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Overview of the RPWD Act

The Rights of Person with Disabilities (RPWD) act/ Divyangjan Adhikaar Kanoon, was enacted on 27th, December 2016. It promotes and protects the rights and dignity of people with disabilities while also empowering them.

This law is seen as a game-changer for the estimated 30 million disabled citizens of India, which is about 2.21% of the total population of India (as per Census 2011), and will help move the discourse away from ‘charity’ to one that is the ‘rights’ based with provisions to enforce implementation. United Nations General Assembly adopted its convention on the rights of persons with disabilities on the 13th of December 2006. India ratified the same convention on 1st October 2007 and became a signatory to it. However, it was enacted by the parliament only in the 67th Year of the Republic of India.

The Gazette of India published on the 28th of December 2016, states that the RPWD Act gives effect to the same United Nations convention on the rights of persons with Disabilities and for matters connected with or incidental to it.

The major highlight of this act is that it recognizes more disabilities than the previous act. It recognizes 21 Disabilities as compared to the previous 7 categories under the 1995 Act.

1. Blindness

2. Low Vision

3. Leprosy cured persons

4. Hearing impairment

5. Locomotive disability

6. Dwarfism

7. Intellectual Disability

8. Mental Illness

9. Autism Spectrum Disorder

10. Cerebral Palsy

11. Muscular Dystrophy

12. Chronic Neurological conditions

13. Specific Learning disabilities

14. Multiple sclerosis

15. Speech and Language disability

16. Thalassemia

17. Hemophilia

18. Sickle cell disease

19. Multiple disabilities

20. Acid Attack Victims

21. Parkinson’s Disease

This new act emphasis on the below key points;

  • Respect for individual autonomy and respect for inherent dignity.

  • Enforcement of non- discriminatory policies.

  • Promotion of inclusion in society.

  • Right to inherit and own property.

  • Encouragement of the difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as a part of human diversity and humanity.

  • Provision of equal opportunity (this Act holds government as well as private sector accountable).

  • Focus on accessibility (barrier-free access to physical infrastructure and transport system) and equality (right to home and family and reproductive rights) to help preserve their identity.

  • Provision of means of livelihood- 4% of government jobs are reserved for persons with disabilities.

  • Access to Right to Education- provision of free education for every Child with Disability from the age of 8- 16 years.

  • Creation of national and state funds to provide financial support to persons with disabilities.

Some of the other highlights of this act are that; according to this act, the Government shall ensure that the Persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others. The government shall also take steps to utilize the capacity of persons with disabilities by providing an appropriate environment.

It further states that no person with disability shall be discriminated against on the ground of disability and that no person shall be deprived of his or her personal liberty only on the ground of disability. This Act holds both government and private sectors accountable and has also mandated establishments to ensure the accessibility of infrastructure and services to create an environment of inclusivity.

In addition, this Act protects Persons with disabilities from being subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and against the violence, exploitation, and abuse by providing legal remedies against such incidents. And while this Act is paving the way to overcome stigma against disability; we still have a long way to go in making our society more inclusive.

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