Draft policy for persons with disabilities not accessible, say activists

Several concerns, including the non-availability of the policy in several regional languages, have been flagged

July 14, 2022 12:23 am | Updated 11:12 am IST - Chennai

With the deadline for members of the public to submit comments on the draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities just a few days away, activists and persons with disabilities have flagged several concerns, including the non-availability of the policy in several regional languages, and in accessible formats. 

The draft policy was released in June this year. Earlier this month, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) extended the deadline for receiving feedback from July 9 to 15.

Representatives from Disability Rights organisations, including the Disability Rights Alliance, Ektha, and the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication submitted a representation highlighting these concerns to DEPwD secretary Anjali Bhawra on Wednesday in the city. “We have asked for an extension of the deadline and to translate the policy into regional languages, including Tamil. Only if the policy was made available in these languages, can regional consultations involving larger groups of stakeholders be carried out,” said Meenakshi Balasubramanian, member, Disability Rights Alliance.

In a poll she initiated, among persons with disabilities, several respondents called for the document to be made available in their regional language, in simplified formats with illustrations, and have consultations where the policy can be explained and discussed in detail. 

While the department is working on a sign language video for the draft policy, other accessible formats, including Braille, have not been provided. Bhavna Botta, President, International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication- India Chapter, said the policy had not been made accessible for people using Augmentative and Alternative communication(AAC) forms.

“Apart from being translated into regional languages, it should also be available in a picture-based format, and in plain language,” she said. Stressing that AAC was not getting due attention, Bhavana said it was only mentioned in the policy as a mode of communication, and required more awareness and acceptance. 

The representation called for extending the deadline for submission of public opinion by at least three months, and asked for the government to address the communication barriers for effective public opinion on the document.

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