Disability rights experts share the high points of 2019 & wishes for 2020
2019 was a year of highs and lows for the disability sector in India. From the first deaf candidate to contest the Lok Sabha elections to accessibility in elections getting a major push, there was a lot to celebrate. There were heartbreaks too. RPWD Act guidelines remain on paper in many ways. So do the deadlines set under the Accessible India Campaign. In NewzHook’s final #StoryOfTheWeek for 2019 we pass the hat around and ask people from the disability sector their highlights for 2019 and the one big wish for 2020.
Private sector & disabled people
Nipun Malhotra, CEO, Nipman Foundation, Gurugram
“In my view the biggest positive development of 2019 was that the private sector started looking at disabled people as customers. One example is that of Big Bazaar and the other is PVR Cinemas. Employment opportunities for disabled people have also grown. 2019 for me is the year when large companies have started looking at people with disabilities as customers”.
“For 2020, my wish has been the same for eight years and that is to make disability politically relevant. Take a look at the whole debate over NRC for instance. People with disabilities are not even being considered. How are they going to get the documentation needed to show that they are citizens? No political party has talked about this”.
Power of the people
Accessible elections exercise
Smitha Sadasivan, Disability Rights Alliance of India, Chennai
“The first polling station within the Institute of Mental Health in Chennai was a big step because it promoted the message that persons with psycho social disabilities have the right and capacity to vote.”
“My dream is to make the government implement Section 15 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 which is about mobilising community support and awareness about exercising the legal capacity of all disabled people”.
“Using beach wheelchairs on Chennai’s Marina Beach, procured by the Greater Chennai Corporation was a lovely and memorable experience”.
Rights of mentally ill people upheld
Dr Satendra Singh, Disability rights leader, New Delhi
“The biggest news came in the first week of 2019 itself when based on a petition of Advocate Gaurav Bansal, the Supreme Court upheld the rights to dignity of mentally ill and ordered the release of chained inmates from the ‘faith-based mental asylum’ in Uttar Pradesh”.
“Hope from 2020 is the release of a report from India in the Lancet journal that once again highlights the ignorance towards mental disorders. Strangely, we still do not have a National Suicide Prevention Helpline and that’s my biggest hope from 2020″.
Protests carry power
2019 – Year of Protests
Shampa Sengupta, Joint Secretary, National Platform for Rights of Disabled, Bengal
“2019 will be written in the history of India as the year of protest by common citizens on different issues. The disability sector was not an exception. The National Platform for Rights of Disabled (NPRD) planned a massive dharna on 25 November demanding the implementation of the RPD Act and in an unprecedented move, even before dharna started, the government of India issued a government order (GO) accepting a majority of the demands. Many GOs cites high court or Supreme Court orders, but this GO of 23 November 2019 stated for the first time, that the order was being issued because of the NPRD dharna. This is a big victory for people’s movement. This shows that the concerned ministry officially acknowledged the power of disabled people’s organisations”(DPO).
“As a citizen of India, my wish is that government elected by us understands power of DPOs like us, who work at the grassroots level, listens to our demands and take actions accordingly in the year 2020”.
Prajith Jaipal, Founder, Divyang Foundation Trust, Calicut
“Ensuring the reservation for disabled people in government and public sectors was a positive for 2019. For 2020, it would be great if the government can initiate a squad to audit the accessibility aspect of buildings in India”.
Still a long way to go
Jasmina Khanna, Disability rights activist, Mumbai
“As far as the best thing to happen in the disability space in 2019 is concerned we are still a long way to go. I have been able to connect with municipal officials in Mumbai to initiate accessibility at the ward level in Mumbai. For me, this was the biggest victory though work is still in progress. My wish 2020 in space would be policy implementation and hastening of the process of benefits given by the government of India.”
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