Showing posts with label Persons with Disabilities Act. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Persons with Disabilities Act. Show all posts

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Activists term disability bill a 'skeptical Act'

Manash Pratim Gohain | TNN | Updated: Dec 16, 2016, 22:23 IST

NEW DELHI: Even as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016 got the approval of Lok Sabha on Friday and Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, disability rights' groups and activists punched holes into the new Act on Friday. While welcoming the passing of the bill, the process which started in 2007, they say that many provisions of the bill will "inculcate exclusion," and that "this Act will be more of obstacles rather than implementation." Activists are also concerned with the bill not specifying any provisions for women and children with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable groups of the society.

Concerned over the passing of the bill without any discussion in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, Sambhavana Organization, a disability rights' NGO said that due to this "the Bill has been passed with many inadequacies and unresolved issues," many of which they claim were part of the previous draft bills "which have been omitted or diluted in the present one."

"We feel happy with the passing of the Bill, but are concerned over the fact that there has been no discussion on it in the Rajya Sabha. This means the issue of disability is not a priority for the policy makers," said Nikhil Jain, president, Sambhavana.

While the categories of disabilities have increased threefold, from seven to 21, the amended bill provides only 4% reservation for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) which has been 3% so far. The rights' groups and activists were demanding retention of at least 5%. "Reservation in jobs, once proposed to be enhanced from 3% (1995 Act) to 5% (2014), has now been restricted to 4%," said disability right's activist, Dr Satendra Singh.

Stating that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India is a signatory envisage "no policies without the PwDs in its ambit," Pankaj Sinha, a disability rights activist said that the rights of the disabled have been curtailed by the new Bill.

"The amendments have been in waiting since 2007 and drafts of many committees rejected. The previous government also tried to pass an ordinance after the Sudha Kaul committee report was not accepted. The present government without putting the draft in public domain passed it," said Sinha.
Stating that the Bill leaves a lot of lacunas for violators to get scot free, activists said that need of the hour has been more teeth for punitive action. "Another amendment drops imprisonment (two months to six months) for violation. There is only a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 5 lakh," added Singh.

Another major concern has been regarding the rights of women and children with disabilities. "There is a special mention about rights of women and children with disabilities, but nothing specific has been stated. There is no legal provision for women with disabilities in marriage or divorce laws, where we need more clarity because they suffer the most. As far as children with disabilities are concerned there is also a special mention, but we need to clarity on how they are treated in institutions and inclusive education for them. In adoption laws too children with disabilities are left out. We need more specific provisions regarding adoption of children with disabilities," said Abha Khetarpal, president, Cross for Hurdles.

Subhash Chandra Vashishth, advocate, disability rights, Centre for Accessibility in Built Environment, also highlighted the dilution in the amendments such as how Section 3 (3) allows "discrimination against disabled person if it is 'a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.' This clause leaves 'legitimate aim' open to the subjective interpretation of bureaucracy.

According to Singh, "Only remarkable part of a skeptical Act is inclusion of autism, dyslexia, deaf-blindness and other impairments."

The Blind Workers Union too claimed that the main problems faced by the disabled community have not been addressed. The union in a statement said, "The Bill continues to lack any serious engagement on the question of protecting the labour and economic rights of disabled persons employed in the private sector."

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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Scheme of Railway Photo Identity Card for online concessional ticket booking for Persons with Disabilities

Dear friends,

As you all are aware, the Indian Railways is implementing  a scheme of Photo Identity Cards to persons with disabilities to enable them to avail concessions in train tickets in a hassle-free manner. Earlier it was being tested as a pilot project only in Northern Region, however, now the Railways has decided to replicate it throughout nation.

Here is the notification by Indian Railways : Concession based ticketing for PH based on Photo I-Card

The photo I-card can be used to book concessional tickets through both ticket counters as well as through the Internet. The card with a unique ID number will have to be carried during journey and produced for onboard verification.

Till now, a person with disabilities used to fill the concession form and produce all relevant documents at the ticket reservation counter to avail the concession in train tickets and there were several complaints from stakeholders who were demanding a hassle-free system.

