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Saturday, 7 January 2017

EC: Elections in five states to be women, disabled and eco friendly

As Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced the election dates for the upcoming assembly polls in five states on Wednesday, he categorically stressed on the need to make voting process women, disabled and ecologically friendly. The elections for the five states - Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand - will begin on February 4. Counting of the votes will take place on March 11.

At the very beginning of a press meet to announce the election dates, the CEC said all women-managed polling stations would be set up. However, he did not mention about the numbers of such 'special' booths to come up during the elections.

Addressing the need of the physically-challenged voters, who often face great difficulties while casting their votes, Zaidi said assembly elections will to be persons with disabilities friendly. The CEC said the polling station-wise mapping of persons with disabilities was being done. 

This time, the elections are likely to become noise-free too, if EC's guidelines are strictly-followed by the political parties, which generally is not the case. "Sound pollution is a concern, there will be no use of loudspeakers after 10pm. Police and electoral officers will ensure clampdown on it," said Zaidi. He added that EC discourages the use of environmentally hazardous material in assembly elections campaigns.

Source : One India , 4th Jan 2017 

Delhi HC directs Delhi University to admit disabled PhD candidate

At a time when the country's lawmakers are favouring equal representation of persons with disability, a high court judgment will boost the morale of students facing similar predicament. The court found Delhi University's admission criteria for such candidates "unsustainable", directing the University to grant admission to a physically challenged Phd candidate, who had secured 63 marks.

Justice V Kameswar Rao directed the university to grant admission to the petitioner under the persons with disabilities (PwD) category in the PhD programme of Department of Buddhist Studies. "In the given facts, the petitioner is entitled to cost, which is quantified at Rs 10,000 to be paid by the respondents," the court ruled.

The candidate, suffering from 77% disability in his lower limbs, appeared for a written entrance exam on July 12. Following the test, 47 students qualified, out of which 17 belonged in the general category, 9 in other backward castes, 16 in scheduled castes and 4 in the scheduled tribes category. The petitioner claimed he was the only one to qualify in the written exam in the PWD category.

A final list of qualified candidates after the round of interview was out on August 30 in which 20 candidates had been offered admission. Much to his disappointment, the disabled candidate was denied admission under the PwD category. Several of his representation to the authorities concerned fell on deaf ears, driving him to move the Delhi HC.

The bifurcation of marks for the category under which the petitioner appeared was 100 for the entrance exam and 50 for the interview. The interview was assessed on topic representation (25 marks) and a 25-marks interview. The university claimed that though the petitioner secured 61 marks in the entrance exam, he could score only 2 marks in the interview. In order to qualify for a seat, the university said candidates under the PWD category required 70 marks.

The petitioner had drawn a parallel with another candidate who had scored similar marks in the interview. Another candidate, the petitioner pointed out, had scored 63 marks in the written exam but was granted admission in the general category.

After looking at the selection committee's minutes, the court pointed that the cut-off marks were prescribed after the interviews were held. The court reasoned that there were other students who have scored 63 marks in the written exam and given admission in the general category.

Source : TOI , 4th Jan 2017 

Railways to make 3000 special bogies for disabled persons

The Railways will make 3,000 special bogies for "divyangs" (persons with disabilities) by 2018 to make their travel comfortable and hassle-free, an official said on Tuesday. These bogies will have various facilities to ensure the differently abled passengers or "divyangs" have smooth train travel, said Kamlesh Pandey, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) in Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.

Addressing a press conference in Nagpur, he said the special bogies will be interlinked, will have more seats, space and signage to locate them. Pandey is in Nagpur for a review meeting of welfare schemes launched for "divyangs" in Nagpur district. This initiative has been taken to make rail travel more convenient for divyangs, he added. Pandey informed that around 180 Government buildings in Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur will be made accessible to divyangs with various facilities like ramps, lifts and disable -friendly sound system.

The project has been sent to the Central Government for approval, he said. "Earlier, there were seven categories of persons with disabilities in the Disability Act, 1995. Now 21 more categories have been included in the Act. These include mental illness, thalassemia, dwarfness and acid burn," Pandey said. "Similarly, reservation in these categories have been increased from 3 per cent to 4 per cent," he added.

Source : DNA , 3rd Jan 2017

Kiosk on wheels helps persons with disabilities turn entrepreneurs

The battery-operated kiosk, Sunny Splendor, is a boon to persons with disabilities. 
The battery-operated kiosk, Sunny Splendor, is a boon to persons with disabilities.

