Disability is an inadequacy of the body or mind which makes it difficult for a person to perform certain physical as well as mental activities and also restricts their interaction with the world around them. A person can be born with a disability or could develop one during their lifetime. Disabilities are usually defined in a limited spectrum in society but there are various types of disabilities. It could be cognitive, mental, physical, sensory, intellectual, visual or developmental. It could be a combination of multiple or all of them as well. Disabled people are more prone to discrimination and are more vulnerable to poverty and social ostracism. The rights of disabled people were established to protect and encourage the people who are disabled in any way be it mental or physical. People with disabilities should be given the same opportunities and equal wages as someone with no disability.
THE LAWS REGARDING DISABLED PEOPLE IN INDIA
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016: It asserts that any person with a disability should be not discriminated against. They should be treated equally among their peers. They should not be given inhuman treatment and should be equally protected in situations of conflicts, emergencies or natural disasters. The wider definition of a ‘disabled person’ is provided in this act. Disability is established as an evolving concept. It now covers people who have benchmark disabilities or people who require higher assistance. The act is applicable to both private as well as government institutions. The act states to give extra benefits to people with disabilities such as employment vacancies in government jobs, more educational opportunities by providing reservation of seats in educational institutions, poverty alleviation programs, and many other such schemes. Some salient features of this act are –
- Institutions are required to provide employment vacancies which are appropriate for disabled people. Any establishment receiving funds from the government should provide a minimum of 5 per cent complete reservation for people who are suffering from a disability.
- The establishment should maintain a record of their employees who have any disabilities. The manager or the employer must make sure that there is no form of illegitimate discrimination against people with disability in the workspace.
- Institutions having more than 20 employees need to compulsorily designate a liaison officer who would look over the employment of people with disability and also should provide them with special facilities if any needed.
- The employers need to provide special services or benefits to the people with disability such as special leave or any specific training program. This needs to be done for increasing accessibility for disabled people.
- The accessibility norms provided by the government need to be followed by all institutions. The accessibility norms include proper infrastructure and better communication technologies. These accessibility norms need to be available to all disabled people at all times.
- The institutions need to set and publish an Equal Opportunities Policy on its website or at noticeable places in the office premises. The policy should have the details of the facilities and additional benefits provided to a person with a disability in the workspace. A copy of the same should also be registered with the State Commissioner.
- Certain principles need to be enforced for encouraging people with disability to have individual autonomy and freedom to make personal choices according to their needs and to instill independence among themselves.
- Every child with a disability in the age group of 6-18 should have the Right to Education.
CHALLENGES FACED BY DISABLED PEOPLE IN THE WORKPLACE
There are various problems and forms of discrimination faced by people with disabilities in the workspace. They struggle to secure a job and maintain it. Sometimes people with certain disabilities are paid lesser in comparison to their colleagues. In some instances, they are humiliated and looked down upon as people who are unreliable due to their inability to perform certain work because of their disability. Disabled people tend to get meager roles and are constantly judged solely based on their disability. Some employers might even form misconceptions about them. Such constant treatment can lower a disabled person’s confidence and self-esteem which may eventually lead to mental health issues and in some cases may lead to depression or anxiety. A lot of times people with disabilities are impoverished due to spending a large fortune on healthcare.
People with disabilities often tend to face stigmatisation from their colleagues and employers. They also face isolation due to stigmatisation in some cases. This sometimes encourages an employee to quit their jobs which in turn affects their financial and social status.
Many establishments do not have proper facilities for people with disability. Due to this working at par with their peers becomes a complex task for disabled people. An example of such facilities would be a wheelchair or special elevator for people with walking disabilities. Many people with disability have a harder time adapting to newer ways of handling work. There are various kinds of disabilities including physical as well as mental disabilities. Very often mental disabilities are overlooked which makes it very difficult for people suffering from mental illness to navigate through work which may even worsen their condition. They face several obstacles due to attitudinal barriers.
To ensure equal opportunities for disabled people strengthening their skills and providing them with educational opportunities must be the first priority. Legal aid systems must be placed in every institution to look over disabled people and their needs. People with disabilities should be paid according to their productivity levels. The institution should provide facilities for disabled employees and make reasonable accommodations according to their needs. Employers need to ensure that disabled people have the right to free movement and work independently. Government should initiate various programs for the alleviation of disabled people.
The rights of disabled people need to be more inclusive. Often women and girls with disabilities are overlooked and are forced to work in Institutions where they may face unfavorable conditions. Hence the rights of persons with disability should be incorporated under Human Rights and other laws in India. More awareness programs for disabled people must be laid out by the government especially in rural areas to make them aware of their rights and to express belief and enjoy their rights without facing discrimination. Disabled people are an integral part of society and they should be treated with dignity.
Author(s) Name: Aarya Shrivastava (Hidaytullah National Law University)