Showing posts with label Disability discrimination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disability discrimination. Show all posts

Thursday, July 5, 2018

American Firm to pay $100,000 to Ashok Pai, an Indian-origin employee over Discrimination Lawsuit

New Delhi, 4th July 2018

Here is an important case law from USA wherein an American firm will end up paying $100,000 (One lac US Dollars) to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of an Indian-origin employee, the agency said on July 2. 

Federal contractor Camber Corporation was accused of violating federal law when it denied a transfer to employee Mr. Ashok Pai based on his son's medical condition and then fired him.  Such alleged behaviour violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the EEOC said in its suit. Besides a $100,000 award for lost wages, the two-year decree entered by U.S. District Court Judge Anthony J. Trenga to resolve the case includes injunctive relief to prevent disability and age discrimination from occurring at the company in the future.

According to the EEOC, Pai's son sustained serious injuries in a car accident as a child, due to which he has been disabled for more than 25 years. Pai sought a transfer to work nearer to where his son lived and requested leave to assist with his care. However, after the management learned that Pai was seeking a transfer to take care of his son, Camber classified him as "resigned," began processing termination paperwork and ultimately fired him for pretextual reasons, the EEOC said. Pai, who was then in his mid-60s, was subsequently replaced by someone over 20 years younger than him.

Camber Corporation is headquartered in Huntsville, Ala. The discrimination against Pai took place in Falls Church, Va., where he worked. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"When employers violate the law, the EEOC will hold them accountable. We are pleased that the parties were able to reach a resolution to better protect the rights of employees under federal law," EEOC regional attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement.

"The ADA not only prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities, it also bans discrimination against employees and applicants based on their association with a person with a disability - for good reasons," Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein said. "Mr. Pai simply asked for a transfer to help deal with his son's severe disability, and the company made a bad situation worse by punishing him for trying to do the right thing and showing age bias at the same time. The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people like Ashok Pai."

Other Media Reports:

1. NDTV 
3. The Telegraph

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Medical Board declares a teacher with 30% disability as medically unfit; denied Govt. job

Dear Colleagues,

We come across such cases pretty often as a result of biases & negative attitudes towards persons with disabilities & total lack of awareness about the legal provisions. This case is unique since the government or the medical board couldn't have declared the candidate as medically unfit for the post, even if she was visually disabled (exceeding 40% disability) since the post is also identified for persons with disabilities (visual impairment).

The visiting teacher has a 30% certified visual disability thus she is not a person with disability in terms of the Disabilities Act of 1995. The Act mandates a person with 40% disabilities to be eligible for the benefits / reservation available for persons with disabilities. 

In both cases whether the candidate has a visual disability of 40% or not, she couldn't have been rejected on the grounds of disability. The medical boards are woefully unaware of the enabling provisions of the disabilities Act and they mechanically declare candidates medical fit or unfit without even going in to the job requirements.

Here is the news from Times of India

Denied govt job, relief in sight for 25-yr-old
Ambika Pandit
New Delhi

Deemed Medically Unfit, Woman Secures Review

Her dream of becoming a teacher landed in jeopardy after the medical board of a government hospital declared her “medically unfit“. However, the Public Grievances Commission (PGC) and education department came to the rescue of the 25-year-old and sought a review of the medical report. She is likely to get the Delhi government school job soon.

The medical board rejected her due to a vision deficiency -absent left eye. The job aspirant has, however, been working as a guest teacher in a government school. The PGC and education department said that she has just about 30% sight deficiency in one eye. Moreover, the job for which she was selected was non-technical.

The woman has now been re-examined by a special medical board and her appointment by the state government is awaited. The effort by the education department and the PGC has opened a window of hope for others like her who may find themselves in the same position. Her father approached the PGC on May 24 after the joining order to the post of assistant teacher (primary) was not issued to her by the education department.

The first hearing was held by PGC in June. The education department filed a status report stating that the “candidate was declared medically unfit (absent left eye) by Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital in April, 2016. At present, appointment to the candidate cannot be given by the directorate of education.“

The woman gave a submission that she has 30% sight deficiency since birth and, as per rules, she is not entitled to the handicap certificate. She added that she had finished her entire education and passed examinations without any hindrances.As such, she should not be prevented from her entry into government service as school teacher. She also informed that she is working as a guest teacher with Delhi government and performing her duties perfectly.

Hearing the matter, PGC member N Dilip Kumar observed: “The complainant can study and attend classes and can do all work perfectly . Her eyesight deficiency is in no way affecting her teaching work. As such, relaxation should be given in the rule in respect of complainant.“

The commission advised the director of education to personally look into the matter and ensure that suitable amendment is made to the rules to benefit not only the complainant but also similarly placed candidates. On July 20, the directorate of education informed the commission that it had written to the chairman of the Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial hospital medical board stating that the candidate has requested for a review of the medical examination report.

“Chapter XIII states that if a candidate is declared medically unfit on account of visual acuity, an appeal should be dealt with by a special medical board, which should include three ophthalmologists. Ordinarily , the findings of the special medical board should be considered as final, but a second appeal shall be permissible in doubtful cases and under very special circumstances,“ it was observed.

The hospital examined her again and has submitted her fresh reports to the education department. The family now awaits the appointment letter that will set their daughter on the road to empowerment.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Armed Forces must respect Section 47 of Disabilities Act as a non-discrimination provision

Its an old article from Indian Express published on 15 Nov 2012, however, is very pertinent given a large number of soldiers being discriminated on ground due to acquired disabilities whether attributable to service or otherwise.

