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Awareness, expertise will make RPWD Act a game changer, say disability rights activists

August 3, 2018

Lack of awareness about the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, apathy of States in framing laws, and the problems faced in certifying the new disabilities introduced - these were the key challenges thrown up during the two-day National Disability Consultation (NDC) organised by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in New Delhi.

The NDC was a timely one, held just days before the Global Disability Summit in the United Kingdom, where over 700 participants from governments, companies, charities and disabled peoples' organisations committed to meet targets. These are targets for greater inclusive education, social security, health and rehabilitation, among others, for people with disabilities around the globe.

The New Delhi consultation highlighted just how much work has to be done on the ground to make sure that the RPWD Act's potential as a game changer is realised.

There were several takeaways for disabled people's organisations and disabled people themselves, the fact that they are not adequately prepared. For the government, the many gaps between various departments. The implementation lies with individual ministries/departments, and unless there is collaboration, the challenges will remain. - Rati Misra, Advisor, NCPEDP.

One major issue voiced by every disability rights group in the States was official apathy. Over a year since the Act was notified, progress has been disappointing.

"Getting the States to adopt the RPWD rules was one of the primary issues discussed", says Arman Ali, the new Executive Director of the NCPEDP. He replaces noted activist Javed Abidi, who passed away earlier this year.

Ali will officially take charge in October this year.

"Through information-sharing and coordination among States we are hoping to push towards framing rules.", says Ali. While some States are doing better compared to others, it is still not good enough.

You still need to see the Act being used in the true spirit. That understanding is still missing. So nothing encouraging frankly so far - Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP

One of the ways to do this is to create and empower groups within each state to lobby with their respective governments. These could be groups of persons with disabilities that demand representation in all State and District Committees, suggests Misra.

They must adopt various ways to ensure implementation - ranging from simple lobbying and advocacy to following up with State Commissioners to even moving courts - Rati Misra, Advisor, NCPEDP

Another major gap thrown up is that of expertise. The lack of professionals, be it medical doctors or accessibility experts, is having an impact on the ground. Like certification is a major problem faced when it comes to blood disorders and the newer disabilities, included in the Act. This is especially seen in states like Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Given the huge diversity in India, a need has been felt to develop context-specific campaigns to mobilize the disabled community across the country.

Like the Sashakt campaign led by Dr Sruti Mohapatra in Odisha earlier this year. The campaign, held in four phases, travelled across all 30 districts of the state, using local flavour to break stereotypes about disability and build inclusion.

There are plans to launch something on similar lines across every state. Mohapatra is in talks with ministry level officials in Delhi and the NCPEDP may have an action plan for all the states by the end of August.

The NCPEDP hopes to build greater awareness about inclusion among people and governments at the States and the Centre in partnership with organisations like the United Nations. A nationwide campaign that highlights how everyone needs to tackle the challenges around disability and inclusion is the need of the hour.

People with disabilities are largely unaware of their rights, so they are looking at a pension instead of a salary. We need to build our understanding of inclusive development by going beyond looking at it as a development issue. But that can only happen once we resolve survival issues like education and employment. Once that is taken care of, we can go beyond that - Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP

ALSO READ: National Disability Consultation to jumpstart implementation of RPWD Act across India

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