In the new system, persons with disabilities will have to approach the nearest Divisional Railway Manager office along with all the relevant documents in original claiming concession and passport size photograph for issuing photo identity card. The persons with disabilities will also be required to provide a mobile number for communication while applying for the card, said a senior official.

After due verification by the concerned zonal railways, a photo identity card will be printed containing a unique ID. An automated SMS will be sent to the passenger on given mobile number to collect the card showing the original concession certificate.

After getting the card, the person is not required to fill any concessional form to avail the facility at the counter. Tickets can also be booked on the internet using the ID number printed on the card. The validity of the card will be for five years or the last date up to which concession certificate is valid.

For obtaining the Rail Identify Card for persons with disabilities for online reservation on IRCTC website, following documents are required to be submitted to the nearest DRM Office :-

(a) Written application requesting the ID card for online ticket booking through IRCTC  (Click here for a copy of the application )
(b) Copies of medical board certificate,
(c) Latest concession certificate,
(d) Mark list of Class 10 showing date of birth or other valid proof for date of birth
(e) Aadhar card or election ID for Proof of Address
(f) 3 Passport size photographs

Monday, December 29, 2014

An article by Avinash Shahi on the successful stint of CCPD Mr. PK Pincha

A CCPD to be emulated

- by  Avinash Shahi
Shri Prasanna Kumar Pincha, whose two year stint as the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) ended on December 27 2014, has left an indelible ink on the disability movement in the country. The CCPD is appointed by the Government of India as per the Section 57 of the Persons with Disability Act, 1995. Being totally blind by birth, his visionary intent and foresightedness is palpable in his groundbreaking judgments
In February 2013, His Office issued the comprehensive uniform guidelines for conducting examinations for persons with disabilities. This Office Memorandum is hailed as pathbreaking judgment by any CCPD since the establishment of the office in 2001. Stories abound that Students with disabilities are often discriminated in the entrance examinations by the exam conducting authorities. 26 February 2013 judgment is a big step forward towards putting an end to such humiliation. As a result of that ruling, the Kerala High Court directed the University Grants Commission to provide NET exam question papers in Braill to all print-disabled examinees. Following that order, UGC has been providing question papers in Braille since June 2014.
His Office also took suo-motu notice against the ministry (MSJE) under which it operates. Mr Pincha summoned MSJE official for not reviewing the list of identified posts as stipulated under the section 32 of the PWD Act. Section 32 of the PWD calls upon the State to review/update the list of identified posts after every 3 years. In the order delivered on 23 November 2012, He directed the Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment to notify the updated list of identified posts and comply within one month. Consequently, the government of India published the newly updated list in early 2013.
In the whole of February this year, disability rights activists staged a successful countrywide movement. It aimed to prevent the passage of anti-disabled RPD Bill which government of that time seemed adamant to legislate in haste without discussion. Delhi Police even batoned peaceful protesters which attracted strong condemnation from the CCPD. Unexpectedly, when the last parliament session of the UPA II government got over, it again stepped-up its efforts to bring RPD Bill through an ordinance. When the ordinance route seemed imminent, Mr Pincha, went out of the box and wrote a letter to the prime minister expressing his reservation against the unconstitutional ordinance. His avowed commitment towards ensuring non-discrimination and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities was evident from the letter which he wrote to the former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Mr Pincha’s pioneering legacy of disability advocacy is a solid Launchpad which needs to be strengthened by the prospective CCPD. During his tenure he has galvanized the recently established department of Disability Affairs’ which is responsible for dispersing funds and overseeing its actual implementation. His unblemished track record and unflinching commitment towards espousing the rights of persons with disabilities should serve as the eye-opener for the government. And next CCPD should also be appointed who is a person with disability of high repute.
Source: icareinfo(dot)in 

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mutiple hurdles for disabled wanting to enter medicine

Chennai, September 02, 2013

Applications for direct recruitment in Tamil Nadu this year have no reference to three per cent quota — a mandate stipulated by the health of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.

The health of the Persons with Disability Act, 1995, in its implementation, is in need of resuscitation. Most in distress is the non-implementation of reservation quota guaranteed by the Act in the medical services sector.

