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ECI Promotes Respectful Dialogue on Disabilities in Politics

  • 30 Dec 2023
  • 8 min read

Source: IE

Why in News?

The Election Commission (EC) has issued guidelines to political parties to use disability and gender sensitive language, and refrain from using derogatory references to persons with disabilities (PwD) in public speeches, campaigns and writings.

What are the Key Guidelines of the EC?

  • Prohibition of Derogatory Language: Political parties and their representatives are urged to refrain from using derogatory, insulting, or offensive references related to disability or PwDs in any public statements, speeches, writings, articles, or campaigns. And make sure that all campaigns remain accessible to all citizens.
  • Avoidance of Ableist Language: Specific terms considered ableist or offensive towards PwDs such as "dumb," "retarded," "blind," "deaf," "lame," etc., are highlighted as language to be avoided.
  • Internal Review and Rectification: All campaign materials, including speeches, social media posts, advertisements, and press releases, should undergo internal review within the political party to identify and rectify instances of offensive language.
  • Declaration of Use of Sensitive Language: Political parties should declare on their websites their commitment to using disability and gender-sensitive language, respecting human equality, equity, dignity, and autonomy.
  • Adoption of Rights-Based Terminology: Parties are encouraged to use rights-based terminologies as outlined in the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
  • Legal Consequences: Any violation of the guidelines may fall under the provisions of Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

What is the Status of Persons with Disabilities in India?

  • Status: As per the 76th round of National Sample Survey (NSS), 2.21% of the Indian population identifies as having a disability.
    • The incidence of disability is highest in the age group 10-19 years, highlighting the need for early intervention and support.
  • Constitutional and Legislative Framework for PwD in India:
    • Constitution:
      • The Constitution of India ensures equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all individuals through Fundamental Rights and implicitly mandates an inclusive society for all including the persons with disabilities.
      • Article 41 of the Constitution (Directive Principles of State Policy) states that the State shall make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
    • Legislation:
      • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act) which replaced the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, is the most comprehensive legislation for PwDs in India.
        • Government job reservation for PwD is 4%, while in government or aided higher educational institutions, seats reserved for students with disabilities is 5%.
    • Other Related Initiatives:
  • Major Challenges:
    • Accessibility: Many public spaces, transportation systems, and buildings lack proper accessibility features like ramps, elevators, and designated spaces for PWDs, making it challenging for them to move around independently.
      • Only around 3% of public buildings in India are accessible to PWDs (Census of India, 2011).
    • Inadequate Healthcare: Only 37% of PWDs in rural India have access to healthcare facilities, according to the Census of India, 2011.
      • A recent report by the World Health Organization identified a shortage of healthcare professionals trained in disability management across India, limiting access to specialised care.
    • Limited Educational Opportunities: Access to quality education for PWDs remains a challenge. Schools often lack adequate facilities and trained teachers to cater to diverse learning needs, resulting in exclusion from mainstream education.
    • Employment Barriers: PWDs encounter significant hurdles in finding suitable employment. Discrimination, lack of accessible workplaces, and a dearth of accommodations to meet their needs often lead to high unemployment rates among PWDs.
    • Stigma and Discrimination: There is still a prevailing stigma surrounding disabilities in India, and PWDs often face prejudices that limit their opportunities and acceptance in society.
    • Legal and Policy Gaps: While there are laws and policies in place to protect the rights of PWDs in India, implementation and enforcement remain inconsistent. This gap affects the actual realization of their rights and access to resources.

Way Forward

  • Reimagining Assistive Technology: Government can partner with tech giants and design institutes to create a robust ecosystem of accessible and affordable assistive technology using Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, catering to diverse disabilities.
    • It can include self-navigating public spaces, adaptive traffic signals, and voice-controlled interfaces for effortless access.
    • Also, promote open-source hardware and software development for PwDs to customize and repair devices.
  • Revolutionising Education and Skill Development: Implement mandatory disability sensitivity training for educators and integrate it into teacher training programs.
    • Deploy AI-powered learning assistants, interactive tools, and accessible e-learning platforms to cater to diverse learning needs.
  • Employment Landscape Shift: Mandatory PwD friendly infrastructure in corporations and facilitate PWDs' participation in flexible online gig work suited to their skills and abilities, empowering them with remote work options.
    • Incubating PWD-led startups offering accessible products and services, fostering self-reliance and creating employment opportunities.
  • Towards Inclusive India: Organizing community-based workshops and sensitization programs to promote understanding and inclusivity of PWDs.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. India is home to lakhs of persons with disabilities. What are the benefits available to them under the law? (2011)

  1. Free schooling till the age of 18 years in government run schools.
  2. Preferential allotment of land for setting up business.
  3. Ramps in public buildings.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only 
(b) 2 and 3 only 
(c) 1 and 3 only 
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (d)

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