The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the amended Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, which expands the list of disabilities from seven to 19. The new additions include cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, autism, thalassaemia and disabilities resulting from acid attacks and Parkinson’s Disease among other changes. The bill will now be sent back to the Lok Sabha and once cleared, will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
Among the other changes is an increase in job reservation for persons with disabilities from 3% to 5%. Other proposed amendments to the Act include the right to free education for children between the ages of 6 to 18 years suffering from a “benchmark disability”. The government has also increased the reservation in higher educational institutions for students with such disabilities to 4% from 3%.
Officials said the amendments, which include greater accessibility to public transport, were in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Activists have been expressing doubts that the Centre will dilute the provisions of the bill. Recommendations of the Sudha Kaul Committee, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, were the basis of the Bill’s formulation, The Indian Express reported. The 2011 Census pegs the number of disabled persons in the country at 2.68 crore, 2.21% of the population.
When drafted in 2014, the bill was observed as a long overdue measure as there was no national policy on disabilities till the 1990s.