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Recommendation and Comments on the draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities

September 5, 2022

The Law and Society Committee NLSIU in collaboration with the Oxford Human Rights Hub and Harvard Law School Project on Disability conducted a virtual policy consultation on the draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities on July 1, 2022.  Persons with Disabilities, civil society organizations, disability activists, academicians, advocates, and other allies took part in this discussion that was held via Zoom.

Following the policy consultation, a set of detailed recommendations was prepared with an intention to make the draft policy more robust. These recommendations were jointly prepared by NLSIU, Bangalore, Oxford Human Rights Hub, Harvard Law School Project on Disability, and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi.

The recommendations have now been submitted to the Hon’ble Secretary, Department of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment, Government of India.

General recommendations:

  • Instead of outlining general directions, the policy should contain specific, measurable and time-bound targets. For e.g. it should not outline that websites and apps need to become disabled friendly [for that is already mandated in the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016( hereinafter RPwD Act) and RPwD Rules]. Instead, it should contain quantifiable parameters to assess how far this target is actually being E.g. it should state that 50 government websites must become disabled friendly by the end of 2022, and that this shall be assessed through an accessibility audit [the details of which should be spelt out]. In this connection, the initiative of Vidhi and IStem is noteworthy. They are in the process of evolving a joint index to evaluate the digital accessibility of ten iOS and Android apps. To identify these apps, they are carrying out a survey amongst disabled people. The Government must encourage such initiatives because the same would enable to collect appropriate data based on scientific evaluation of accessibility of various apps and websites. The same is obligated by Article 31 of UNCRPD.
  • The Policy should contain a tracking methodology to assess how far its text is being It must have a strong monitoring mechanism.
  • Very often, a lot of disability rights projects get stalled due to inter-departmental jurisdictional This issue was dealt with by the Hon’ble CCPD in her judgment in the case of Rahul Bajaj v. Practo Technologoes and Ors., in which the Union Health Ministry passed the burden for ensuring the accessibility of the healthcare app, Practo, to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The CCPD rejected the Health Ministry’s argument. It is not clear what the best approach is for the DEPwD to interact with other government departments/Ministries. A suitable mechanism in this regard must be developed. One possible solution would be for every Ministry to have a nodal officer on disability. This officer must be accountable to the DEPwD for all disability matters in that Ministry. DEPwD must also develop a mechanism to have a proper co-ordination with office of CCPD and the State Commissioners of Disability. The need of the hour is to evolve focal points at national, state and district levels for proper liaisoning. This is mandated by Article 33 of UNCRPD.
  • The policy should demand action plans from all ministries on implementing the RPwD Act. It can contain a template in which these are to be submitted to the DEPwD, along with a deadline.
  • The policy should have a chapter on access to justice for PwDs, consistent with Sec. 12 of the RPwD Act and Article 13 of the This chapter should focus on making the physical and digital infrastructure of our court system more disabled friendly and making court processes more disabled friendly. The DEPwD should be tasked with working with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice on this issue. In light of recent decisions of Supreme Court and Delhi High Court in Akansha Singh vs High Court of Delhi (2020) and Bhavya Nain vs High Court of Delhi (2020) recognising the right of a disabled person to assume the office of a judge in a lower court, the policy has to have cohesive inputs about inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of judiciary. In this connection, inputs should be drawn from International Principles and Guidelines on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities. It, inter alia, provides that the right to equal access to justice requires that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to participate directly in adjudicative processes and be involved in various roles in the administration of justice on an equal basis with others. States should ensure that persons with disabilities are able to act as judges, lawyers, prosecutors, witnesses, jurors, experts and court officials     in   the   justice     system       without            discrimination ( Practices/Access-to-Justice-EN.pdf).
  • The voices of PwDs should be foregrounded in formulating this The disabled and their organizations must be actively consulted, as per the ‘nothing about us, without us’ principle.
  • We believe that a policy document should be futuristic in nature rather than status-quoist with focus merely on ameliorative.
  • In some sections policy document gets into too much of details and becomes like a programme document; e.g. it gets into the flow chart of UDID card in section 4.3. These are programme details and not policy In other words, the policy document must distinguish between policy and programmes.
  • With the evolution of technology, PwDs are increasingly ambitious to pursue a variety of professional careers, i.e. doctors, chartered accountants, engineers, lawyers etc. However, the bodies responsible for regulating these professions are totally insensitive not only to the particular situations and circumstances of PwDs but also make every possible effort to stonewall inclusive measures like availing reasonable accommodation etc. The policy must have inputs to address the same to incentivise the feeling of self-assurance and dignity amongst PWDs.

Chapter-wise Recommendations:

To read the chapter wise recommendations, please view the document here.