Source: The Hindu
Section 33 of the Act mandates a three per cent reservation for the disabled in all government jobs. While two categories of disabled persons that usually can take advantage of this reservation are automatically excluded from joining medical services - visual and hearing impaired persons - those with disabilities in the lower limbs are allowed to qualify as medical professionals.

Technically, they should be allotted the three percent seats while the State hires doctors for its medical services.

All this is fine, in theory. While a Government Order in 2005 identified 117 posts that were reserved for the disabled; in 2013, an additional 170 posts were identified under the Tamil Nadu Medical Service, Tamil Nadu Subordinate Medical Service, Tamil Nadu Public Health Service and Tamil Nadu Public Health Subordinate Service. These include the posts of Assistant Surgeon in the specialties of physiology, radiology, radiotherapy, Siddha, Ayurveda, Unani, speech therapist, dietician, and health officer. However, implementation is quite another issue.

Earlier this year, the Differently Abled Welfare Department Secretary wrote to the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Recruitment Board (MSRB), making these points. He was writing to point out that despite these orders, MSRB’s communication of March 2013 calling for applications for direct recruitment had no reference to the disability reservation quota.

“The MSRB specifies even the percentage of disability, and the posts reserved on its website, but does it become invisible to the Board when it comes to actual recruitment?” asks S. Namburajan, State secretary, Tamil Nadu for the Rights of all Types of Differently Able and Caregivers (TARATDAC).

TARATDAC has written to the Chief Minister to intervene in the issue and ensure that the three percent rule of reservation is implemented in the medical services recruitment in Tamil Nadu.

It has also asked for a status report on the actual percentage of disabled persons hired in medical services recruitment in the State.

But reservation is just one aspect that is being raised by differently abled medical practitioners. There is also a further aspect of discrimination that doctors are alleging. A disabled doctor who applies for the reserved posts must appear in front of a medical board which will certify that the handicap will not affect his or her performance on the job, in order to be appointed.

A senior government medical doctor who is disabled says, on condition of anonymity, “Already, only those with lower limb disabilities (up to a certain percentage) are allowed to even take up the MBBS course. To gain admission, they have to appear in front of a medical board which will certify the candidate based on disability norms specified by the Medical Council of India. Only if this certificate is given can a student even take up medicine.”

He argues that once they undergo this test, they should only be judged on their professional skills and not be subjected to further “humiliation” by appearing in front of another medical board to certify physical fitness with reference to disability, over and above what other candidates are subject to.

“The government must do away with the second appearance before the medical board for disabled persons; it is quite unnecessary. It was tough when I was forced to go through the process,” says a lady doctor serving in the districts currently.

Health officials said that the department would definitely examine the request, and try to work towards a discrimination-free recruitment process.

Source: The Hindu

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Realising the dream of Barrier Free enviornment in Public Spaces

Dear Colleagues,

Its over one and a half decade when The Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act was passed in India with specific mandate under sections 44 and 46 that stipulated barrier-free accessibility for the disabled at public buildings. However, the sad story is that it is not in the priorities of the State Governments still to make their offices accessible. With impunity access to even social welfare sections/ pension sections/ public dealing offices continues to be through staircases rather than lifts/ ramps. In fact the entire office complex is supposed to be accessible if section 33 of the Act mandating 3% reservations in the jobs is to be respected and complied with in its true sense.

There exist guidelines from the office of Chief commissioner Disabilities titled "Plannning a Barrier Free Environment", CPWD's "Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Freeenvironment for Disabled and Elderly Persons" and also Model Building Bye-laws  of Town and Country Planning Organization (Min. of UD) incorporated by most of the states to ensure accessibility in the public places/buildings.  The National Building Code 2005 and its earlier versions mandated accessibility and barrier free environment in the public buildings. However, the government offices especially in the States continue to defy the norms.

To facilitate easy implementation and remove bottlenecks of funding, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has been giving project based funds to make public places accessible to the states/agencies. However, the states either seem to have not shown interest in this or are little too slow on acting on the funding scheme available.

Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India which is the nodal ministry to ensure a barrier free environment had started this initiative by getting the access audits done through competent agencies for the union government buildings in Delhi and in other major cities and also the satellite towns. The next phase of implementation of the access audit reports is in progress in the Capital and several states. 

For implementation of Section 46 of the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, the State Governments have nominated an official in each district (designated as Access Officers/ Inspectors  )for bringing cases of non-compliance to the notice of the concerned authorities in addition to the office of State Commissioner- Disabilities whose mandate is to see the implementation of the said act.  It has been found that often the nominated official/Access officer has no knowledge of the barrier free environment. Often their powers/scope of duties is not properly indicated and it is either just an additional charge given to them.

The State governments- barring a few like Goa etc - have not taken sincere initiatives to ensure accessibility in their buildings and public services- which also include access to information. Most websites of the state governments and even some union ministries continue to be inaccessible for the visually impaired users and those with mental challenges. 

This calls for alternate remedies and a strict and time bound implementation of the mandate. The Chief Commissioner - Disabilities at the Centre has been very pro-active in issuing notices to the Government departments, universities, post offices and banks etc to ensure their buildings and services accessible. However, the State commissioners have been little lethargic on this front.

Suggested measures

(a) State Commissioners should on their own motion or on receipt of complaint/ information take immediate action to ensure that the flouting department provides accessibility in a time bound manner. More stakeholders should approach the State Commissioners for persons with disabilities, a list of which is available at link : STATE COMMISSIONERS-DISABILITIES. On how to write a complaint/grievance visit link: Writing a Petition for your Grievance.

(b) State Governments should be directed to provide a dedicated office of the nominated official in each district called as "Access Officers/ Access Inspectors" and provide their coordinates on the State Government Website/ District Collector's website with phone numbers, email ids, FAX etc. These access officers/inspectors should be provided sufficient staff at block level/ panchayats who should inspect the existing buildings to ensure they are accessible. Their duty should also involve giving recommendations on the building plans of the new buildings. The Access officers should either give their nod/or reject with reasons within a fixed time period. No buildings should be allowed to be built without a clearance from the access officer. 

(c) More NGOs/ user groups, stakeholders, family members should be encouraged to bring the cases of inaccessible public buildings to the notice of access officers/disability commissioners.

(d) The Access Officers/ Commissioner- Disabilities should be trained and sensitized on creation of barrier free environment. All new joinees on these posts should undergo the sensitization.

(e) If the state has not adopted the model building bye-laws, the existing guidelines by the Union Government/ Chief Commissioner - Disabilities should prevail in such cases.

With these measures, I am sure we can achieve much more than just sitting and criticizing the non-implementation of the PWD Act 1995.  

Here is one news report from Jharkhand published in The Telegraph talking about inaccessibility of the Collector's office, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. 

Built on crippled common sense

- Collectorate degrades disability act with staircases

Visually impaired Sonali Pal (35) from Uliyan Kadma nearly fell on December 22, 2012, on the staircase of the first floor of the district collectorate while going to submit a memorandum of protest against the Delhi bus rape before East Singhbhum deputy commissioner (DC) Himani Pande

When orthopaedically challenged Deepak Kumar Srivastava (31), secretary of Jharkhand Viklang Sansthan, has to meet officials such as deputy development commissioner (DDC) Dadan Choubey in the course of his work, he climbs steep stairs using crutches to reach the first floor of the district collectorate

On an average, around 10 disabled persons who visit the East Singhbhum district collectorate office a day, know what it is like to feel like second-class citizens.
The three-storey (G+2) collectorate building in Sakchi, Jamshedpur, does not offer accessibility to the disabled.

Even though the structure came up in 2003, eight years after Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act with sections 44 and 46 that stipulated barrier-free accessibility for the disabled at public buildings, staircases and not ramps were the only links between floors.

According to conservative estimates of a Jharkhand Viklang Manch survey, nearly six per cent of the total 22-lakh-plus population of East Singhbhum district comprises the disabled.
It appears a sizeable population of 1.32 lakh can’t access their own district collectorate without feeling humiliated and risking a fall.

