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One of the biggest challenges for disabled women is access: Lalitha Kumaramangalam

According to the 2011 census data, 2.41% men are disabled as compared to 2.01% women, and there are more disabled people in rural areas at over 18 million as against 8.1 million in urban areas. Photo: MintPremium
According to the 2011 census data, 2.41% men are disabled as compared to 2.01% women, and there are more disabled people in rural areas at over 18 million as against 8.1 million in urban areas.
Photo: Mint

Kumaramangalam, chairperson of NCW, says better coordination between various ministries needed to provide the required services to women with disabilities

New Delhi: Better coordination between various ministries is needed to provide the required services to women with disabilities, said Lalitha Kumaramangalam, chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW) on Wednesday.

She was speaking during a consultation on ‘Expanding Opportunities for Women with Disability’ in New Delhi on the eve of the launch of Accessible India Campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the International Day of Disabled Persons on Thursday.

“One of the biggest challenges for women is access, not just physical but access across the board. Regardless of the type of disability, incidents of rape with disabled women are much higher than with other women," said Kumarmangalam.

According to the 2011 census data, 2.21% of the population is disabled. While 2.41% men are disabled as compared to 2.01% women, there are more disabled people in rural areas at over 18 million as against 8.1 million in urban areas.

“The consultation was part of a process under which a separate chapter on women is being included in the Rights of persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee," said Awanish K. Awasthi, joint secretary, ministry of social justice and empowerment.

The bill, which replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 7 February 2014 and was referred to the standing committee which gave its recommendations in May this year.

The bill covers 19 conditions of disability as compared to seven under the Act. There is also the demand for increasing reservation for disabled people in government jobs and universities to 5% from the current 3%.

Some of the key suggestions put forth in this consultation include issuing a universal unique identification card for disabled people across services, establishment of a National Institute of Disability Sciences and Research in Kerala, and setting up a standard operating procedure for hostels for disabled girls.

“Separate toilets need to be made for disabled people under the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ as improper access to toilets, apart from other things, increases the scope of sexual abuse. Most of the bus and railway stations do not have proper toilets for these people. Airports, on the other hand, perform much better, but what about toilets in aircraft?" asked the chairperson.

On the issue of access to education, Kumaramangalam said few schools have a reservation policy for disabled students. Moreover, teachers are also inadequately trained to teach them.

Emphasising the role of gram panchayats in mitigating this issue, she said, “Assuring food and financial security is very important as many times, these women are considered economically unproductive. With no avenues of protest or demand, gram panchayats have to be more active at the grass-roots level."

Talking about the number of disabled persons in the country, civil society representative and director, Action for Autism, Merry Barua, who was also a part of the committee which drafted this bill, said, “The census data under-represents these people by large numbers. To fix this, a questionnaire for the next census is being prepared to identify these people in a better way."

The consultation meeting was attended by 50 representatives from the ministries of women and child development, railways, skill development and entrepreneurship, labour and employment, human resource development, health and family welfare, urban development, department of persons with disabilities, department of social justice and empowerment, National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and representatives from the civil society.

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