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15-day campaign aims to highlight how basic fundamental rights continue to elude people with disabilities

November 26, 2018

Come 3 December, and across the world events will be held to mark World Disability Day, a milestone in the disability rights movement. Yet, in India, over a year after the RPWD Act, 2016 came into effect, the disabled community continues to face difficulties in accessing basic fundamental rights.

To draw attention to this, Disability Rights Alliance, a coalition of disability rights organizations in Chennai, is holding a series of events starting today, 26 November. This is the date on which India formally adopted its Constitution and is marked as Constitution Day.

From today, until 10 December, the DRA will hold a series of events to highlight how basic promises enshrined in the Constitution - social-economic justice, liberty of thought, belief, faith and worship, and equality of status and opportunities remain elusive to a large number of the disabled population in India.

This is despite the government of India ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007. This affirms that all people with disabilities have an equal right to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and forms the basis for enacting the RPWD Act 2016.

Disabled people are denied constitutional rights and by this we mean fundamental rights like education, employment and choice of living. We are highly marginalized and unable to progress on an equal basis. We are part of everything and everything is for us and we want to claim it. - Meenakshi Balasubramaniam, Disability Rights Alliance

The campaign will begin on 26 November at 4 pm at Besant Nagar beach end with the forming of a human rights chain on 10 December, which is World Human Rights Day. There will be discussion forums organized every day, at the end of which there will be an outcome putting forth a proposal. "We will consolidate these outcomes and present them to the government," says Balasubramaniam.

Some of the demands that will be put forth are:

  • To adopt laws and administrative reforms and practices to give effect to the convention.
  • Take measures including legislative and administrative measures to abolish all laws and practices that discriminate persons with disabilities.
  • Make all policies and programmes responsive to effectively include persons with disabilities.
  • Refrain from any acts that are not consistent with the convention and to ensure all public offices and institutions are in conformity with the convention.
  • To procure and innovate universally designed products goods and services.
  • Ensure access through assistive devices and technology including for communication and information.
  • Maximum utilisation of available resources in ensuring the realisation of socio-economic and cultural rights,
  • Effective involvement of persons with disabilities in all matters concerning them.

Activists say that the approach even today across in many states is to regard issues related to the disabled community as a welfare subject, which has led to them being clubbed under the administration of department of social justice or welfare. They are not seen as a primary stakeholders. This leads to policies that are not inclusive.

There are also instances of exclusions within policy, legislative and programme frameworks. For instance, education of children and people with disabilities is not strictly recognised as a fundamental right. Nor are educational institutes monitored for effective inclusion. Banking and postal laws do not allow disabled people to open their accounts or to operate them. Some other issues are lack of access to universal design of products, works and services that had led to exclusion.

"We are also citizens of the country and we also have constitutional rights. Our demand is to amend the Constitution to give us our rights, which have been denied for very long. Even the ROWD has many loopholes like the provision for limited guardianship which is a direct violation of UNCRPD. - Rajiv Rajan, Member, Disability Rights Alliance

Through a sustained focus over 15 days the campaign aims to build awareness and a movement towards recognising the issues of persons with disabilities as cross sectoral and developmental.

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