Its cruel to see that while a civilian government employee (with a contributory pension) is retained in service and paid his salary in full as a social protection, a soldier who dedicates his life in to the service of nation and ready to sacrifice it on call of duty (eligible for lifelong pension) is left to fend for himself without any social protection in case of acquired disability. This itself means a big discouragement to join the defence forces as a combatant  in comparison to a similar post as a civilian. 

Isn't this nullification of the provisions of Section 47 of the Persons with Disabilities and the spirit of Article 14 of Constitution of India? Its absurd since the section 47 comes under the chapter on Non-Discrimination in the Act! The defence minister must look in to it and consider retaining the provisions of Section 47 to encourage more young minds joining the defence forces at all levels.

Here  goes the article: 

Fighting for a fair deal

M.P. Anil Kumar : Thu Nov 15 2012, 02:54 hrs

The armed forces must do more for differently abled personnel

Generals Ian Cardozo, Pankaj Joshi and Vijay Oberoi are luminaries of the Indian army, for they attained that rank and served in the frontline toughing it out on prosthetic legs.

Soldiers, sailors and airmen, by the very nature of their occupation, are prone to physical injuries, the severest form being spinal cord injury. The conditions — paraplegia (paralysis waist down) and quadriplegia (paralysis neck down) — sentence the victim to lifelong wheelchair mobility.

Given the nature of the profession, the armed forces need to maintain a fit profile. However, not every soldier needs to be in the trenches; the organisation has to deploy a mini-army in the offices to oil the wheels. So, instead of sidelining hors de combat soldiers, they can be retrained for sedentary tasks and made useful cogs in the machine, especially in a computer-driven workplace.

While the norm in the armed forces was to out the spinal-cord-injured personnel, in the early 1990s, realising the worth of his experience and utility to the service, the air force reversed its policy and retained Wing Commander Ashok Limaye, a paraplegic. The army followed suit, thus setting in motion the employment and rehab of wheelchair-bound officers within the services itself.

Beginning with amputees, it expanded to embracing worse-off paraplegics, and this initiative came years before Parliament gave the differently abled community its first sniff of empowerment through the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

Section 47 of the disability act, its high-water mark, is an enabling measure that proactively protects the employment of differently abled government staff. In a nutshell, it states that any employee who acquires a disability during his service has to be retained in the rolls with full pay and other dues till the age of superannuation (pension thereafter), even if he cannot be accommodated in any post. He cannot be denied promotion on the ground of his disability.

One need not wade through the legalese to distil the spirit of this section, which is to enable persons with disabilities to remain employed, thus ensuring their sustenance and restoring their dignity and self-worth. From the vantage point of a paraplegic soldier, all the fizz of this act went flat with the issuance of a statutory notification (SN) via the gazette of 13 April 2002. By exercising the powers conferred by the proviso to section 47, the Union government exempted, prospectively, all categories of posts of combatants of the armed forces from the protective shield of section 47. Since fighting fettle is a requisite, this exclusion does look reasonable. But only on the surface.

While the differently abled civilian employee is looked after, the paraplegic soldier in the prime of life would be wheeled off to fend for himself and his family on peanuts packaged as a disability pension. The government consigns the paraplegic soldier to a far lower quality of life vis-à-vis the differently abled civilian employee. The SN therefore discriminates and does a grave wrong to those who risk life and limb in the line of duty. The irony is that section 47 is unfurled in the act under the rubric of “non-discrimination”. It would be a surprise if the SN was not found to fall afoul of Article 14 (right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law) of the Constitution.

If the government doesn’t rescind the SN to restore parity, then equality demands the enhancement of disability pension to match full emoluments . If not, one expects our lawmakers to restore equal rights among various differently abled employees when the new legislation to attune the disability act to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities comes up in Parliament. But that could mean a long wait.

While the army struck the right note in the beginning, and one presumed the inclusion of paraplegics had evolved into an imperative, it was inconsistent in absorbing even pre-SN paraplegics. A major invalided out in February 2002 had appealed against his expulsion. The Armed Forces Tribunal upheld his contention and reinstated him. The army, readying to challenge that order, indicated its reluctance to welcome paraplegics back to the fold.

The IAF has a history of compassion, but its test comes in the form of a flight cadet who sustained spinal injury while ejecting from a jet trainer last August. Then four months short of becoming an officer, this paraplegic lad wants to serve the IAF in any non-flying capacity. A change of branch and commission will mean setting a precedent. The lazy option is to throw the rulebook at him and bid him goodbye. That will be a waste of his training and cruel, to boot. Will the IAF choose to be a pioneer by commissioning him? By some coincidence, the navy too will be asked to take a call as for the first time, a wheelchair-bound officer has sought retention.

Perhaps Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who lays great store on fairness, can step in to tell the services to consider the spirit of the disability act to be their lodestar when called upon to decide the fate of a paraplegic soldier.

The writer was a fighter pilot in the IAF

Source: Indian Express

Monday, December 2, 2013

Physically Challenged Versus Logically Challenged

Dear Colleagues,

There is an inherent bias in the executive when it comes to giving equal opportunities to those living with disabilities in employment despite the tall claims on paper by the Government and harshest judgements from the Courts criticizing the executive and the government. Now whether it is born out of age old mis-beliefs, myths and resultant negative attitudes towards the disabled or an utter lack of awareness about the possibilities and potential of those living with disabilities - the result is insurmountable barriers for disabled people on every step of their lives.

A committee of High Court Judges decides that those with vision impairments and those with hearing and speech impairment can not function as Judges (Blind/deaf can't be judges, say govt and HC; PIL questions it, the Babus decide what a person with disabilities is capable of, without even knowing a, b, c of disability! And these decisions are taken in solo without involving those with disabilities or their organisations. 

We recently saw certain candidates with disabilities who passed the UPSC's Civil Services Examination way back in 2007 -08 continue to await allocation of posts! The principles of natural justice particularly in a democratic set up as ours, demand that an opportunity of being heard be given to those affected by the proposed action. This is amazing way of functioning displayed by the Indian bureaucracy where the bureaucrats and not the law decides whom they want to allow in their gang!

Section 32 and the List of Identified Jobs

The List of Identified Jobs for persons with disabilities which had been prepared by the Babus with some experts from field also on the panel has done more harm than good for persons with disabilities of this country.  The list has been used to deserving people out by State governments from several key posts. The successive committees of babus have not allowed the stakeholders to even know what was added or removed in the successive list of jobs published through gazettes. Each time a list of published, the earlier was removed from the website, without even explaining what new post(s) have been added or deleted from the list and the basis for the same! And this business of identified jobs has been in business since 1989 even before the disabilities Act came in to force.

The list doesn't seem to have applicability in all the states and union territories since so many states (read babus) have published their own selective lists of posts (read... unimportant posts) jobs, keeping the posts to the minimum that could be held by  persons with disabilities. Certain states and Ministries have been on an exemption seeking spree under the proviso of Section 33 of the Disabilities Act. For instance the post of Judge has been identified in the Central List whereas states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh seems to have taken regressive steps by obtaining exemptions of judicial posts from the purview of section 33 (reservation in favour of persons with disabilities particularly against the candidates with visual and hearing and speech disabilities.)  

3% reservation in promotion under Section 33 

Similarly, by twisting the interpretation of section 33, the Babus have for long denied the 3% reservation in promotional posts to employees with disabilities particularly in group A and B posts. 

Now the Mumbai High Court has dealt with the issue in a PIL filed by an NGO - National Confederation for Development of Disabled. The petition pointed out that the ratio of percentage of direct IAS to IAS by promotion or election was 67% : 33% in Maharashtra state at present. Thus effectively, out of 100 new posts, 67 were being filled by people who have been directly recruited in the IAS category and 33 posts were filled by state civil service officers.  Thus the reservation in 33% promotional posts was being denied to the disabled officers from State Civil Services (for the impugned executive orders provide for no reservation in promotion in Group A and B posts!).

In a remarkable judgement the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha has directed that the rule be applied to the promotion of officers, who were recruited through the disabled quota i.e.  now reservation would be applicable on all the 100 posts. 

Manner of computation of reservation under Section 33

The manner of arriving at or computing 3% reservation in various posts has not been spelled out in the Act. and thus in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 73 of the Act, the government (read babus) used their discretion to spell it out through executive orders (read DoPT Memos) thereby restricting the reservation benefits to the minimum particularly in Gp A and B posts.  

For Eg. Office Memorandum (OM) dated 29.12.2005, issued by the Department of Personnel & Training, inter alia provides a system for ensuring proper implementation of the provisions of the Act for the persons with disabilities, wherein the 3% reservation for the disabled persons was being computed by taking into account the total number of vacancies arising in Group C and D posts for being filled by direct recruitment in a recruitment year both in the identified and non-identified posts under the establishment. Similarly, all vacancies in promotion quota shall be taken into account while computing reservation in promotion in Group C and Group D posts. 

However, interestingly, when it came to Gp A and B posts, it was specifically restricted to be computed on the basis of vacancies occurring in direct recruitment quota in all the identified Group A posts in the establishment.

Justification to such a restriction given was that since the reservation for Group C and D posts is being calculated on the basis of the vacancies in identified as well as unidentified posts prior to the Act came into existence and in view of the provisions of Section 72 of the Act (Act to be in addition to and not in derogation of any other law), continued in the same way, however, reservation for Group A and B posts is  to be calculated on the basis of the vacancies for identified posts as per the provisions of the Act.

The court thus decided that the modus of computation of reservation on the basis of total number of vacancies (both inclusive of identified and unidentified) in the cadre strength will uniformly apply to Group A, B, C and D and not just Gp C and D). Supreme Court Judgement dated 08 October 2013 in Union of India  Versus National Federation of Blind (Civil Appeal 9096 of 2013) (click here for Judgement).

Accordingly, the DoPT had to issue a revision to its Memo dated 29.12.2005 (click here for a copy)

The way ahead

The tendency of the Government (read Babus) is to find ways to block the entry of the disabled into the mainstream of employment. This undeclared blockade has no direct link with abilities of persons with disabilities and indicates a greater malady that exists in our system. This can only be tackled by a sincere attempt to raise awareness of all government employees from the top order to the lowest about the capabilities of the disabled and also supporting employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodation and equal opportunities to work and prove their worth. At the same time, the executive has to be interpret the benevolent provisions of the Act so as to give effect to the will of the legislature and the mandate of international convention called UN CRPD. 

One out of box idea is to scrap the Identification List  and  the present system of effecting reservation on identified posts. Let all posts be open for persons with disabilities with only condition that each person showcases how he/she will perform the functions of that post. Those competing on merit be not adjusted against reserved vacancies (policy exists but seldom implemented thereby defeating the intent of legislature of minimum 3% reservation). The government on their part must provide reasonable accommodation and an enabling environment to the employees with disabilities. I am sure this will work out and we must give it a try.

