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Disability bill to change the lives of physically challenged persons

The Disability bill, which was moved in Rajya Sabha earlier this month by Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, also gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and related matters. It provides for imprisonment of at least six months up to two years, along with a fine ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh for discriminating against differently-abled persons. It’s hoped that the bill will help counter the challenges faced by the disabled community in India. While the earlier iteration of the bill (1995) only recognised 7 disabilities, the new act includes 21 disabilities. The bill also puts a lot of onus on accessibility to other facilities and make India as a nation more disability friendly.

Here are some of the important features of the bill:

1) Responsibility of government to take effect measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy same rights as everyone else.

2) The definition of disability isn’t kept rigid and is based on an evolving and dynamic concept.

3) The 21 disabilities are: Blindness, Low-vision, Leprosy Cured persons, Hearing Impairment (deaf and hard of hearing), Locomotor Disability, Dwarfism, Intellectual Disability, Mental Illness, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Chronic Neurological conditions, Specific Learning Disabilities Multiple Sclerosis, Speech and Language Disability, Thalassemia, Haemophilia, Sickle Cell disease, Multiple Disabilities, Acid Attack victims and Parkinson’s disease.

4) Additional benefits have been provided for people with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.

5) Every child with disability will have right to free education.

6) To strengthen PM’s Accessible India Campaign, to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time-frame.

7) Proposal to increase in reservation from 3% to 4% for students with benchmark disabilities in higher educational institutions.

8) Grant of guardianship by District Court which will allow joint decision-making between guardian and person with disabilities.

9) Broad based Central & State Advisory Boards have been proposed to be set up as policy making bodies.

10) Proposal to strengthen office of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities and State Commissioners of Disabilities, which will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies and monitor implementation of the Act.

11) Proposal of a national fund to provide financial support to persons with disabilities.

12) Strong penalties for offences against persons with disabilities, with a maximum penalty of Rs 5 lakh and imprisonment of two years.

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