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What strides India can make in view of Rights of Persons with Disabili...

  Apr 07, 2017

What strides India can make in view of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act? What can be the advantage of such a cross cutting Act? What synergy needs to be built in order to make the Act more successful?

Around 8-10% of India’s population lives with disabilities, with an equal number constituting the aged. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential to significantly impact the lives of these groups, facilitating access of services available to them and allowing them to handle a wide range of activities independently, enhancing their social, cultural, political and economic participation. Making ICT accessible no longer remains an option but has become a necessity.

Poor accessibility due to lack of focussed information and political will has led to social exclusion of people with disabilities, exacerbating the negative impact of the existing digital divide. The new call for action of disability rights activists now is “Cause No Harm”, thus ensuring future generations are not excluded from mainstream activities due to a hostile infrastructure.

Current Mega Initiatives
This assumes a greater thrust given the unprecedented developmental activity in the country under the various missions launched by the present government, such as:
Accessibility for disabled people is a cross-cutting theme across all of these and care must be taken to ensure disability-inclusive development.

Accessibility as a link
Incorporation of accessibility principles across all new developments will also complement the Accessible India Campaign, the flagship campaign launched by the Prime Minister on World Disability Day which aims at achieving universal accessibility for all citizens and creating an enabling and barrier-free environment.
India was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
Accessibility therefore forms the common thread weaving together the Accessible India Campaign, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, the Smart Cities Mission and the Digital India campaign to achieve the combined goal of creating an inclusive society that will allow for a better quality of life for all citizens, including persons with disabilities.
Beyond the social implications, accessibility makes for business and economic sense too. If principles of Universal Design are incorporated at the design stage, cost implications are negligible. Retrofitting, on the other hand, has huge cost implications.

Economic and Business Implication
Disability is not an isolated issue. It is cross-cutting and can impact everyone irrespective of caste, gender, age and nationality. Thus ensuring a disability-sensitive development agenda across all ministries, sectors and causes becomes critical if growth has to be truly inclusive. ‘Nothing about us without us’ assumes even greater significance in the current context.

The importance of synergy
Much after Independence, there has been minimal change in the fortunes of India’s disabled population. It becomes our collective responsibility to ensure inclusive development, one that engages all stakeholders through a pragmatic and judicious combination of interventions while effectively leveraging technology to ensure truly inclusive and sustainable development.