people with disabilities. Government agencies and NGOs should work together to provide these services and make people aware of their rights.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the Act are essential. Independent bodies should assess the progress and identify areas where further sensitization and awareness efforts are required.
Having comprehensive disability rights legislation is a crucial first step, but it must be complemented by sustained efforts to sensitize government functionaries, service providers, and the general public.
This is necessary to ensure that the rights and needs of persons with disabilities are recognized and respected and that they can fully participate in society on an equal basis. It’s an ongoing process that requires collaboration between government agencies, civil society, and the public at large.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act aims to bring about a paradigm shift in how society perceives and treats persons with disabilities.
It reflects India’s commitment to inclusivity and equality and is in line with international conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which India ratified in 2007.
The Act seeks to create a more inclusive and equitable society where persons with disabilities can live with dignity and enjoy their full rights and freedoms.
Previous year question
Q. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 remains only a legal document without intense sensitization of Government functionaries and citizens regarding disability. Comment. (Answer in 150 words) 10 marks (GS Paper 2, 2022)
-Article by Swathi Satish