Not enough government schemes in Tamil Nadu for the disabled, say activists

Right now, people with high-support needs are given a monthly caregivers' allowance of Rs 1,000, which is inadequate to meet their requirements, an activist remarked.
Image for representational purpose only. (File Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)
Image for representational purpose only. (File Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

TIRUCHY:  While the announcements made by the Tamil Nadu assembly towards the differently-abled were received favourably, activists are of the view that the announcements missed several long-pending demands of People with Disabilities (PwDs) like health and transport and that they should have been prioritised over others.

Smitha Sadasivan of the Disability Rights Alliance Tamil Nadu and a member of the State Advisory Board for PwDs said that despite reaching out to senior officials on several occasions to focus on health-related issues of the disabled community, the government's skipping over these came as a disappointment.

"Home Again announced in 5 districts is a much-needed initiative for people with psychosocial disabilities, if we are to move towards a more inclusive society in line with the mandate of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on living independently," she said, adding that doctors and other health care professionals should be sensitised towards dealing with PwDs and special focus should be paid on their access needs while working with them.

She also added that hospitals starting from Primary Health Centres (PHC) to tertiary health care centres should be made more accessible, both in terms of infrastructure and diagnosis, in compliance with the harmonized guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) and Health Care Accessibility standards by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

"The Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam scheme should be expanded to all PwDs in the state since people with different categories of disabilities experience multiple barriers in accessing hospitals and are in dire need of a proper health service," she added.

While Smitha welcomed initiatives such as increased fund allocation for scholarships to students with disabilities and payment to caregivers, she pointed out that the government should enrol trained caregivers in its registry and assign them to people with high support needs instead of a bare minimum allowance.

Right now, people with high support needs are given a monthly caregivers' allowance of Rs 1,000, which is inadequate to meet their requirements, she remarked. Accessibility being a crucial issue for PwDs, Smitha pointed out that the government could have made allocations to make the state infrastructure transport accessible.

"Though transport accessibility was mandated in PwD Act 1995 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016, it's a pity that the state government has taken no crucial step towards making public buses accessible for all population groups," she added.

R Balaji, a visually-challenged student who recently completed his education at a college in Tiruchy, said, steps to speed up the process of determining the disability of PwDs, especially students, should be made.

"As I have 90% visual impairment, I require assistance to write exams, for which I have to submit a disability certificate to the university after being analysed by doctors at the government hospital," he added.

Such assessments, he said, could have been processed rapidly, but they got delayed owing to the lethargic attitude of the staff. M Kamaraj, a person with a mobility disorder from Tiruchy, said the government should also focus on job creation by creating exclusive industries for PWDs.

"There are private entities running small-scale industries employing PwDs, but when the government takes such a step, it could have a large-scale impact on the community," he added.

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