At a meeting with the Chief Commissioner under the Persons with Disabilities Act, Prassana Kumar Pincha, representatives of various groups of differently-abled persons articulated their grievances with regard to the implementation of the Act in the State.
“It began badly,” said S.Namburajan, State Secretary, TARATDAC, “When Mr. Pincha invited representatives of the hearing impaired to talk, we discovered that there was no sign language interpreter present, at a meeting called by the State Commissioner for the welfare of the disabled.” Proceedings were suspended until an interpreter could be found, he added.
The issuance of disability certificates continues to be a key problem area, TMN Deepak, Vice President, Tamil Nadu Differently Abled Foundation, said. Even the government of India had admitted that only about 33 per cent of the disabled population had received disability certificates and that the situation in Tamil Nadu was no different.
Also, sometimes the procedure to get a disability certificate is not only complex, but also demoralising, participants said. While the Tamil Nadu government had ordered that disability certificates can be issued even in primary health centres, implementation is lacking even after two years.
The doctors were not trained in certifying disability, and in most cases took a minimum of a week to be issued, he added.
From education opportunities to job opportunities, the reservation mandated by the Act was not being followed in the State, disabled people charged.
For instance, there are problems with medical education, hiring of doctors (with disabilities in the government service) and the three per cent reservation in government jobs.
In many instances, the community was forced to go to court for redress of grievances, such as the case against preventing disabled applicants from contesting for jobs in the Electricity Board, according to Mr. Namburajan.
Barrier-free access to public transport and to reach the various offices for the welfare of disabled persons, has not been ensured in Tamil Nadu, charged activist Meenakshi B., director, Equals. No effort had been made to find a solution to this at the State level.
Yet another serious issue that was discussed during the meeting was the eligibility criteria for monthly maintenance allowance.
S.Jhansi Rani, president, TARATDAC, said, “The majority of the disabled persons are not employed and do not have access to a monthly income, some of them are literally below the poverty line. In this context, the monthly allowance is a huge benefit.
However, the Tamil Nadu government specifies that a disabled person should have a disability of over 60 per cent to be eligible, while the Act norm is 40 per cent.” Besides, the treatment of disabled persons who seek this grant is deplorable and demeaning in the State, she added.