Here are some stories on such undeclared blockade and court intervention that recently made headlines in Indian Express & Times of India.

Civils: Centre, state told to implement quota rules for disabled 

Aamir Khan, Indian Express, Mumbai, Thu Dec 05 2013, 11:58 hrs

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the state and Union governments to implement the rules of reservation for differently-abled candidates in civil services. The court also said the rules would apply during promotions.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by the National Confederation for Development of Disabled, stating that the People With Disabilities (PWD) Act was being violated. It sought the implementation of the rule, which provides 3 per cent reservation to disabled people in civil services recruitment. Directing the state and the Union government to implement the rule, the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha directed that the rule be applied to the promotion of officers, who were recruited through the disabled quota.

The petition said the ratio of percentage of direct IAS to IAS by promotion or election was 67%:33% in the state at present. "Therefore, out of 100 new posts, 67 are filled by people who have been directly recruited in the IAS category and 33 posts are filled by state civil service officers. As per the PWD Act, three per cent of the posts in the IAS are reserved for such class of people. Thus, reservation should be applicable to all the 100 posts," the petition stated. It also contended that the quota for PWD had not been filled for 15 years. According to the Constitution, the authorities are under obligation to apply the provisions of the PWD Act. Granting relief to the petitioners, the HC disposed of the petition.

Source: Indian Express

Disabled people clear UPSC, but wait for service allocation

Rema Nagarajan, TNN | Dec 2, 2013, 04.55 AM IST

MUMBAI: Several persons with disabilities (PWDs) who crack one of the toughest exams in the country and get selected for the civil services are routinely rejected with the government claiming there is no suitable service for them. 

Source: Times of India, 02nd Dec 2013
They are good enough to overcome their disability and get selected for the civil services after clearing two levels of exams and the interview, but the Department of Personnel and Training, the allocating authority, rejects them and cancels their candidature.
In the last two years alone, out of 67 such candidates who got selected, 11 are still waiting to be allocated services. Many selected PWDs are allocated lower services  than their ranking merits, on the plea that the nature of their disability prevents them doing the job in most services.

So how do babus sitting in offices decide what candidates with varying levels and kinds of disabilities are capable of? The answer lies in a totally arbitrary list called "list of services identified suitable for physically disabled category along with physical requirements and functional classification" published in the gazette. It lays down what service a successful candidate with disability can get. For instance, under the category of locomotor disability, if the disability affects both hands or arms, you can get into the most sought-after Indian Administrative Service (IAS) but you would not be eligible for any of the other 23 services.

Again, the Delhi Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police Service (DANIPS) is open to those with one leg affected or whose hearing is impaired. However, there is no place for people with these or any other disability in either the Pondicherry Police Service or the Indian Police Service (IPS). How different can the job be in different police services? In an age of economic crime and cybercrime, will the police service be limited to physical fitness or brawn and not brains?

All accounts services, the Indian P&T Accounts & Finance Service, Gr.A, Indian Civil Accounts Service, Gr. A and Indian Railway Accounts Service are open someone with one arm (OA) or one leg (OL) affected or with one arm and one leg affected (OAL) and to those with both legs affected (BL). However the Indian Audit & Accounts Service Gr. A alone is not open to persons with both legs affected. Why is only this accounts service not open to people with both legs affected? Nobody seems to know.

"My disability says both legs affected. But I use crutches and can do all jobs. However, most services are closed to me because some officials who have never met me decided that if both legs are affected, I must be immobile or unable to do most jobs. It is totally unfair. This identification of service has to be done away with. Let them select us, meet us, see what we can do and allocate us services accordingly and by our ranks," says a candidate who cleared the exam earlier but will be appearing again for the civil service exam on Monday, hopeful of getting in again through the 3% quota in all services for PWDs mandated by the Disability Act 1995.

The identification of service ought to be abolished as it is discriminatory under the Disability Act and under international conventions signed by India on ensuring equal rights to the disabled, pointed out yet another PWD. 

Officials in the DoPT did not comment despite several attempts to get their version."Frankly, I am appalled that nine years after this issue was first brought to light, it remains unresolved, that too, against the express orders and directions of the Prime Minister. If the country, the government and the prime minister's office in particular wish to demonstrate their true commitment towards protecting the rights of India's disabled citizens, they ought to resolve this issue once and for all," said Javed Abidi of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP). He added that in protest against such apathy, NCPEDP will not take part in the "charade" of celebrating World Disability Day on December 3 when "speeches would be delivered, advertisements issued, and some more false promises made".

News Source: Times of India

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Disability advocates prefer social media to highlight disability discrimination

Disabled make a point in social media to highlight inaccessibility in Australia

ONE afternoon last month Stella Young went to the Glenferrie Hotel in Hawthorn to have a beer with some friends. But she found the disabled bathroom stacked with cases of wine and it was impossible to get her wheelchair inside.

Earlier Ms Young had been told by staff that the toilet was out of order. Hotel manager Mark Henderson now admits that was a lie. The cases of wine from another hotel were put in the disabled bathroom by Mr Henderson's business partner, and had been there for 10 days.

''Look, it was a huge amount of stock and there was nowhere else to go,'' Mr Henderson said. ''I came in to find it here. I just took too long in getting it out.''

The episode is not uncommon. Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, who is blind, has had similar experiences. ''It's unlawful to discriminate against people on the grounds of their disability,'' Mr Innes said. ''If you have an accessible toilet and effectively block its use, then that is just the same as not providing one.''

