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The Disability Rights Network

Asmita began working in the area of disability rights around 2001. After some initial work co-organising conferences and meetings, we began to work more closely with groups across the state through disability rights networks to bring a women’s perspective to the mobilization around issues of ability. Simultaneously, we also worked on our own programmes with women’s networks in the state, bringing the disability rights perspective into women’s programmes. Our work with disability rights activists has been extremely rewarding, because it has transformed the ways in which we understood and spoke about rights, protections and access.

Of the several programmes we have conducted and co-organized on the issue of disability rights, the deliberations around the Employment Guarantee Scheme for Persons with Disabilities and the Human Rights Monitoring Project for Persons with Disabilities are particularly significant. Both these programmes were conducted in collaboration with Swaadhikaar Disability Rights and Resources Centre.

Disability Rights Monitoring involves the collection and verification of information regarding the degree to which the human rights of people with disabilities are being protected, promoted and fulfilled. This project involved the establishment of sustainable systems to collect and analyze information regarding the human rights situation of people with disabilities in countries around the world. Sporadic individual investigations have uncovered systemic human rights violations faced by people with disabilities such as appalling conditions in institutions, widespread sterilization policies, significant levels of low literacy, refusal of medical care and disproportionately high unemployment rates. However, comprehensive knowledge about the human rights situation of people with disabilities has not been systematically collected, documented, stored and analyzed. The collection of data and the periodic monitoring was done by a group of 30 persons with disabilities from different parts of the state, especially from rural areas, who went through an intensive 10 day training on how to collect and collate data, conduct interview, and connect local issues with the international debates on disability rights.

In late 2007, we decided we needed to do something to usher in the new year on a different note. Diaries had become commonplace, and there were too many to choose from. Calendars seemed like a good idea. But what would be the theme? Oddly enough, the first and only thought we had was that the calendar should explore the theme of disability rights. The artist, Nivedita, has been a close collaborator for over ten years. We discussed the theme and decided it would be best to look at the Disability Rights Convention and create drawings that would demonstrate inclusiveness along every dimension in every field – work, school, travel, tourism, the market, sport, home, everywhere.

This is part of our campaign on disability rights and popularizing the UN Convention on Disability Rights. One thousand calendars were mailed out by the first week of January to disability rights groups across the country, women’s groups, human rights groups on our list and women writers across the world.

Recommendations for the Inclusion of Citizens with Disabilities in the Employment Guarantee Scheme in Andhra Pradesh [Draft prepared by Dr. Kalpana Kannabiran, Asmita Collective on the basis of minuted discussions at the state level meeting of persons with disabilities to discuss the EGS at the National Institute of Mental Health, Secunderabad, January 2006]

The following recommendations are being proposed in the spirit of affirmative action and the right to equal access of Citizens with Disabilities to all measures for the eradication of poverty and the realization of the right to life initiated by the government

  1. Mechanisms may be put in place to ensure the fullest participation of Citizens with Disabilities in the registration and ratification by the Gram Panchayat of identified works, and their mandatory inclusion in self help groups to enhance their effective engagement with VOs and other local representatives.
  2. Inclusion of Citizens with Disabilities in Joint Forest Management and the creation of effective access to common property resources.
  3. Officers at each level responsible for the implementation of the EGS may be trained and oriented towards appreciating actual capabilities in consultation with Citizens with Disabilities seeking inclusion in particular works, thus making decisions reg
  4. arding appropriate work participatory and the process inclusive rather than charity oriented.
  5. Since the Act does not make special mention of ability as a pre-condition to granting of work, this must be read in favour of the person with disability in the granting of work.
  6. The definition of the household is far from fixed in the Act. In the event that the nuclear family is taken as the unit for the household, irrespective of actual numbers of units sharing a common hearth, this flexibility may be extended to adult Citizens with Disabilities residing in the household. In concrete terms, if 100 days of work is guaranteed to each unit, the presence of an adult with disabilities should result in the granting of an additional 50 days of work -- to the person with disability. Where the disability is severe and obstructs the person from participation in work, these additional hours may be given to an adult caretaker. However, this decision must only be made on a case by case basis after the officer has personally consulted with the person with disabilities, and the reasons for not allotting work to him/her and allotting it to a care taker/family member must be recorded in writing. Adults with disabilities would be given additional job cards.
  7. Of the 14000 or more field assistants employed by the government to assist in the implementation, Citizens with Disabilities will be identified to ensure inclusion of Citizens with Disabilities. For this purpose, the persons identified by the AP State Legal Services Authorities as Para Legal Volunteers in each district [where such identification has been done], may be included in the implementation of the EGS.
  8. Field Assistants appointed from among Citizens with Disabilities will also bring to the notice of the government the progress or obstacles as the case may be in the allotment of work and timely payment of wages.
  9. All information that must be provided on the EGS and related matters must be communicated effectively to Citizens with Disabilities keeping in mind the access issues that are specific to their situation. Merely displaying information at public places cannot be read as having communicated with Citizens with Disabilities.
  10. At the level of the Gram Panchayat, members should have separate consultations with Citizens with Disabilities prior to the meeting to discuss works and an independent record of such discussions must be maintained in the minute book to enable the government to be responsive to the needs and entitlements of Citizens with Disabilities.
  11. Where training can enhance the participation of Citizens with Disabilities in the works to be allotted, efforts must be made to ensure that this training is imparted by and in consultation with Citizens with Disabilities as far as possible.
  12. In the event of no work being allotted by the stipulated time to a person with disabilities, unemployment allowance may be paid to such person with greater stringency and checks than in the case of persons without disability as there is a strong possibility of this provision being misused to deny Citizens with Disabilities equal access to the EGS.
  13. For Citizens with Disabilities, the measure for wages should be hours of work rather than performance of fixed amount of work because it is a recognized fact that Standardization of capacity and definition of standard efficiency is both difficult and problematic in the case of Citizens with Disabilities. This would require the government to look at the EGS through a new perspective that does not see the poor person with disability as lazy and unwilling to work, but rather to make an assumption that if included in the EGS the person with disability will work to his/her maximum capacity and that willingness provides the rationale for the government to shift from quantum of work to hours of work. According to ILO norms, hours of work are a standard measure that has been proven to be just.
  14. Apart from questions of inclusion, transportation for person and escort where necessary; signage for the speech and hearing impaired and audible implements for the visually challenged; allotment of work in proximity of residence; orientation of all persons covered by the EGS towards disability issues; equal wages for men and women with disabilities; building of social capital to be stressed alongside infrastructure development etc.; formal mechanisms for the inclusion of Citizens with Disabilities in local governance at the village and ward levels on the initiative of the government if necessary.