Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harmonizing Disability Act with UNCRPD

'Disability Act should conform to UN model'
Ashish Sinha
New Delhi, September 8, 2009

Click here to read from source: India Today

On a day Taare Zameen Par won the national award for being the 'best family welfare entertainment film', Prime Minister Manmohan Singh authenticated the need for an attitudinal shift towards persons with disabilities.At a conference of state welfare ministers, Singh said India lagged in adopting the correct - human rights - approach on the subject. He said the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act, 1995 would be "comprehensively" amended to conform to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), enforced in May 2008. India is a UNCRPD signatory.

"I found in each one of them (persons with disabilities) a determination to live productive lives and make their individual contributions to society. We should give them every possible opportunity to do so. They need equal opportunities as equal citizens with special needs," he said.The UN convention redefines the old approach of viewing persons with disabilities as "objects" of charity, medical treatment and social protection.

The PWD Act, to a large extent, suffers from the same shortcoming with the state becoming the 'provider' - sometimes the 'facilitator' - for persons with disabilities. Experts said other legislations on the subject also suffer from the old mindset and rather than "comprehensive amendments", a new set of laws was necessary.The UN convention sees people with disabilities as "subjects" with rights, capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society.

"The PWD Act lists seven disabilities - blindness, low vision, leprosy- cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation and mental illness. The UN convention doesn't restrict the definition. It talks of higher support need as a matter of right," said Poonam Natarajan, chairperson of the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities.

"A person is not disabled; it is the environment that makes him so. Their legal capacity must be redefined.They should have full control over decision-making and choices," she said. The Prime Minister described persons with disabilities as those having "evolving capacities". After enforcement of the UN convention, the focus shifted to providing equal opportunities to persons with disabilities so that their potential could be harnessed.

"The medico-charity model needs to be dumped. Disability, simply, is diversity. It means the right to live with dignity and equal opportunities. The mindset of the administrative machinery, however, is no different from most of society where stigma is associated with disability," said a senior IAS officer working in the sector.

Last year, the government had announced an incentive scheme to promote employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector. The Prime Minister pointed out the scheme hadn't made much headway. " This may partly have been because of the economic slowdown. But as our economy is now emerging from its slowdown phase, I urge the corporate sector to respond handsomely in the implementation of the scheme," he said.
Courtesy: Mail Today

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