ICMR slammed for exclusion of disability sector while framing assistive products’ list
The Union Health Ministry recently released the draft National List of Essential Assistive Products. The list aimed to provide assistive technologies to those in need. However, the list has been framed without considering professionals from the disability sector and disregards key provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s move to prepare a list of assistive products on the lines of the Priority Assistive Products List of the World Health Organisation (WHO-APL) is a welcome step.
Over 350 assistive products have been included in the draft National List of Essential Assistive Products (NLEAP) recently released by the Union Health Ministry.
The list aims to provide assistive technologies and devices for elderly people, persons with disabilities, patients with non-communicable diseases like stroke, diabetes, congenital birth defect-associated disabilities, among others.
Disability sector needs disregarded
However, certain demands made by groups like Doctors with Disabilities, a pan India group of medical professionals with disabilities, have been ignored.
A key one relates to a Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) notification that it is the duty of medical professionals to prescribe the assistive products as per medical requirements.
This is also given in the disability competencies which have been included in the updated MBBS curriculum and is stated in the NITI Aayog’s three-year action agenda point on access to aids and assistive technologies.
In a letter to ICMR Director Balram Bhargav, Doctors with Disabilities has expressed dismay over the exclusion of the disability sector.
The letter also highlights the numerous violations of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 in the NLEAP document.
The exclusion of real experts and the disability sector is the reason why the NLEAP document has unacceptable levels of mistakes. The document prepared under your guidance, ex-DGHS, medical doctors and which also list two WHO people as contributors mentions disability definitions which are in stark contrast to our national legislation on disability. – Dr Satendra Singh, Co-founder, Doctors with Disabilities
Definitions of disability at odds with Act
Even the definitions of disabilities like blindness, low vision, and hearing impairment by the ICMR contrast with how the RPWD Act defines them.
“Such blatant disregard by an apex institute for research is unexplainable”, says the letter.
Doctors with Disabilities has asked for the NLEAP to be revised completely by involving doctors with disabilities, disability sector experts and those familiar with the Act. This was the case even earlier when the ICMR had to ditch its own guidelines on Covid-19 and disability as no one from the disability sector was part of the draft committee.
Over and above, the NLEAP itself is inaccessible to people with disabilities. The ICMR has introduced image CAPTCHA – as the sole option. This is inaccessible to blind people in the online form. No other alternative has been given either. This again is a violation of Sections 42 and 46 of the RPPWD Act.
- Updated MBBS curriculum with disability competencies to come into effect from 1 August, confirms MCI
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