Disability rights activists rap NITI action plan

Critics say the draft plan for 2017-2020 does not mention any financial commitments and fails to ensure digital accessibility

Published: 22nd May 2017 01:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd May 2017 03:28 AM   |  A+A-

A differently- abled person arriving to present his profile at a ‘Free Swayamvaram, for Disabled’, organised by Chennai Sai Thunai Matrimonial on Sunday | p jawahar

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The draft three-year action plan prepared by NITI Aayog, the government think-tank, has ignored the provision of digital accessibility to persons with disability, rights activists say.  
Last month, the NITI Aayog released the agenda plan for three years (2017-2020), outlining the vision and strategy to accelerate the country’s development. A section of that draft concerns the welfare of persons with disability. This plan becomes important as it, along with 7- and 15-year plans, will replace the current five-year plans of the Central government. The 12th five-year plan will end this year.

The draft plan has, however, been met with scepticism, as several activists have said it does not mention any financial commitments, fails to ensure digital accessibility, besides being silent about the implementation of Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016.
Speaking to Express, Ankit Rajiv Jindal, Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunities Centre, said the document failed to look into the issue of digital accessibility. “Ironically this document itself has not been made accessible. I had to rely on another person to dictate it,” Jindal, who is visually impaired, said.

This assumes significance, as the Rights of Persons with Disability Act (RPDA), 2016 mandates all public documents are in accessible formats. “The document has not even taken cognizance of the fact that RPDA is currently in force,” said Smitha Sadasivan, Member of Disability Rights Alliance (DRA).
Similarly, other provisions of the RPDA have not been incorporated into the draft agenda plan. For example, it only talks about implementing 3% reservation for persons with disabilities in jobs instead of 4% as provided in RPDA 2016.

Though the draft speaks about strengthening education, providing assistive technologies and establishing special institutions, there is suspicion that it won’t have the desired effect. This is because the draft does not mention any financial commitments to achieve the identified targets.
V Muralidharan, secretary, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, recalled the ‘Accessible India’ campaign launched with much fanfare in 2015.
“The mission was supposed to improve physical accessibility but it has not been backed by funds,” he said.

Key points of the draft
Over the next three years, 10,000 government buildings and 75% of government-owned public transport should be made accessible
Assistive devices should be provided to approximately
3. 5 lakh beneficiaries every year
Four regional centres of the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) should be established. Three Centres for Disability Sports (in Zirakpur, Vishakhapatnam and Gwalior) should be opened during the
three year time frame

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