They include lack of education, reluctance of employers to hire people with disabilities

Persons with disabilities are the last identity group to enter the workforce, not because their disability comes in the way of their functioning, but because of social and practical barriers that prevent them from joining work, a study on the ‘Employment Rights of Disabled Women in India' carried out by the Society for Disability and Rehabilitation of the National Commission for Women (NCW) has said.

The barriers include lack of proper access to and around the workplace, lack of education, and the reluctance of employers to hire people with disabilities. As a result, many disabled people live in poverty and are often reduced to begging on the streets. They are denied the right to make a useful contribution to their own lives and to the lives of their families and community, the study says, with special reference to Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Describing employment as a key factor in the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities, the study says that they still remain disproportionately undereducated, untrained, unemployed, underemployed and poor — especially women. Lack of awareness about their rights is another factor that acts as a barrier.

According to the survey, a little less than half the respondents — 47 per cent — were aware about the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, while 53 per cent were not. There were wide variations in the level of awareness across States, with 80 per cent in Bihar expressing awareness about the Act, while in Uttar Pradesh it was 32 per cent.

The respondents were asked to identify the most important legislation for empowering persons with disabilities, especially women with disabilities. The various responses included the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995, the Rehabilitation Council of India Act of 1992, the National Trust for Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act of 1999, and the Mental Health Act of 1987.

As high as 77.2 per cent of the women respondents could not specifically name any legislation that empowered persons with disabilities. About 22 per cent referred to the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, which provides for a 3 per cent reservation quota for persons with disabilities in government jobs.

A majority of 76.4 per cent of the respondents named various Centrally-sponsored poverty alleviation schemes that provide for 3 per cent reservation. These respondents did not name any legislation/Act, but various schemes and programmes whose guidelines state a 3 per cent reservation for the disabled.

Satisfaction levels

Overall, more than 76 per cent of the women respondents were satisfied with the implementation of the specification of providing a 3 per cent reservation quota in government jobs for disabled individuals. However, the level of satisfaction varied across States, with maximum satisfaction — approximately 85 per cent — in Rajasthan, and the minimum, 58 per cent, in Tamil Nadu.

Three per cent of women — mainly from Rajasthan — stated that they sometimes had to face sexual harassment. They said there was no mechanism in place to redress such grievances.According to the Census 2001, there are 2.19 crore people with disabilities in India, which constitutes 2.13 per cent of the total population. This includes persons with visual, hearing, speech, locomotor and mental disabilities.

Seventy-five per cent of disabled persons live in rural areas; 49 per cent of the disabled population is literate; and only 34 per cent is employed in some or other way. There are 93.01 lakh women with disabilities, which constitutes 42.46 per cent of total disabled population.

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