Several organisations and activists under the banner of ‘Disability Rights Alliance of Tamil Nadu’ condemned the current version of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet recently.

Speaking of several provisions that go against the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), they called the Bill “flawed”, and urged the Bill not be passed in its current form. 

They also said it went against the current discourse of disability rights. Amba Salelkar, Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy, said that the UNCRPD speaks of reasonable accommodation as a tool for empowerment. She said that in the context of the workplace, the Bill speaks of “appropriate environment” instead of reasonable accommodation.

“Since there is no definition of what constitutes ‘appropriate environment’ is it up to the employer. Reasonable accommodation, on the other hand, refers to a personalised approach. They mean very different things,” she said.  The issues they raised ranged from the definition of disability aligning with the medical model, the schedule speaking of ‘specified disabilities’, focus on welfare and not empowerment of women with disabilities, among others. Meenakshi Balasubramanian, from Equals, said that there were many reservations about the 2012 draft, and the current Bill is a diluted version of it.

T.M.N. Deepak, State vice-president, Tamil Nadu Differently-abled Federation said that they want one umbrella law instead of several general and specific laws. 

Smitha Sadasivam, assistant coordinator, disability legislation unit, Vidya Sagar, said that by listing out 18 types of disability, the Bill has excluded many genetic and metabolic disorders, for instance. This was unlike the UNCRPD, which is all-encompassing, she said.

Rajiv Rajan of Ektha said that there were no specific guidelines on what the nature of “high support” can and cannot be. They also spoke about their concerns relating to the reservation in jobs, accessibility, and guardianship among many others. They are seeking the withdrawal of the Bill from the parliamentary process for further consultation.

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