Most senior bureaucrats, including DC Himani Pande, additional deputy commissioner Ganesh Prasad, additional district magistrate (law and order) Ajay Shanker, DDC Dadan Choubey, executive magistrate Sunil Kumar and others, have offices at the district collectorate.

These apart, important departments including social welfare, DRDA, welfare, district information office and nazarat deputy commissioner office are also located in the same building.

Manch president Arun Kumar Singh said they had submitted petitions to all deputy commissioners from 2006 onwards, protested twice in front of the district collectorate and written to former state commissioner (disability) Satish Chandra, but nothing happened.

“It seems our plight does not bother bureaucrats. Mounting stairs is a risk. Plus, it is a time-consuming and painful process. But there’s no way out at the district collectorate,” said Singh.

Former state commissioner (disability) Chandra — the post is vacant since December 2012 — admitted to receiving petitions from the disabled in Jamshedpur.

“I had taken up the issue of barrier-free accessibility. But nothing has been done so far,” Chandra said.

State social welfare director Krishna Prasad Dev Sahu agreed the problem was serious. “When a new commissioner (disability) is appointed, he will be entrusted with the task of ensuring that the disabled can access the district collectorate with ease,” said Sahu.

On being prodded, deputy commissioner Pande claimed they had asked the executive engineer of building construction department to prepare a blueprint for a ramp and guidelines tiles on staircases for visually challenged.

“We are planning these things. We will look into it,” she said without giving a deadline.

Source: The Telegraph

Monday, March 4, 2013

Concerns arising out of Rail Budget 2013 for Persons with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Recent railway budget speech of the railway minister announced the following for the benefit of persons with disabilities:

"India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the rights of the disabled. We are conscious of our responsibility under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To facilitate the boarding of trains and exit from the stations for the differently-abled and the elderly, the steps proposed include provision of 179 escalators and 400 lifts at A-1 and other major stations, affixing Braille stickers indicating the layout of coaches including toilets, provision of wheel chairs and battery operated vehicles at more stations and making coaches wheel-chair friendly.

In order to provide an employment avenue to the disabled people, I propose to reserve a specified number of JTBS for them, keeping in view the fact that the PCOs at stations have become largely redundant after the mobile revolution in India".

Concerted efforts to fill up approximately 1.52 lakh vacancies this year. It is a measure of popularity of railways as an employer that a staggering 2.2 crore applications were received. For the first time, Railway recruitment examinations were held at more than 60 cities across the country. In the process, a backlog of about 47,000 vacancies earmarked for weaker sections and physically challenged is likely to get cleared".

PIB has published the budget highlights that are available in PDF at link: Rail Budget 2013 highlights.

Critical Review of Rail Budget 2013

Here is a the para - wise critical review of the rail budget 2013 from the perspective of the disability sector and the mandate of UNCRPD and the spirit of Disability Act::

(a)       Passenger Amenities:  The paragraph does not mention the amenities will be made inclusive and follow universal design standards to be accessible and friendly to everyone irrespective of abilities. Persons with reduced mobility have been facing infrastructural barriers in the community for a long time. The railways must declare and budget for making its rolling stock as well as platforms and services accessible and barrier free based on universal design. Currently the effort is just to make a small exclusive section accessible which actually excludes people from the mainstream and renders them vulnerable.  While A-1 and major stations have been proposed to be made accessible by lifts and escalators, we strongly suggest you to include sustainable non-dynamic features like ramped access to foot-over bridges at all the Railways stations to provide connectivity to all the platforms (as provided on Agra Railway Station and few others). This makes it easier for passengers with heavy luggage, those travelling with elderly members and children and for women.   Similarly, the concern of platform to train compartment transfer is still unaddressed. Even the so called disabled friendly coach has four steps to access it hence it remains inaccessible to disabled people. It is pertinent to mention here that the philosophy of Universal Design has been specially included in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) that you have so kindly referred to in the Budget speech.