Patricia Wilson runs excursions for the disability support service, Inclusion Melbourne. She said she stopped going to one council-run facility after it become too burdensome to clean away drug-injectors' blood in the disabled toilet.

Ms Young said she was frustrated with the Disability Discrimination Act, which requires a formal complaint, and now prefers social media. 

Stella Young  at the hotel  where the disabled toilet (inset) became a storeroom.
Stella Young at the hotel where the disabled toilet (inset) became a
storeroom. Photo Courtesy Angela Wylie  (
Rather than use the hotel's female toilets with the door open, which she said ''isn't very dignified'', she left, but not before tweeting an image of the crammed room, which has now been viewed almost 3000 times.

Ms Young, a comedian who edits the website Ramp Up, wrote two emails to hotel management, but it was only after she wrote on their Facebook page that she got a response.

''People with disabilities too often feel as though we don't belong in public spaces,'' she wrote. ''We'd really love your help in changing that.'' Four hours later the hotel wrote back, apologising for their ''blatant ignorance [and] rash, senseless and absent-minded decision-making''. The space has since been cleared.

Kelly Vincent is a member of the South Australian Legislative Council and uses a wheelchair for her cerebral palsy. She has seen disabled toilets used for storage at an Adelaide restaurant, and elsewhere to store furniture.

''Having an accessible toilet that is unusable is maybe worse than not having one at all because it sends the message to people with disabilities that it is just a symbolic cross to bear for these business owners,'' Ms Vincent said.

Source:  The Age(dot) com

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reality check of Accessiblity at Post Office: Lodi Road

Dear Friends,

Please refer to my earlier post - Post offices in Delhi are inaccessible but Department claims otherwise, incorporating media coverage on pathetic situation prevailing in the Post Offices of Delhi and the awareness level of the senior officials of the Department of Post on the Accessibility.

I had a reality check of accessibility status of the post office at Jor Bagh in the NDMC area which claims to be better off then most MCD controlled areas when it comes to accessibility in the public infrastructure.

The reality check /access audit  photos speak for themselves here:

Picture of the Lodi Road Post Office Signage
This Lodi Road Post Office is in a posh colony of South Delhi under
the New Delhi Municipal Council.

Picture of road side eatery blocking the pedestrian pathway
This protruding counter of this eatery on the pedestrian pathway
leading to the post office blocks the pedestrian movement 
Photo showing absence of kerb ramp on the pedestrian pathway leading to post office
The pedestrian pathway leading to the Post Office
doesn't have a kerb ramp or kerb cut. 

Photo showing decked up entrance with offers of 7% off on gold coins but access blocked by barriers
The Gate at the post office fails to welcome me. The barriers
and the huge kerb stare at me!

photo showing blocked access
These barriers purportedly placed to stop entry of vehicles also act
as barrier to my independent mobility, thereby nullifying the benefits
of the ramps provided!

photo showing ramp without handrails
From the entrance two slope ramps like a U are provided but
with no handrails or signage!

Ramp ends with a thud without and tactile indication. The ramp
edge is a trip hazard on both ends.

Similarly the other side of the ramp has no handrails  and
ends with an threshold which is a trip hazard.

Photo showing stepped entry to post office, high counters and use of granite flooring which is slippery
Entrance 1 is stepped and granite has been used in the post office
which makes it slippery and inaccessible to the visitors with disabilities.

Entrance 2 is also stepped with a similar pattern. The counter height
on both sides is inaccessible to those with disabilities and
caters to only standing persons.
When the reality check at the prominent areas under NDMC is so alarming what do we expect of the other post offices in Delhi, especially the ones in the areas served by MCD where the civil amenities are even more pathetic. This is in gross violation of the prevalent norms of barrier free environment.

Another reality check coming week in an area served by MCD !

SC Vashishth

Monday, October 29, 2012

Post Offices in Delhi are inaccessible but Deptt. claims otherwise

29 October 2012,

NEW DELHI: Gulmohar Park's post office exists in the basement of DDA market, down a flight of stairs in a structure with no ramps or lift. That, however, hasn't deterred the south division of the India Post from declaring it "barrier-free" in its reply to an RTI enquiry filed by Dr Satyendra Singh, professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences and doctor at GTB Hospital.

Singh, himself disabled, filed a query under RTI Act in July requesting information from the postal department on the levels of accessibility at Delhi post offices. The reply is worrying as many first-floor post offices have no lifts and many of those declared "barrier-free" have stairs leading to them.

South division claims 65 of their 67 post offices (including Gulmohar Park's), are "barrier-free". The ones at Chittaranjan Park and Kailash Colony, it admits, are on the first floor "without any facility of lift". South division also claims that "ramps have been constructed for free movement of wheelchairs" and "height of all the counters has been lowered for easy access".

West division, too, claims "all the post offices of this division are easily accessible and barrier-free". "The two post offices in Rajouri Garden are both on the ground floor. The one in Janta Market has a very high pavement in front of it and the one in the main market is on a narrow and potholed bylane frequently flooded by sewage water and is slippery. A visually-impaired person can't reach that one," says Singh. The postal department didn't reply to his queries immediately but responded only after a first appeal was filed.

Singh travels 10 kilometers to Vasundhara, Ghaziabad, to send a speed post as the post offices closer to home all are inaccessible. "We only have impairments, it's the society which makes us disabled," he says.