Three years ago, Umesh, a lorry driver, lost his legs in a road accident. To make ends meet, he decided to sell tea on a two-wheeler, but the new venture threw up many challenges.

Dejected but not defeated, he approached an automobile firm for help. The firm, along with a wheelchair manufacturer, came up with a design for a disabled-friendly mobile kiosk to help people with disabilities earn a livelihood as part of a CSR initiative. The company approached the Association of People with Disabilities (APD), which funded the project. By 2015-end, Umesh had a prototype of the mobile kiosk.
APD rolled out three such mobile kiosks in the city in December last year to enable people with locomotive impairment and cerebral palsy start a business. The kiosk or electric vehicle named Sunny Splendor can also be charged on solar power.
Calling it ‘office on wheels’, C.N. Gopinath, executive board member of APD, said: “It plays a pivotal role in creating a perfect livelihood option for the physically challenged, who at times are constrained by financial circumstances and lack of qualification.”
Mansoor Ahmed, one of the fund raisers of the project, said the kiosk is environment and disabled-friendly. “We replaced the steering wheel with a joystick and the tires have increased brake efficiency”.
“I want to start a cosmetics and beverages business and my target audience comprises those working in tech parks. With this vehicle, I can commute to different tech parks," said Basheer Ahmed, who is affected by polio. For Mahesh, who has been repairing mobile phones from home, the vehicle will help him broaden his customer base. “I want to run the business outside a government office. I am also planning to buy a typewriter, so I can help officials in their work”.

Four kiosks in Bengaluru

There are four such kiosks in Bengaluru. Beneficiaries can approach APD if they wish to become entrepreneurs, and have to go through a selection process before they can get their own mobile kiosk.
APD charges 10 per cent of the ₹1 lakh that costs to make a unit. “We believe they have the right to stake a claim in our ventures. This would not be possible if we operated on a charity model, which is is why we accept 10 per cent monetary contribution from them, though we do not insist this from those who cannot afford,” Mr. Mansoor Ahmed added.

Source : The Hindu , 4th Jan 2017 

Rights-based empowerment

According to the Census 2011, there are 2.68 crores (2.21%) persons with disabilities in India, though according to some estimates, the actual number may be as high as five per cent of our population. However, there has been a paradigm shift in the approach towards the persons with disabilities (PWDs) during last some years. The government’s focus now is on rights based economic empowerment of PWDs as we observe the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on 3rd of December this year.

In India the first step in moving towards rights based economic empowerment was taken when Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 came into being.  The second was India’s ratification of the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (U.N.C.R.P.D.) now a new bill introduced in Rajya Sabha that has provisions for accelerating this process, awaits nod from the Parliament.  

Now all eyes are on the   Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill which will replace the 1995 Act.  The provisions in the Bill fulfil a number of demands of the Disabled Rights Groups and Activists who have been pressing for its early passage in the parliament.

Some of the significant  provisions of the Bill include,  making  accessibility a mandatory requirement under the law,  number  of beneficiary categories   proposed to  be increased from  7 to 19,  entitlement of  some benefits to persons with at least 40% of a disability .It also provides  disabled friendly access to all public buildings, hospitals, modes of transport, polling stations, etc. Significantly it also stipulates, violation of any provision of the Act be made   punishable under the law.

Apart from the proposed legislation, government has taken several measures towards empowerment of the persons living with disabilities. 

The campaign was launched almost a year back on the 15th of December. A flagship programme of the government, it is aimed at achieving universal accessibility of persons with disabilities and to create an enabling and barrier free environment. It is focussed on three objectives, accessibility of built up environment, transport system accessibility and accessibility of knowledge and ICT ecosystem.  According to Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, audit of   1092 buildings out of 1098 across 31 cities has already been completed in order to convert them into fully accessible buildings. .

In August this year, the government launched ‘Sugamaya   Pustakalay’ an online platform where a person with disabilities can access books in the library at a click of a button. He can read the publications on any device of his choice­ mobile phones, tablets, computers, DAISY player or even in braille using refreshable braille displays. He can also request for a braille copy through member organizations that have braille presses.

The Secretary General of  World Blind Union and President of All India confederation of the Blind, Mr A.K Mittal  is of the view that situation  with regard to availability  of  basic writing material and mobility aides like canes for the visually challenged has improved significantly. Appreciating the government initiative with regard to liberal grants related to production of books in Braille, he told this author that if  the scheme for  modernization and setting up of  new Braille presses is implemented properly this will increase and ease the production of books.

