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Disability rights rules amended for people with high support needs

March 18, 2019

The government has come out with a new set of amendments to the disability rights rules and these will be applicable for people in the "high support needs category". This refers to people who need constant care, help in day-to-day life and who are dependent on others.

The law defines people with high support needs like this - those who need "an intensive support, physical, psychological and otherwise, which may be required by a person with benchmark disability for daily activities, to take independent and informed decision, and to access facilities and participating in all areas of life including education, employment, family, community life, treatment and therapy.

The new amendment will allow people with 40% and more benchmark disability who meet the criteria of special needs to receive the benefit of schemes created for them. District level assessment boards will decide and recommend welfare and support benefits for them.

What it means

Here are some details of what the new amendments imply:

  1. State governments will set up assessment boards at district level or the division level. This will depend on the population of disabled people in the region.

  2. The assessment boards will be headed by a chairperson and eight members.

  3. There is also a provision for initiating schemes for the welfare of people with high support needs. These may be launched by state government and may vary from state to state.

  4. Only people with benchmark disabilities with permanent disability certificates will be eligible.

  5. The assessment board will use six parameters to determine the eligibility of a disabled person applying under this category. The scores will be assigned on the basis of the 100 point graded weightage.

  6. 35% weightage has been assigned to the extent to which a person is not able to perform daily activities due to disability. Weightage of 25% each has been assigned to severity of physical disability and mental disability.

This was very much need. It was something left out while rules were framed in 2017. This seeks to makes amends and hence is welcome. At the same time there are various other sections/provisions in the Act for which rules have not been framed at all or not been framed holistically. Like chapters on education, social security etc. It would have been expected that all these would have also been looked into. Unfortunately not. - Muralidharan Vishwanath, General Secretary, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

The amendments look good on paper but there are some issues that may actually affect their proper implementation.

Most Indian states are still lagging behind in the implementation of the RPWD Act 2016 and are yet to frame rules. Any amendment to the existing laws are useless until state governments frame rules and ensure effective execution. Only 11 out of 29 states and seven union territories in India have framed rules till date.

Prashant Singh, who has a child with autism, says such amendments are of use only when properly implemented. He also says that the process of setting up boards may further delay the provision of providing much needed support.

"Besides medical authorities, the lack of requisite number of qualified and trained resource persons like therapists, clinical psychologists, physiotherapists, etc. could become a barrier in the process. In the interim, alternative methods of certification from national-level institutions like the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), etc., could be utilized. The inclusion of 'high support' category in the UDID card through the existing disability criteria may also help in simplifying and hastening the process", says Singh.

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