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Volume 3 Issue 13 - July 01, 2005

National conference on disability organised in Delhi

DNIS News Network - National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.) has identified two main obstacles in the substantive realisation of human rights by persons with disability. One is lack of capacity of various institutions and functionaries, coupled with crippling inadequacies in basic systems. Even 10 years after the passing of the Disability Act, improvements at the ground level have been very lop-sided and modest.

NHRC Chairperson and Javed Abidi with Disability Manual

To address these issues, a one-day national conference on disability was organised by N.H.R.C. in Delhi, on June 23. It also signalled the culmination of a linkage project between the Canadian Human Rights Commission (C.H.R.C.), N.H.R.C., and Indira Gandhi National Open University (I.G.N.O.U.).

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Kathryn Hamilton, Director General of the Employment Equity, Policy and Outreach branch of the C.H.R.C., said that one of the hallmarks of the linkage project would be a strategy, a blueprint for now and the future. “We in Canada are motivated by the same goals – in our schools, healthcare, institutions, workplaces, transport, etc – and hope to share and learn from each other.”

In his inaugural address, Justice Anand declared firmly that it would only be by “positioning disability in the paradigm of human rights” that we would be able to “change the mindset of society and give [persons with disability] their legitimate dues by recognising, protecting and promoting their human rights.”

Justice Anand then released the Disability Manual, a manual on human rights, disability and law, in three formats: a printed book, a Braille book, and an accessible CD.The manual is a compilation of an impressive range of positive examples of disability jurisprudence. It can serve as a reference material for universities and law schools to design curricula for undergraduate and graduate study programmes on Disability Law, and to incorporate a disability perspective into courses on Constitutional, Family, Criminal, Information Technology and Labour Laws. It will prove to be an effective advocacy tool for organisations of disabled persons and NGOs working in the area of disability and human rights. It is also intended to be a practical guide for legal practitioners and general administrators.

The conference focussed on key aspects in relation to disability rights. The first session dealt with ‘Human rights education and disability’; and the second session focussed on ‘systemic improvements for better protection of human rights for persons with disabilities.’

(Dr.) Shivraj V. Patil and P.C. Sharma, both Members of N.H.R.C., chaired the first and second sessions, respectively.

Panelists in the first session laid stress on implementation, and not on the formulation, of laws. Greater motivation and sensitisation, it was felt, was necessary to make disabled people aware of their rights. The work done by countless NGOs in this regard was highly appreciated by the Chair. In the second session, panelists voiced the need to ensure coordination and alignment between the activities of various agencies. Disabled people in the rural sector also needed to be brought within the pale of benefits envisaged for all persons with disability.

Emphasising that a human rights, and not a welfare approach, is necessary to restore the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, the conference recommended that the government of India set up an independent department of Disability and Development and appoint disability advisors in all premier institutions.

It called on the State and Central Government to set up a National Task Force on accessible infrastructure by persons with disabilities to ensure that all public places, transport systems, media and public information are redefined and delivered so as to adhere to disability inclusive norms. It has also recommended for the elaboration of a National/State Disability Policy and Action Plan so that not only do persons with disabilities enjoy all the rights and benefits guaranteed under law, but also the government is able to perform its mandatory functions and effectively utilise the budget allocated for the disability sector.

Anuradha Mohit of the N.H.R.C. then gave a brief round-up of the progress made on the drafting of the U.N. Disability Convention. Nirmal Singh, Secretary General, N.H.R.C., presented a list of important recommendations of the national conference, which, if followed, would create awareness about issues relating to the disabled persons, especially in the light of varying disparities in the treatment meted out to them.

In his summing up, Justice Anand asked why, if we have the requisite resources and legal framework in place, disability should persist. He reiterated N.H.R.C.’s commitment to creating a conducive atmosphere, free from discrimination, for persons with disability. The conference came to a close with the vote of thanks by Sudha Shrotria, Director, N.H.R.C.

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