The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, a comprehensive measure that covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities. It will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995.

The Bill provides for five per cent reservation in public sector jobs and makes the private sector more accountable for creating a disabled-friendly environment. It provides incentives for the private sector to take such measures.

On political participation, the proposed law says every person with disability who fulfils eligibility requirements is entitled to be registered as a voter. He/she should not be disqualified from exercising the voting right on the grounds of disability, irrespective of any stipulation to the contrary in any law for the time being in force.

Any person who is unable to vote in person due to disability or because of admission to hospital for treatment is entitled to opt for postal ballot, says the Bill. It requires the Election Commission to ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with disabilities.

The proposed law also allows mentally unsound women the right to fertility and prescribes punishment for forced abortion or hysterectomy on them.

“Historic move”

“The Bill is based on the premise of all rights for all disabled,” activist Javed Abidi told The Hindu. The definition of disability “is expansive and covers all kinds of disability whether physical or mental,” he said, describing the move as historic.

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