A few months ago, I received a mail from the esteemed Women’s Web who was conducting a study to understand how organizations in India are enabling the inclusion of people with disabilities. The survey left me thinking. Being a part of an active working space for more than 11 years now, how much inclusivity have I seen or experienced in the environment around me? Organizations these days advertise the inclusivity of race, gender, and diversity. But what is the real scenario?
Curious, I did some research and was stumped with the revelation. The World Report on Disability 2011 states about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning. It is estimated that there are about 600 million people in the world who have a disability of one form or another. A recent study by WHO states that an estimated 1.3 billion people – or 1 in 6 people worldwide – experience significant disability. Closer home, in India, as per the 2011 Census, out of the total population of India is 1.23 billion, about 2.1 percent (over 21 million people) suffer from one or the other kind of disability. That is a whopping large number – then why are we not seeing them every day in our workforces? What does the law of the land say in this regard?
The employment of people with disability and their right to work is an important topic to ponder. In this blog in honor of the international day of Disabled persons which we celebrate on the 3rd of December, we will try to discuss the law and the practical situation regarding the employment of the disabled person.
Definition of disability:
Before plunging into the issue let us define disability.
In 1976, WHO provided a three-fold definition of impairment, disability, and handicap explaining that “an impairment is any loss or abnormality of a psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function; a disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being; a handicap is a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or a disability, that prevents the fulfillment of a role that is considered normal (depending on age, sex, social and cultural factors) for that individual.”
A disability is often defined as the malfunctioning, disturbance, or loss in the normal functioning of physical, mental, or psychological processes, or difficulty in the ability to learn or adjust socially, which interferes with a person’s normal growth and development.
Discrimination perhaps starts with the definition. We often term persons with disability as handicapped. The term handicap originated from the medieval act of the beggars extending their caps to receive the handouts. A person can be handicapped in a certain environment without being disabled (Like I cannot swim, thrown in a river, I am unable to move, handicapped but I am not disabled), or have a disability but not be handicapped in many places (there are swimmers with a disability however if someone without a leg is not given access to the lift of a high rise building, they can be handicapped to move, though they are mobile). Thus even the definition includes a derogatory notion.
However, with time there was a change in understanding of disability from an individual pathology to a social construct. The new model of thinking disability is considered an integral part of society.
Law and Disability
Persons with disabilities often encounter several obstacles not only because of their disabilities but also due to sensitivity and attitudinal barriers. Disability laws and acts are instruments through which countries abolish discrimination against persons with disabilities and eliminate barriers to the full enjoyment of their rights and their inclusion in society.
On paper, disability laws and their rights are reserved strongly. The Constitution of India includes in Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) – State shall make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
Several legislative measures have been initiated for the rehabilitation and empowerment of certain categories of disability such as The Rehabilitation Council of India Act (1992), Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation Act) 1995, The National Trust For Welfare of Persons With Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act (1999) and Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation Act) 1995.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken several initiatives to protect the rights of the disabled. Various legislations have been formulated for the disabled:
- • Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 that replaced Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation Act) 1995.
- National Trust For Welfare of Persons With Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act (1999).
- The Rehabilitation Council of India Act (1992)
Several programs have been launched for benefit of the disabled, like :
• Accessible India Campaign: Creation of Accessible Environment for PwDs
• DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme
• Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP)
Besides, Employment Exchanges under the National Employment Services as well as Special Employment Exchanges have been entrusted with the responsibility for the placement of persons with disabilities. In 1997 the Government of India incorporated the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) to help entrepreneurs with disabilities through financial assistance.
Challenges and the practical scenario
There is no dearth of initiatives. Still, the progress is not noteworthy. So what are the challenges? Why do people with special needs often face obstacles and lose the basic right to work?
To be honest, the legislation and the practical applications are not going together.
- It is legally mandatory only for public sector undertakings (PSU) to have over 3 percent reservations for persons with disabilities in their workforce. But the mandate is not being followed in the right spirit –
- Most PSUs like BHEL, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, and NTPC, have toed the line but, the list of identified jobs is very restricted. The selection is based on the assumption that the characteristics of impairment are exclusive determinants of an individual’s ability to hold a position at a particular skill level. So in general people with any disability are primarily given back-end jobs requiring only low-level skills.
- It is like ticking a checkbox to fulfill the criteria of 3 percent reservation and not being inclusive of disabled people with other extraordinary skills. Thus leading to discrimination where jobs are listed basis of disability.
- Another significant feature of the quota policy is that it applies only to three disability types – locomotor, visual, and hearing with a 1 percent reservation for each. This itself discriminates against the universe of disabilities offering a narrow perspective in its goal and has failed to provide adequate representation of them in the public sector workforce.
- Further, there is no appropriate information on the status of the implementation of the 3 percent reservation in government jobs provided under the 1995 Act in the annual reports of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities. Since there is no necessary audit or follow-up, even government organizations are not managing to meet the 3 percent job reservations for persons with disability.
- Government offers incentives to employers to ensure that at least 5 percent of their workforce is composed of persons with disabilities. But the Government has no laid down operating policy for the same nor do the private companies have any mandate to follow the 5% quota.
- Though Section 47 (ii)) of the PWD Act categorically mentions non-discrimination in the matter of promotion in the area of employment on the ground of disability and the UNCRPD prohibited any discrimination based on disability concerning all matters concerning all forms of employment, in practicality, in most organizations, recruitment rules contain medical standards to be met by a successful candidate thus impeding their recruitment.
- Also, there are contradictory laws like, intellectual disabilities cannot access various employment opportunities in the open market as they are not considered parties competent to enter into a contract as per the Indian Contract Act.
- Multiple barriers make it extremely difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities to function.
- The first and foremost barrier that challenges employment and continuation of employment is the attitudinal barrier. Stereotyping, stigma, prejudice, and discrimination are some of the common challenges faced by a disabled employee on day to day basis.
- Communication barriers: Disabilities that affect hearing, speaking, reading, writing, and or understanding, and who use different ways to communicate often face a communicational barrier, eg. Someone with partial visibility may not be able to read the small fonts used in presentation slides, Videos without caption may impair those with limited auditory sense or workplace with no one to understand oral sign language can handicap those who have an oral disability.
- Physical barrier – Structural obstacles in natural or manmade environments that prevent mobility are physical barriers. Absence of ramps, or lifts to accommodate wheelchairs. Many organizations simply lack the proper amenities for people with disabilities which makes it almost impossible for disabled people to cope with work and other factors.
- Movement barriers – Due to a lack of adequate transportation that interferes with a person’s ability to be independent and to function in society one may not take up many responsibilities. Eg. Some disabilities may restrict the use of public transport, Lack of access to accessible or convenient transportation which may be required to avail to reach the working place.
- Social Barriers – There is considerable skepticism and misconceptions concerning the employment of people with disability. Often employers doubt the capabilities of such persons or give them a role of a much lesser standard than their skills. Others treat them differently and are isolated by their peers due to their ignorance about this part of the world.
For centuries, people with disabilities are treated oppressively. With the advent of new thinking, social media reaches, and campaigning of families and well-wishers have put the focus on the rights of PwDs to secure the maximum possible support so that services related to rehabilitation, education, and employment are all provided through systems. The issue of disability is related to many other social, economic, and political issues. The issues are real and they must start from home. By starting inclusivity around you, in your team in your group, we can aid to take the giant leap to include this potential workforce into the system with respect and grace.
This post is a part of the “International Day of Disabled Persons” blog hop hosted by Sakshi Varma – Tripleamommy in collaboration with Bookosmia. #IDPD2022Bloghop. Access all posts of this blog hop here