Views & Reviews
Implementation of Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act 2016
Dr Shürhozelie Liezietsu
As you are aware, the new Disability Act – the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPWD Act 2016) – came into force on April 19, 2017. You may recall that this new Disability Bill was passed in the parliament on December 16, 2016, last year replacing the existing Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995.
As per Census 2011, there were 29,631 people with disabilities in Nagaland, 26% of whom were younger than 18 years. It may be pointed out here that this is the one and only data on disability available in Nagaland. The Nagaland Economic Survey 2016-17 tabled in the recent state assembly session has quoted the same 2011 figure indicating that there has been no effort to collect data on disability in the State. It must be underlined that the number of people with disabilities in the state would have increased considerably by now.
As mentioned above, the RPWD Act 2016 has come into force since April 19, 2017. This is a much more robust statute than the 1995 Act which it replaces and the focus is to protect the rights of people with disabilities and provide punishment for their violation.
It would also be pertinent to point out here that, despite the 1995 Act being in existence for more than 20 years, not even a single law contained in it was ever properly implemented by the Nagaland Government. Numerous directives have also been issued by the Supreme Court from time to time, but none of these have been complied with properly either. People with Disabilities have thus remained ignored and marginalised with their rights violated by the State Government and society at large. This unconscionable failure cannot and must not be repeated with the RPWD Act 2016.
As you must be aware, the Supreme Court has on April 25 asked all the States and Union Territories to take immediate steps to comply with the requirements of the Disability Act and file compliance reports. It has also directed that special courts be set up in each district to conduct trial of offences committed against them within three months. Nagaland Government must ensure that these SC directives are complied with strictly.
Given below are some highlights of the RPWD 2016:
1. Specified Disabilities: The number of disabilities listed has gone up from existing 7 in the 1995 Act to 21. The 21 disabilities are:
3. Leprosy Cured persons
4. Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing)
5. Locomotor Disability
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
18. Sickle Cell disease
19. Multiple Disabilities including deaf/blindness
20. Acid Attack victim
21. Parkinson’s disease
State Government must immediately notify steps to be taken to identify and certify persons with identified disabilities.
2. State Advisory Boards on Disability: Chapter XI 66. (1) – Every State Government shall, by notification, constitute a body to be known as the State Advisory Board on disability to exercise the powers conferred on, and to perform the function assigned to it, under this Act.
State Government must immediately constitute the State Advisory Board on Disability as per the rules contained in the Act.
3. Education: Chapter III 16 – The appropriate Government and the local authorities shall endeavour that all educational institutions funded or recognised by them provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities and towards that end shall –
(i) admit them without discrimination and provide education and opportunities for sports and recreation activities equally with others;
(ii) make building, campus and various facilities accessible;
(iii) provide reasonable accommodation according to the individual’s requirements;
(iv) provide necessary support individualised or otherwise in environments that maximise academic and social development consistent with the goal of full inclusion;
(v) ensure that the education to persons who are blind or deaf or both is imparted in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication;
(vi) detect specific learning disabilities in children at the earliest and take suitable pedagogical and other measures to overcome them;
(vii) monitor participation, progress in terms of attainment levels and completion of education in respect of every student with disability;
(viii) provide transportation facilities to the children with disabilities and also the attendant of the children with disabilities having high support needs.
4. Skill Development and Employment: Chapter IV 19 (1) – The appropriate Government shall formulate schemes and programmes including provision of loans at concessional rates to facilitate and support employment of persons with disabilities especially for their vocational training and self-employment
5. Social Security, Health, Rehabilitation and Recreation: Chapter V 25. (1) – The appropriate Government and the local authorities shall take necessary measures for the persons with disabilities to provide (a) free healthcare in the vicinity specially in rural areas subject to such family income as may be notified; (b) barrier-free access in all parts of Government and private hospitals and other healthcare institutions and centres; (c) priority in attendance and treatment.
