'For them, the 70 million Indians with disabilities are not a vote bank.'

when someone you know is disabledFour long years of effort that went into redrafting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill has finally been approved by the cabinet. However, the disability activists are not happy since the parliament has been adjourned without a further date assigned. This has further delayed the bill from being tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

'We are anguished over the manner in which the political class has once again treated us. For them, the 70 million Indians with disabilities are not a vote bank. The bill is nothing but a piece of paper unless it is tabled in the Rajya Sabha. If elections are announced tomorrow, the bill will be consigned to the rubbish bin after all the effort that has gone into drafting and redrafting the bill and consultations and the sending of the bill to the various ministries and state government', Javed Abidi, the convenor of Disability Rights Group told TOI. The activists will now speak to both Congress and BJP so that the bill gets passed at the earliest.

The Persons with Disabilities Act was first passed by the Parliament in 1995, but in 2009 it was decided that a new and progressive bill was required for the betterment of disabled persons. According to the bill, PwDs must be provided free education and job opportunities in order to live a fulfilling life. The government also must ensure proper health checkups so that more people don't become disabled.

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To properly understand the scenario and the trial and tribulations of PwDs we decided to talk to two experts from the field Dr Satendra Singh and Abha Khetarpal. Dr Singh, is Coordinator of the Enabling Unit (for students with disabilities), Equal Opportunity Cell at the University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi. He is also the founder of 'Infinite Ability' a special interest group on disability. Ms Khetarpal is the President of Cross the Hurdles, an NGO, looking after needs of people with disabilities. Excerpts from the interview:

Q: The new draft of the People with Disabilities Act has gone for some major overhauls. This includes the most inclusive definition of disability which has been broadened to include people suffering from blood disorders (thalassemia and haemophilia) and those with learning disabilities or other mental disorders (autism, dyslexia). Do you think this will help the concerned?

Ms Khetarpal: Having things on papers is very easy but we need to see practical implementation too. It's good the definition of disability has been widened. The wider the definition of disability the narrower would be the gap between people with disabilities and non-disabled population. Moreover if more people fall in this category there can larger allocation of budget with more social security measures and greater stress could be laid on policy formulation for this sector. If the draft is accepted and passed, it can be of help to the many concerned but still we would have to a long way to create the needed infrastructure.

Dr Singh: Only visible disability is not disability. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2011 includes 20 disabilities in its list which also include autism, cerebral palsy, chronic neurological condition, dwarfism, haemophilia, intellectual disability, leprosy cured, low vision, muscular dystrophy, specific learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia. These additions are a welcome move. (Read more: International Day of People with Disabilities: How inclusive and accessible is our society?)

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