North division runs 81 post offices of which 14 are above ground-floor or occupy multiple-floors. As per the division's own admission, "there is no provision of lifts in any post office building". However, the division had written to the executive engineer, postal civil division, for providing assistance as per the Disability Act, in seven post offices (including Ashok Vihar, Civil Lines, Malka Ganj and Rohini Sector 7) first in January 2009 and again in July and September, 2010, "but the needful has not been done yet". Southwest division runs 60 post offices, mostly from rented buildings, and 46 of them don't have ramps for wheelchairs. None of the post offices in the southwest division are on the first floor.

In central division, four post offices are operating from first-floors, "without having the lift" or any "separate arrangement for the people with disability". East division, too, states that "no post office under this division is with the facility of lift" and "no facilities were provided" for people with disability on POs above ground-floor. They say that barring seven post offices (at Krishna Nagar, Azad Nagar, Old Seemapuri, Mayur Vihar, Shahdaramandi, Gandhi Nagar Bazar and GTB Hospital), the rest of their 62 offices are "accessible to all persons with disabilities". Apparently, the stairs (without even handrails) at the PO in Jhilmil Industrial Area are not a barrier.

In the first question, Singh had sought "accessibility status" and explained what he meant by adding parenthetically, "whether accessible/barrier-free or not to persons with disabilities". In reply to this query, the office of the director, General Post Office, informs, "The GPO is centrally located and it is, therefore, accessible for all".

4 November 2012

KOLKATA, 4 NOV: Dr Satendra Singh travels kilometres to post letters, even though there is a post office on the campus of the hospital where he works. “I don't like to tell people, you do this for me,” he said.

Dr Singh, who had polio which left him disabled, is an assistant professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi. He said he had sent many letters to the hospital superintendent to tell him that the on-campus post office couldn't be easily accessed by him, but didn't get a reply.

Starting to think about accessibility elsewhere also, Dr Singh said, “I decided I should know the status of all the post offices in the Capital of the nation.” A series of RTI responses show that many post offices in the Capital lack the facilities that would bring them in line with the country's obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said.

The Delhi East Division office's response listed seven of the post offices in their zone that are not accessible, for example. The Central Division said, “as per records no such facilities have been provided” in response to his request for details of “all the standard facilities for barrier-free access made available for the Persons with Disability.”

South Division officials said in their response that 65 of their 67 post offices  are “barrier-free”, but two ~ one at Chittaranjan Park and the other at Kailash Colony ~ are on the first floor “without any facility of lift”.

Dr Singh was also surprised that the only complaint about accessibility in post offices had, in fact, been filed by him.

“It is shocking. But I am not only blaming the post offices but also the community that they are just sitting there.” He said, in his opinion, this silence is a sign of real disability. “If somebody is not raising his voice, he is truly a disabled person.” If post offices were made accessible, it wouldn't only help the disabled, he said, but also senior citizens and young children.

Dr Singh was also concerned about the response from the Office of the Director of the General Post Office to the questions asking about the “accessible status” of the New Delhi General Post Office, and specifically “whether it is accessible/barrier-free or not to Persons with Disabilities (PwD)”.

“New Delhi GPO is centrally located, it is therefore accessible to all,” the response said. “They thought accessibility meant connectivity,” said Dr Singh.

“A person at a very senior post is not aware of the definition of accessibility, what about lower people...”.

Source: The Stateman

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Travel Another India: Indian Railways for people with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Its very scary for a wheelchair users to travel in Indian Railways despite their tall claims of providing facilities for disabled passengers. The railways is not run professionally, its like a cake / prize which is shared by the political party supporting the Government- thanks to coalition politics.

Railways is too slow in taking any steps and reason given is that it is too huge an organisation. Their conduct shows that they have been least interested in filling up the employment seats reserved for the disabled under the garb that disabled are a threat to security and safety if employed on several posts (which they term as technical or safety posts though there is nothing technical about many of them) until the high court of Delhi ordered them to do so on a petition by AICB.

Currently there is only lip service. There are few officers who are sincere and serious but the overall attitude and systems do not look geared up to think about accessibility as a priority issue! They do things because courts are directing them to do and there is no pro activeness on the part of Railways which is a sad thing.
That they take this issue up on priority, they need to be pushed hard through all means.

Here are some experiences from our dear friend Ms. Shivani Gupta on her travel in Indian Railways. Its scary and indicates all is not well there for disabled people. The answer as the sector feels is not special coaches for disabled but mainstreaming of disability concerns in the mainstream coaches on the basis of universal design so that persons with disabilities could travel with families and not in to secluded "so called coaches for disabled".

It was going to be a train trip for me soon after a long time. I was traveling to Puttaparthi by Karnataka Express for darshan of Sri Satya Sai Baba along with my father who is a staunch devotee.  For a number of people train travels were something to look forward to and enjoyable. In fact they were enjoyable for me to till I became severely disabled having to use a wheelchair. Since I became disabled I tried to avoid train travels as much as possible but considering that it was the most affordable means of travel I was forced to use it on occasions.

My father made the bookings well in advance. The railways gave a considerably large concession on the ticket for the disabled traveler and one escort traveling with them making the travel very cheap. We had heard about a ‘Handicapped Coach’ that the railways had introduced in every train. But it was an unreserved coach so a disabled passenger could not reserve it and as a matter of safety and convenience a disabled person would rarely travels unreserved, therefore this coach was useless for us as it still remains to be for most disabled travelers more at.. Travel Another India: Indian Railways for people with disabilities

Monday, March 19, 2012

Media has a larger role in breaking disability stereotypes

Dear Colleagues,

Here is an article on a workshop conducted by DLU (North East), Shishu Saroti, Guwahati
 on the role of Media vis-a-vis the Disability Sector"  published in The Sentinel. Several such initiatives are needed for most sectors since it is the wrong portrayal of persons with disabilities that reinforces the  age old prejudices and biases. 