The government proposes to roll out a web-based unique disability identification (UDID) card. The initiative will help in a big way in ensuring the authenticity of disability certificates and eliminate the hassle of having to carry certificates for different purposes, as various details, including the type of disability, would be made available online.

The government has also initiated scheme for pre matric, (46000 slots) post matric (16650 slots) and the students seeking top class education (100 slots).

A National Action Plan for Skill Training of Persons with Disabilities was launched last year. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in collaboration with NSDC, proposes to set an ambitious target of skilling 5 lakh persons with disability in next 3 years (1 lakh in first year, 1.5 lakh in second year and 2.5 lakh in third year). The Action plan is aimed at skilling 25 lakh persons with disabilities by end 2022.

The Department organizes Camps to distribute aides and appliances to the persons with disabilities (Divyangjans). Prime Minister Narendra Modi distributed Aids and Assistive Devices to more than 11000 Divyangjans at one such camp in held September in Gujarat. Similar Camps have been organized across the country to meet the needs of Divyangjans residing in remote areas.

More than a decade after  the first law on persons  with disabilities came into effect, despite  special recruitment drives  from time to time, by government’s  own admission   only  a little over one per cent of the vacancies could be filled against  three per cent reservation in  jobs in government. Over 14,000 identified vacancies remain to be filled. The backlog for the visually challenged is about ten thousand.  A report by the  International Labour Organization in 2011  said that over 73% of the disabled in India are still outside the labour force and those with mental disability, disabled women and those  in rural areas are the most  neglected.

More than half of the children with disabilities are out of school despite the fact that the government has taken a number of steps to encourage these children to be admitted to schools. Activists hope that if the Right to Education is implemented in letter and spirit, this situation is likely to improve considerably.

Activists also plead for enhanced research and development with regard to aids and appliances for the PWDs to ensure that their accessibility to various facilities is made easy.

With the fast-tracking of several schemes and programmes which have been initiated during last two years, the objective of creating an inclusive and equitable world could become a reality.

Source : The Echoe of India , 7th Jan 2017 

Disabled may get 5% quota in colleges from next session

The government is keen to finalise the rules of the recently passed Disabilities Bill by April 14 which will allow disabled persons to avail 5 per cent reservation in higher education institutions from next academic session.

According to the bill, specially-abled persons with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years will also have the right to free education.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, which was passed in the Winter Session, provides for raising reservation in government jobs for persons with benchmark disabilities from 3 to 4 per cent and in higher education institutes from 3 to 5 per cent.

"The Disabilities Bill was passed by Parliament in the Winter Session and it has already been notified. Now I'm keen for earliest implementation of this act. We are working on to finalise its rules by April 14, including reservation benefits for the disabled," Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot told PTI.

He further said that this very important legislation would be a game changer for disabled persons and it brings Indian laws in line with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Under the newly enacted Act, the government has increased the types of disabilities from the existing seven to 21.

The newly added types include mental illnesses, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, specific learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities, including deaf blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinsons disease.

Also, disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept and government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.

As per the Act, assaulting, insulting, intimidating, denying food to a person with disability or sexually exploiting a differently-abled woman and performing a medical procedure on such women without consent which may lead in termination of pregnancy will draw a jail term up to five years once the law is passed.

Any person who contravenes any provision of the act will be punished with a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh.

Source : Business Standard , 3rd Jan 2017 

Social service projects discussed

 Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan has met member of Parliament (MP) Mohammed Al Emadi and several parents of differently abled children.

The meeting reviewed ways and means to meet the needs of this category of children to keep abreast of successive developments witnessed in the Bahraini society in line with the ministry's strategic plan(s).

The minister welcomed the MP and parents of handicapped children and discussed their needs and exchanged views with them to improve services and make them easily accessible. 

Humaidan affirmed the ministry's sparing no effort to follow up disabled persons through the provision of various developmental projects and community services emanating from the ministry's responsibility. The minister praised the efforts of Al Emadi, his fellow MPs and the Council of Representatives in communicating citizens' needs to the ministry and striving to find the solution(s) citing the Council's role in pushing legislations.

Al Emadi and the parents praised the ministry's efforts through the provision of rehabilitative, coaching and educational services to all categories of disabled persons to enable their inclusion in the society.