(b)      IT enabled services: The paragraph is silent on the web accessibility standards requirement, online booking allowing booking concessional tickets by passengers with disabilities and other listed services inclusive. This is despite the fact the UNCRPD specifically refers to making all the Web services accessible and Govt of India has already mandated WCAG 2.0 level for websites. The online system continues to ignore passengers with disabilities.  (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(c)       Ticket Reservation: The paragraph doesn’t mention about accessible e-ticketing facility even while talking about the enhancing the speed and capacity of the system. Declaring and clarifying the same would be in line with the mandate of the UNCRPD that India stands committed to. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(d)      Catering:  The toll free number for complaint doesn’t address the needs of persons with hearing impairment/ Deaf passengers who primarily depend on the text SMS for filing any complaint. It is requested to consider SMS based complaints also to make it inclusive to deaf passengers. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(e)       Rail Tourism: This section doesn’t mention about accessibility while the designing the executive lounge at Delhi. Similarly regarding the trains, it says "The train will be made attractive and affordable through concessional fares", without any mention of their being accessible based on universal design so that everyone irrespective of disabilities can enjoy the use the lounge and train services. It would be pertinent to mention that accessibility will promote rail tourism also among a large number of international travelers with disabilities, elderly travelers and their families who have been, so far getting discouraged due to lack of accessible tourism options in the Country. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility & Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport)

(f)       Staff: Our experience indicates that the amenities such as quarters and hostels etc continue to be designed without keeping the needs of the diversity of employees. Railway being the largest public sector employer, it would be in the fitness of things that staff amenities such as the quarters and hostel are made barrier free based on universal design and that the ministry makes a special mention about it in its formal communications. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(g)      Skill Development:  This section must include marginalized groups and persons with disabilities to bring them to the mainstream so as to realize the mandate of the UNCRPD. (UNCRPD Article 24 Education & Article 27 Work & Employment)

(h)      Rail Heritage: The plan to revamp the museum for the benefit of children is a welcome step. Currently, there are lots of accessibility issues from the perspectives of children with visual, mental and physical disabilities and it should be confirmed that the whole revamp would be done in consultation with the involvement of stakeholders so that the museum is based on best international standards and inclusive to every child irrespective of his abilities. (UNCRPD Article 9 Accessibility & Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Inexperienced Bureaucrats as Disability Commissioners - is against the spirit of Disabilities Act

Dear colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier post "We need independent Commissioners for Disabilities....". This has been a long standing demand that the posts of State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities should be filled by  persons with knowledge of disability rehabilitation and at least 10 years standing in the sector working on disability rights. However,  it is little sad to say that the Govt. of Delhi has, in order to accommodate a retired bureaucrat with absolutely no direct experience in disability rehabilitation, tweaked the rules just a month back and now the said person has been appointed rejecting over 11 eligible applicants for the post.

This is an uncalled for situation and these posts should not become accommodating posts for retired bureaucrats faithful to the Government. We need sensitive & experienced people to handle these posts. These amendments are against the very spirit of the Persons with Disabilities Act.

Here is the news coverage from The Hindu

Well-known names from disability sector rejected; criteria changed a month before appointment.

Just a month prior to the appointment of former Municipal Commissioner K. S. Mehra as Commissioner (Persons with Disabilities), the Delhi Government had amended the rules for appointing a bureaucrat to the post. While 12 applications were received, the panel headed by then State Chief Secretary had “unanimously recommended” the name of the lone bureaucrat on it.

The preference given to the bureaucrat has raised many eyebrows as among those who had applied for the post were well known names from the social and disability sector.

The “justification/reason” on the part of the Delhi Government was that “the post of Commissioner (Disabilities) is a quasi-judicial post. Mainly two jobs are done by the Commissioner – to hear grievances, which is a quasi-judicial work; and monitoring the work of the State Government, which is the statutory part. Both these jobs do not require high level specialised knowledge in disability”.

The details about the changes brought about to facilitate Mr. Mehra’s appointment have come through a Right to Information application filed by a non-government organisation, Pratidhi.

Raj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi said: “While the RTI application was filed when the process of selection was on (and as we came to know that the exercise of amending rules to accommodate bureaucrats was on), the file was not shown till Mr. Mehra’s appointment was notified.”