Not because it is done intentionally but there is lack of awareness among the masses, the society, the media, the judiciary, the government babus, the medical and para-medical fraternity and above all the  family members of persons with disabilities and worst - persons with disabilities themselves!. Such eye-opening sessions are needed for every one and should be conducted more often in schools & colleges too!  

Media should adopt a rights-based approach rather than a charity approach while reporting about persons with disabilities. — Arman Ali

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 17: “People with disabilities are often perceived as different by normal people. They are also discriminated against. This is unfortunate and should not happen. Disabled people too have hopes and aspirations like normal people. They should not be made to feel as if they are different and should be given equal opportunity to move forward in life, like the rest,” said Shishu Sarothi executive director Arman Ali while addressing an orientation programme held in Guwahati today on the topic ‘Role of Media vis-a-vis the Disability Sector’. The programme was organized for mediapersons by the Disability Law Unit- Northeast, Shishu Sarothi.

Ali further said, “The families of disabled persons should accept them with their weaknesses and strengths. A proper environment should be created at home so that they can feel encouraged to pursue their dreams.” He added, “Unfortunately, the government is also not doing enough for the disabled people. It should make provisions for such persons.”
He called upon the media to adopt a rights-based approach rather than a charity approach while reporting about persons with disabilities.

Speaking at the programme, senior journalist Prabal Das said, “In India, even though social and humanitarian issues get written about in newspapers and magazines, the disability issue has not been highlighted much. Media should portray disability in such a way so as to help increase awareness throughout society about the realities faced by disabled persons, reduce stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices. Shishu Sarothi, which is building hope among the disabled people, should guide the media on how to portray the disability issue.”
Das lamented the fact that the Indian media usually highlights the disability issue during the Para Olympics.

Disability Law Unit-Northeast assistant project coordinator Amvalika Senapati said that as per the 2001 census, there were 5,30,300 disabled persons in Assam. As per the WHO report, 2011, there are 31,16,927 persons with disabilities in Assam.

She said, “Disability, whether mental or physical, does not disable a person. Discrimination, social stigma and poverty does. The media exerts a powerful influence on the way people with disabilities are perceived. It is important that persons with disabilities that they are portray realistically and that their disabilities are explained accurately.”

Examples of denial of right to education in respect of children with disability in the various districts of Assam, inaccessible public places and empathy of various authorities in implementing the laws and schemes in respect of persons with disabilities was highlighted by her. She highlighted how there were no provisions for disabled persons in railways stations and the ISBT.

During the programme, many points were highlighted. The media, it was said, should raise awareness about the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, bring discussion of disability into the public arena to challenge the idea of it as a taboo subject, promote policies, products and services that support full participation and development of disabled persons, avoid labels like ‘disability’ or ‘mental’ which have negative stereotypes or myths associated with them, allow persons with disabilities to speak for themselves, encourage and to expose common myths about disability.

Source: The Sentinel

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can a Blind or Visually Impaired Person work as a Judge / Magistrate ?

Dear Friends,

Blind as a judge? Often I face such questions when I raise the issue that why Visually Impaired lawyers and advocates and fresh law graduates are not being considered for the post of Judges. Is it a systemic apartheid or the apathy of the appointing authorities that they do not find blind to be competent to perform the functions of the Judge and take no measures to ensure that the backlog vacancies are cleared by appropriate methods?

Is there any legal or policy level impediment ?

Mind you, there is no impediment in appointment of a blind as a judge or magistrate or a munsif because firstly the post has been identified by Govt. of India, secondly, there is a reservation to the posts for the Blind too! Then why is it that despite passage of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full participation)Act 1995, Identification of the post of Judge for the blind in the first identification list by Min. of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India in 2001 and now the second identification list of jobs in early 2007, there has not been a single appointment on the posts of Judges? I am sure the 3% reservation for the Disabled (read 1% for VH) has remained unfilled all these years and it is almost 14 years now since the PWD Act came in to being. Why is it so?

Any role models ?

I don't say that we have had no role models as yet in India though not in recent times. I hope many of you remember Shri Sadhan Gupta, the Additional Advocate General in Kolkata who remained Advocate General for almost 7 years who was blind but that did not deter him perform his so important and sensitive job effectively nor did the Government think that he was not competent! There have been several examples world over- to name a few Dr. Hans Eugene Schulze from Germany who retired from judiciary a while back.  Recently Justice Zakeria Mohammed Zak Yacoob from South Africa became judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa despite his blindness and was recently in India advocating the rights of the Visually Impaired in the society and conducted many workshops organised by Disability Rights Initiative (Human Rights Law Network), India.

The reasons for not seeing Blind as Judges.

On one part I feel it is a failure of system which has made no efforts to sensitize the larger population about the abilities of the Visually Impaired in this era of technology and the power of screen reading softwares that has largely reduced the functional impact of visual disability among the trained blind brethren. I am amazed at the newer technology where use of tongue as an eye is being successfully explored!!

Secondly, the poor quality of education and lack of support in early and higher education is majorly responsible for not seeing many blind candidates passing the LLB exams and then appearing for judiciary tests. Even today, we have no trained teachers in Govt. Schools where visually impaired children are admitted in the name of inclusive education and they are merely passed and promoted to next grades without any effective learning. Schools run by NGOs are doing good work but have limitation of resources. A few run with Govt. Grants have many teaching posts vacant for past several years in Delhi alone. This needs immediate attention.

