3 p. c. of candidates fielded by parties must be differently abled

Even as electioneering gathers momentum with major political parties announcing their candidates, associations and non-governmental organisations working for differently abled persons are seeking to make their voices heard and ensure that the next regime at the Centre is receptive to their demands.

Surya Nagappan, managing trustee, UDIS (You and the Disabled) Forum, which began working for the cause of differently abled in 2006, says the major demand is that 3 per cent of candidates fielded by political parties must be differently abled. He calls upon those who pressed for 33 per cent women’s reservation to take up this cause also.

Political parties, he says, must commit to installing differently abled persons in decision-making posts and committees that frame policies. This is mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Mr. Nagappan says, “last but not least, creating a barrier-free environment is essential. Mobility is our birth right.”

R. Srinivasan, founder of Association for the Rights of Visually Challenged (ARVIC), says insurance companies, including public sector undertakings, charge higher premiums for differently abled persons. Some policies are denied outright citing “high risk.” This discrimination must be banned.

Further, the drafts of the legislation to implement the UNCRPD contain significant flaws. While the UN norms use an inclusive definition for “accessibility” to include persons with various disabilities, the Indian legislation currently tabled in Parliament takes a restrictive view, he says.

S. Samarasapandian, president, Saarathy PAMMAC, (Parents Association for Children with Mental Retardation, Multiple Disabilities, Autism and Cerebral Palsy), says the next Government must immediately implement the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill.

It is a comprehensive measure that covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities and is intended to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995, he adds.

Petitions through SMS

S.D. Jayasree of Caliber Women, an association working among the hearing impaired, says sign language must be taught from the school level to help integrate those with hearing disabilities into the society. The next Central Government must legislate to make this compulsory.

People with hearing abilities must be allowed to file petitions to the Government departments through SMS or emails. The Government officials must be instructed to acknowledge petitions received in this manner.

Ms. Jayasree was presented the ‘Women Achiever’ award by the Avinashilingam Women Study Centre on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

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