It has been revealed that among the applicants to the post was a head in the Department of Psychology at a Rohtak college; a Joint Director (Technical) in the Department of Women and Child Development; an anganwadi worker, and audiologist and speech pathologist; a legal adviser, a senior registrar from a Mumbai university; a social worker, a counsellor cum special educator, a rehabilitation social worker and an associate professor of Delhi University.

In response to its query, the Delhi Government stated that the meeting of the Selection Committee for selection of Commissioner (Persons with Disabilities) was held under the chairmanship of the Delhi Chief Secretary on November 9, 2012.

As per the minutes of the meeting, the Selection Committee was appraised about eligibility of the candidates for selection to the post of Commissioner (Persons with Disabilities) based on the provision of Section 60 (1) of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act-1995 and Delhi Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Rules-2001 ready with the Amendment Rules-2011 and Amendment Rules-2012.

The Department of Social Welfare and Women and Child Development had invited applications for the post of Commissioner (Persons with Disabilities) in October 2012 and received 12 applications.

As per the minutes, “The Selection Committee scrutinised and considered the eligibility conditions required for the post, the qualification and experience of all applicants, and unanimously recommended the name” of retired Indian Administrative Service officer K. S. Mehra for the post.

Incidentally, it was less than a month before the appointment of Mr. Mehra that the rules were changed. On October 12, a notification was issued for the Department of Social Welfare in which the amendment of Rule 50 of the Act was made.

While earlier the rules were such that only those with experience in disability-related matters and social sector, or those who had worked in the field of empowerment of Persons with Disabilities could apply, the amendment made it easier for bureaucrats to get the job.

Following the amendment, as per Rule 62 it is only “essential” for the Commissioner to be “a graduate from a recognised university” and “desirable” for him or her to possess “a recognised masters degree in social work/sociology”.

As for the “experience”, the amended Rule also spelt out that the candidate to the post “should have at least 10 years of consolidated experience in one or more of some type of organisation at desired levels”.

Earlier, the rules were stringent. Rule 50 (B) demanded that the candidate for the post “should have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters related to rehabilitation of persons with disabilities”.

In fact in August 2011, former Commissioner (Disabilities) Pradeep Singh had written to the then Secretary (Social Welfare) Sanjiv Kumar stating that “the rules for appointment of Commissioner, as now framed, require 10 years of experience in disability related matters and/or social sector out of which at least 5 years of experience should be in the field of empowerment of Persons with Disabilities”.

Observing that “there may not even be a single officer currently serving in the Government of Delhi or Government of India with a minimum of five years experience in the field of empowerment of persons with disabilities”, Mr. Singh had pointed out that “thus the rules as now framed, would select only persons having worked/working in NGOs/disability organisations”.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Statue of Liberty is now officially barrier free

Dear Friends,

28 October 2012

A good news for the accessible tourism sector! Coinciding with the monument’s 126th birthday, the iconic Crown of the Statue of Liberty will reopen on October 28, 2012, after being closed for a year for renovations to make the New York landmark safer and more accessible to people in wheelchairs.

The renovations include new staircases and an elevator that will make the tourist attraction  more accessible for persons with disabilities. For the first time, tourist in wheelchairs will be able to access the observation decks. The final cost for the renovations totaled about $30 million.

There are also more stairs than ever before, with a daunting 393 steps to the crown, where there were previously 354 slightly steeper steps. Wheelchair accessible elevators inside the pedestal bring visitors to just below Lady Liberty's sandals.

The statue is 151 feet from base to torch. It sits atop the 89-foot (27-meter) tall stone pedestal, which sits on a 65-foot (20-meter) tall foundation in the shape of a star.

Visitors in wheelchairs, who could view the statue only from the ground before, can now ascend to the top of statue's pedestal and see inside the structure. Though they can not access inside the body of the statute still due to design constraints.

Designed by Frédéric Bartholdi, the iconic statue in New York Harbor, the statue, a gift from France to the United States, was dedicated in 1886 and declared a national monument in 1924. In 2009, the crown was reopened to the public for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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