No access to technology and costly gadgets also increases the impact of disability on the students with blindness. The Government should provide computers and other assistive and enabling technology to the Blind to provide them equal opportunities.

Also, until recently, the Public Service commissions and High Courts did not accept blind as eligible candidates due to lack of awareness. I remember Registrar, Andhra Pradesh and PSC Jharkhand refused to provide any reservation to blind in the judiciary posts when we wrote to them to reserve seats for disabled including blind. I have their letters with me! And now I have learnt that there is an attempt on their part to keep the post of judge away from the blind.

In my view, it is the society (through disabling social infrastructure and rigid social mindsets) that disables the persons with disabilities and doesn't accept the competent candidates with disabilities due to age old biases and pre-conceived notions.

Some news to Cheer about - a New role Model!

However, now such ceilings are being broken and I am delighted at the success of Mr. T T Chakravarthy, a practicing lawyer aged 41 years from Vellore to have broken that ceiling, and setting up himself as a role model for several others who are preparing for the same. Congratulation Mr. Chakravarthy! The story is available at link: Tamil Nadu gets its first blind judical officerIn fact, when the case was pending in the court, very interesting arguments were put forward and a serious debate went on with questions such as what is a handicap? Referring to the half a dozen outstation judges, who were on transfer from other states, the lawyers argued that language was a barrier/handicap to those judges, and that they had to take the help of either a co-judge or the court staff for translation or interpretation! What if the blind judge uses the services of an assistant/scribe! The Bench asked as to how would the blind judge look into the eyes of the accused and assess the demeanour, the argument was that it was an old technique as "looks are deceptive now a days." The bench relented finally and allowed the petitioner to write the examinations.

Also there are favourable trends coming from the Courts of Law. February this year Madras High Court allowed Mr. B. Veerakumar, a blind advocate to write the PSC Examination for the Civil Judge. The detailed story could be read at link: HC to the rescue of blind lawyer.

Thus it would be seen that the change has started coming in the way the society perceives persons with disability. I feel it is all the more important that how people with disability particularly those with visual impairments think about themselves.

Reading between the lines

While it might be easier to say that a judge with visual impairment/blindness should be appointed, it should be kept in mind that posting such person even at his own merit on the posts to perform his duties without appropriate assistive devices and making available the necessary gadgets and technology is not going to help any one. On the contrary,  it would be a discouragement and a blow to the high spirits of the person with visual impairment as they may not be able to prove themselves in such a hostile environment. And then the competence of these candidates would be generalized to say that  blind persons are not effective in discharge of duties expected from a judge/magistrate hence they should not be appointed.  Also, if someone is able to somehow do well without government assistance (read- at his own cost), I fear such roles models might collapse under the high hopes that society has from them. The Media which is covering their success in Bold Letters on front pages today will soon highlight the failures too if such support of assistive devices and gadgets was not provided to enable them. This would be in simple terms " Reasonable Accommodation" which will provide them a "level playing field". Now this is their right in light of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities!

Secondly, acceptance and moral support from the seniors and subordinate staff is also needed to assimilate the new entrants in the system. Hence, efforts to sensitize the workforce, especially the assistants, clerks, stenos, other judicial officers, Orderlies should be taken up on priority within departments.

The Road Ahead

We need to overhaul the system that disables.
  • We have a ministry called Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India which itself seem to be overpowered with other issues plaguing it like issues of Minorities and Dalits and there is neither time nor expertise to do justice to the subject called disability despite some sensitivities. This calls for an urgent need to create a separate ministry for handling the issues related to the Disabled persons in India or at least a separate Independent Department.
  • The visually impaired candidates should be encouraged to take up law as a subject and supported in preparation for their Exams for entering judiciary the way Govt. provides coaching and other supports to the candidates from SC/ST to prepare for IAS and UPSC examinations. NGOs could be roped in for the purpose and Legal Services Authority could also play an active role.
  • A regular sensitization and awareness raising of the society at all levels and setting more role models from amongst the disabled should be first priority.
  • Followed by an affirmative action to implement the existing laws and policies.
  • Education, Skill Development and exposure to the latest technology to improve the functional capabilities should be the prime focus.
  • People with disability on their part should stop seeking doles and enhance their core competencies to be an equal member in economy.
  • The public infrastructure especially the courts, systems should be made accessible to people with disabilities.
How a Blind judge would perform better
  • Provide him Talking software and gadgets with a personal lap top.
  • The petitions, applications, written statements, replications/rejoinders, affidavit etc should be field in e-format also along with hard copies.
  • All evidential documents/ photocopies, even if legible should be compulsorily submitted in typed in double spacing and e-format. This is already being done in High Courts and Supreme Court as the judges are elderly and have low eye-sights!!
  • All documents in regional languages can also be either translated in English or Hindi and placed before the judge in print and E-format - as is done in High Courts already!
  • The Legal Library attached to the Courts should have e-text version of all the legal books and reference books which the Judge can refer to.
  • Similarly Case laws, digests, AIR etc are now a days available in CDs and can be made available to the judges.
What is needed is an open mind and then every thing is possible! I am looking forward to days when such a system is put in place and we see Judges with Visual Impairments and other disabilities performing their functions efficiently without any barrier - attitudinal, social, physical or technological!

Warm regards
Subahsh Chandra Vashishth
Advocate,  Consultant-Disability Rights