Source : Bahrain News Agency , 2nd Jan 2017 

Move to make Govt buildings disabled-friendly

All departments have been asked to submit details of Government buildings in the Capital and 10 other important cities and towns in a bid to make them fully accessible and disabled-friendly.
According to the strategy laid down by the Centre for Accessible India Campaign (AIC), all Government buildings in State Capitals would be made fully accessible by July next year. Besides, accessibility audit of 50 per cent of Government buildings in 10 important cities/towns would be taken up and made accessible by July, 2019.

The Department of Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SSEPW) has sought a list of Government buildings from Secretaries of all departments in Bhubaneswar and 10 other cities/towns for initiating the process of access audit by the Centre.     

In November, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Centre for not doing enough to make Government buildings disabled-friendly in the national and State Capitals and said the Ministry concerned has not taken any step in this regard for the last couple of years.

The apex court had earlier stated that there was non-compliance with regard to several important statutory duties and warned the States of contempt action if they failed to enforce the National Building Code as well as guidelines issued by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD).  

‘’The SC had expressed deep concern over slow progress in creating a barrier-free environment in Government buildings. Following the direction from the Centre, we have asked department heads to take up the matter personally and provide details to enable compliance to the directions of the apex court,’’ Principal Secretary of SSEPW Department Niten Chandra said.  

The AIC, known as the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, is an ambitious project that was launched in December, 2015 to enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in all aspects of life.

The campaign seeks to enhance accessibility by making significant changes to infrastructure, transportation, information and communication systems with an aim to make all Government buildings in the national Capital and all State Capitals ‘fully accessible’.

Source : The New Indian Express, 2nd Jan 2017 

Seminar on understanding needs of physically challenged


The Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs (HEPSN) and National Service Scheme (NSS) wings of Andhra Loyola College (ALC) organised a National seminar sponsored by UGC  called the National Seminar on Challenges and Opportunities For The Physically Challenged Persons at the college seminar hall on Wednesday.

Moses Chowdary of Enable India, Bangalore, was the Chief Guest for the National Seminar.  Addressing the gathering Moses said that Conviction, Competence, Curiosity, and Confidence were the four Cs required for a Visually Challenged person to come up in life. Moses Chowdary said that he was the alumni of Andhra Loyola college, Vijayawada, is a visually challenged. Physical deformity should hinder a person’s curiosity to learn, and the person should work hard to bring out their hidden potentials.

The Guest of Honor for the programme, Anita Claudia Alexander, programme officer CBM, Bangalore said that, taking the magnitude of the problems faced by the physically challenged persons, we need to provide an inclusive environment to accept the persons with love and respect. She further said that every aspect of life should be adoptable and should meet the needs of the persons with disabilities.  
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A souvenir with 30 research articles and eight profiles of NGOs and two case studies were released on the occasion. Prof Annavaram Hyderabad Central University, Dr Saraswati Raju Iyer,  Socialogy Dept Nagarjuna university, Dr K Veeraiah Dept of Zoology ANU, Dr Raja Shekar EFLU Hyderabad, Dr Nagaraj of HCU, Dr Adam Paul form Haryana were present. 

Fr Kishore, principal, Fr Raju, correspondent, Fr Rex Angelo, Fr Cinnappa vice-principals Dr Saraswathi Raju iyer co convener, were present at the event. There were 90 persons with Hearing impairments, 40 persons with Visual impairments, 10 orthopedically challenged, 23 scholars from Special Education and Sociology Departments, 30 lecturers and teachers also participated. The teachers of Madonna College for the deaf provided sign language facility to the audience who were hearing challenged.

Source : The Hans India, 5th Jan 2017 

HC directs Railway Board to frame scheme for allotment of shops to physically challenged- Madurai

The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Railway Board to frame a scheme within six months for preferential allotment of shops and other business establishments at all railway stations to physically challenged applicants.
It should be in accordance with Section 43 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Justice M.S. Ramesh passed the order while disposing of a writ petition filed by a group of physically challenged people who were reportedly forced to vacate telephone booths on railway platforms in 2012 since Southern Railway felt that such booths had become redundant in view of widespread use of mobile phones.
The order was reserved in the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai and delivered it in its Bench here.
The judge expressed concern that no scheme had has been framed even after 20 years of the enactment of the PWD Act, 1995 though it requireds governments and local bodies to frame schemes for preferential allotment of land at concessional rates to the physically challenged either for constructing houses, or setting up business or establishing special recreation centres, special schools, research centres or factories.

Source : The Hindu , 7 Jan 2017