6. Special Provisions for Persons with Benchmark Disabilities: Chapter VI 31. (1) – Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, every child with benchmark disability between the age of six to eighteen years shall have the right to free education in a neighbourhood school, or in a special school, of his choice. (2) The appropriate Government and local authorities shall ensure that every child with benchmark disability has access to free education in an appropriate environment till he attains the age of eighteen years.
32. (1) – All Government institutions of higher education and other higher education institutions receiving aid from the Government shall reserve not less than five per cent seats for persons with benchmark disabilities; (2) The persons with benchmark disabilities shall be given an upper age relaxation of five years for admission in institutions of higher education.
33 – The appropriate Government shall – (i) identify posts in the establishments which can be held by respective category of persons with benchmark disabilities in respect of the vacancies reserved in accordance with the provisions of section 34; (ii) constitute an expert committee with representation of persons with benchmark disabilities for identification of such posts; and (iii) undertake periodic review of the identified posts at an interval not exceeding three years.
34. (1) – Every appropriate Government shall appoint in every Government establishment, not less than four percent of the total number of vacancies in the cadre strength in each group of posts meant to be filled with persons with benchmark disabilities of which, one percent each shall be reserved for persons with benchmark disabilities under clauses (a), (b) and (c) and one percent for persons with benchmark disabilities under clauses (d) and (e.
7. Accessibility: Chapter VIII 41. (1) – The appropriate Government shall take suitable measures to provide
(a) facilities for persons with disabilities at bus stops, railway stations and airports conforming to the accessibility standards relating to parking spaces, toilets, ticketing counters and ticketing machines;
(b) access to all modes of transport that conform the design standards, including retrofitting old modes of transport, wherever technically feasible and safe for persons with disabilities, economically viable and without entailing major structural changes in design;
(c) accessible roads to address mobility necessary for persons with disabilities.
(2) The appropriate Government shall develop schemes programmes to promote the personal mobility of persons with disabilities at affordable cost to provide for (a) incentives and concessions; (b) retrofitting of vehicles; and (c) personal mobility assistance.
42. The appropriate Government shall take measures to ensure that
(i) all contents available in audio, print and electronic media are in accessible format;
(ii) persons with disabilities have access to electronic media by providing audio description, sign language interpretation and close captioning;
(iii) electronic goods and equipment which are meant for every day use are available in universal design.
44. (1) – No establishment shall be granted permission to build any structure if the building plan does not adhere to the rules formulated by the Central Government under section 40.
(2) No establishment shall be issued a certificate of completion or allowed to take occupation of a building unless it has adhered to the rules formulated by the Central Government.
45. (1) – All existing public buildings shall be made accessible in accordance with the rules formulated by the Central Government within a period not exceeding five years from the date of notification of such rules;
(2) The appropriate Government and the local authorities shall formulate and publish an action plan based on prioritization, for providing accessibility in all their buildings and spaces providing essential services such as all primary health centres, civil hospitals, schools, railway stations and bus stops.
46. The service providers whether Government or Private shall provide services in accordance with the rules on accessibility formulated by the Central Government under section 40 within a period of two years from the date of notification of such rules.
8. Special Court: Chapter XIII 84 – For the purpose of providing speedy trial, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, by notification, specify for each district, a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under this Act
9. State Fund for Persons with Disabilities: Chapter XV 88. (1) – There shall be constituted a Fund to be called the State Fund for persons with disabilities by a State Government in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government
10. State Rules: Chapter XVII 101 (1) – The State Government may, by notification, make rules for carrying out the provisions of this Act, not later then six months from the date of commencement of this Act
The above are some main points of the RPWD Act 2016 that I draw your attention to for the State Government to immediately start the process of implementation.
Mr Chief Minister, as head of the Government and an honourable leader of the Naga people, we have faith that you will personally not permit the failure of the past to be repeated again and will ensure the full implementation of the newly enacted Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 in letter and spirit. We look with hope to your leadership to initiate change that will end the discrimination and complete exclusion faced by people living with disabilities in Nagaland.
Disability Rights Activist
Connect Ability Network – Nagaland
& Member National Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities