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Tamil Nadu disability groups give a push to greater sensitization of people in positions of authority

Recently, TMN Deepak, Co-founder of December 3 Movement visited the famous Kilpauk Stadium in Chennai to watch a Indian Premier League (IPL) match. Deepak who is a wheelchair user was denied an exclusive parking space by concerned officials in spite of the law clearly stating that disabled parking spaces are mandatory at public places. In spite of talking to higher officials, Deepak could not get his parking slot. This is not an isolated incident. People with disabilities across India struggle to fight for their rights, mainly because concerned officials are ignorant about these rights.

The Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled (TARATDAC) is stepping forward to bring a change in the state of Tamil Nadu. Last Tuesday, TARATDAC submitted a petition to the Chief Secretary and other officials of disability related departments which stated that all the official heads of government departments and local bodies must be provided awareness sessions on disability rights as per Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Deepak, who is a disability rights activist in Tamil Nadu, says that this is a much needed step in the state.

People must be able to differentiate between rights and wrongs in jurisprudence. Most of the people, even today think that disabilities are a matter of sympathy and charity. While booking tickets for IPL online, they asked me to carry my disability certificates and told me that I must make provisions to carry my wheelchair too. Seats were based on first come first serve basis. How is that fair to a disabled person? There is no reasonable accommodation for disabled people, mainly because officials are ignorant of our rights. Even the police commissioner's office in Chennai does not have an exclusive parking space for disabled people. These matters must reach officials who are decision-makers-TMN Deepak, Co-founder, December 3 Movement

The RPWD Act, 2016 was introduced two years back. In spite of that, officials have not been sensitized about the act yet. In the petition submitted by TARATDAC Secretary S Namburajan, implementation of RPWD Act, 2016 is necessary as mentioned in the provision 41 (a) of the act. The petition clearly states that police officials, judges, lawyers, legislators and administrators must be part of the awareness session.

"Awareness sessions are very important and have not happened since the enactment of RPWD Act, 2016. But mid level training programs do happen occasionally for staffs from certain concerned departments like special educators, representatives of NGO's and so on. But the real decision makers across the board are not sensitized. Every department must be trained which includes their head of the departments too. Accessibility and sensitivity must be assured in all services and not just for staffs who are confined to disability departments, says Smitha Sadasivam, Member, Disability Rights Alliance.

Disability rights activists in Tamil Nadu hopes that the government will hold awareness sessions at the earliest to sensitize officials.

ALSO READ: Chennai airport's new terminal to show a disabled-friendly, accessible face

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