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World Disability Day 2021, 14-year-old Assam boy develops app to convert sign language to text

World Disability Day 2021, 14-year-old Assam boy develops app to convert sign language to text

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  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Vulnerable Sections || Disabled

Why in the news?

  • On World Disability Day, Assam school student Tejas Shukla (14) has developed an application that can help deaf persons communicate by translating sign language to text and vice versa.

What is a disability?

  • A disability is defined as a restriction or lack of ability to execute an activity in a manner or range that is regarded normal for humans as a result of impairment. Disability is a major public health issue, particularly in developing nations such as India.

World Disability Day

  • The United Nations since 1992, has designated December 3 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to raise awareness about the issue of disability. I
  • The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. 
  • It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. It was originally called “International Day of Disabled Persons” until 2007.
  • Each year the day focuses on a different issue. This year the day is celebrated with the following theme
    • “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”.

Issues related to Disability in India

  • A huge chunk of the population is disabled– Disability is the world’s greatest ‘ unrecognized minority’ group, accounting for a significant proportion of the population.
    • About a billion people internationally live with a disability, with 80 percent of these being residents of the developing world. In 2007, the UN passed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
    • According to the 2011 population census, India’s population with disabilities is estimated to be around 26.8 million people, or 2.21 percent of the overall population.
    • India is a state party to the convention, and the World Bank estimates that there may be well over 40 million Indians living with disabilities.
  • Disability and Poverty –Data on disability shows a link between the terms “disability” and “poverty.” A substantial number of disabled people are born into low-income families.
    • This is due to the lack of care provided to pregnant mothers in low-income families; these systemic flaws result in medical difficulties during pregnancy, which in many cases leads to the birth of children with impairments.
    • Similar tendencies may be seen in the 2011 population census data, which shows that 69 percent of the overall population of persons with disabilities in India lives in rural areas.
  • Social Attitude: A considerable number of people regard people with disabilities as objects of sympathy and ‘pity,’ resulting in their ‘othering’ and treatment as third-class citizens in the country.
    • Another major issue is that a considerable portion of the population views people with disabilities as a liability, which leads to discrimination and harassment against them, as well as their exclusion from society.
  • Lack of Political Representation: Despite India’s large population of disabled persons, we have only had four parliamentarians and six state assembly members with visible disabilities throughout our seven decades of freedom.
  • Shortage of ramps:The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was passed in 2016 but our country is still largely devoid of ramps on its footpaths or government buildings.
  • Poor development:Indians with disabilities are far more likely to suffer from poor social and economic development. Shockingly, 45 percent of this population is illiterate.

Steps taken by the government for the betterment of the disabled

  • Constitutional provisions 
    • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)- Within the limits of its economic capacity and development, the state must make effective provisions for securing the right to work, education, and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement, according to Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).
    • Seventh Schedule- The subject relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is stated in the constitution’s state list of the Seventh Schedule.
  • Accessible India Campaign
    • The government has taken some commendable steps to better the lives of people with disabilities.
    • Despite the government of India’s Accessible India Campaign mandating all ministries to make their buildings accessible to persons with disabilities, most buildings in India are still not disability-friendly.
    • Similarly, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act establishes a quota for people with disabilities in government occupations and higher education institutions, although the majority of these positions are unfilled.
  • Mental health care act:In 2017, the Mental Healthcare Act recognized and respected the agency of persons with mental health conditions.
    • Expanding the presence of mental-health establishments across the country.
    • Restricted the harmful use of electroshock therapy.
    • Clarified the mental-health responsibilities of state agencies such as the police.
  • DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme:Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to Persons with Disabilities, like special schools, vocational training centers, community-based rehabilitation, pre-school and early intervention, etc.
  • National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities (RGMF)
    • The scheme aims to increase opportunities for students with disabilities for pursuing higher education.
    • Under the Scheme, 200 Fellowships per year are granted to students with disabilities.
    • Schemes of the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities.
  • Representation in sports-Athletes with impairments has regularly achieved the pinnacles of sport and done us proud, most recently capturing four medals in athletics at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
  • A step towards making airports disabled friendly
    • The Government of India has released the Draft Rules to make airports Disabled friendly.
    • The Draft Rules follow the Rights of Person with Disabilities Rules, 2017 under which the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is required to frame harmonized guidelines for accessibility standards for persons with disabilities.

Some Best examples across the world

  • The Nordic countries and Switzerland offer the most generous compensation policies to persons with disabilities.
  • Japan- People with physical or learning disabilities, as well as those with mental health conditions, are eligible for government assistance.
  • Finland –People on disability benefits in Finland may be eligible for extra child supplements, care supplements, housing allowance as well as social support for unexpected expenses.
  • Norway-People on disability benefits in Norway get extra help to pay for a carer, make adjustments to their homes (wider doors for wheelchairs, etc), pay for taxis, and so on.
  • Sweden-In Sweden, if you are in a car accident or similar, and end up with a disability, you may have the right to financial assistance for home adjustments, for example, to make it possible for you to move around in the house with a wheelchair, move the kitchen or a bedroom from upper to lower floor and so on.

Way forward

  • CBR (Community-Based Rehabilitation) Approach: CBR is a comprehensive approach to primary health care that is employed in instances when community-based rehabilitation resources are available.
    • To ensure that people with disabilities can optimize their physical and mental capacities, have frequent access to services and opportunities, and achieve full integration into their communities, a CBR strategy is required.
  • Education
    • State-wise strategies on education for children with special needs need to be devised.
    • There should be proper teacher training to address the needs of differently-abled children and facilitate their inclusion in regular schools.
    • Further, there should be more special schools and ensure educational material for differently-abled children
  • Access
    • Safety measures like road safety, safety in residential areas, public transport systems, etc, should be taken up.
    • Further, it should be made legally binding to make buildings disabled-friendly
  • Collaboration with States: Pregnant women’s care and good, accessible medical facilities throughout the rural heartland are crucial pillars for tackling the occurrence of impairments.
    • State governments should be actively supported in facilitating both of these aspects, but the union government should invest extensively in their health sector because health is a “state matter” in our constitution.
  • Policy Interventions
    • More budgetary allocation for the welfare of the disabled. There should be a disability budgeting on the line of gender budget.
    • Proper implementation of schemes should be ensured. There should be proper monitoring mechanisms and accountability of public funds.
  • Proper implementation of legislation
    • Since the inception of the Rights to Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016, there have been many instances of faulty implementation of disability reservation.
    • The new act can only be successful if there is a genuine ‘intent’ to recruit persons with disabilities.
    • There is a need for a culture to be developed in India, where the needs of the population with disabilities are kept in mind while building any infrastructure.

Conclusion

  • The government must collaborate with civil society and people with disabilities to create an India where everyone, regardless of their disability, feels welcome and is treated with respect. Discuss

Mains model Question

  • What measures have been taken by the government to create a conducive environment for the disabled community? Discuss various reasons for the limited impact of such initiatives.

References