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Phone helpline for persons with disabilities

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UNVEILING PLANS: Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Subbulakshmi Jagadesan (left), with Dr. L. Govinda Rao, Director, NIMH, at a consultative meeting in Chennai on Tuesday. Poongothai, State Minister for Social Welfare, is als o in the picture. Photo: K. Pichumani
UNVEILING PLANS: Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Subbulakshmi Jagadesan (left), with Dr. L. Govinda Rao, Director, NIMH, at a consultative meeting in Chennai on Tuesday. Poongothai, State Minister for Social Welfare, is als o in the picture. Photo: K. Pichumani

Special Correspondent

"Multi-disciplinary approach essential to prevent disability"

CHENNAI: A telephonic helpline for persons with disabilities will be introduced in all cities in the country, including those in Tamil Nadu, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan, said on Tuesday.

Such services had already been started in Mumbai and New Delhi by the Central government, Ms. Jagadeesan said, listing the measures taken for the welfare of persons with disabilities. Earlier this year, the Centre had also unveiled its National Policy for Persons with Disability, apart from kick-starting a nation-wide discussion on amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. Speaking at the inaugural of the second regional consultation, organised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the State government to discuss the proposed amendments to the PWD Act, held in Chennai, Ms. Jagadeesan said the National Policy endeavoured to pay attention to equal opportunities, education and employment of the target group.

On receipt of complaints that the process of obtaining a disability certificate was cumbersome, the Centre had launched discussions with the states to streamline and simplify the process. She added that a `camp' approach could be adopted, or a single day allotted for the purpose. Tamil Nadu's Social Welfare Minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna said that a multi-disciplinary approach was essential to prevent disability and handle it in the event that it occurs. Healthcare workers, NGOs, legal experts, government departments and the public should work together to ensure not only the prevention of disability, but also a non-stigmatised, barrier free environment for persons with disability.

She urged NGOs to maintain proper documentation of their activities and a database of their beneficiaries. This would be essential not only to replicate success stories, but also useful in getting grants for projects. She said the government was committed to providing holistic care for persons with disabilities. Representatives of various NGOs suggested amendments to the Act, which included allowing special treatment for special schools, providing for a strict regulatory framework, specifying time periods for implementation as per the Act and paying attention to employment opportunities for the differently-abled. The central government's proposed recommendations to the Act come 11 years after the PWD Bill was passed in Parliament in 1995. Coming at this stage, the desire of the policy makers was to make the Act comprehensive and viable for several years to come. While awareness about the Act had increased, the Chief Commissioner and State Commissioners for the disabled have received over the years a number of complaints about the provisions of and the implementation of the Act, according to Sundeep Khanna, additional secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

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