The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD Act)
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD Act), a social welfare legislation, came into force on 19 April 2017 after much activism, since India had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities back on 1 October 2007; however, the domestic law fell short of the international obligations. The RPWD Act, 2016, replaced and repealed the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
The act puts an onus on the appropriate government and local authorities or institutions to ensure that all persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, a life with dignity and respect for his/her integrity and the right to prevent himself/herself from discrimination.
The RPWD Act expands the scope of the categorization of persons with disabilities to cover 21 conditions, which have been listed and defined in the schedule appended to the act and include dwarfism, acid attack victims, intellectual disability and specific learning disabilities among others. The 1995 Act covered only seven disabilities. There is a further categorization in terms of severity of the disability, which are: (a) persons with a disability; (b) persons with benchmark disability and (c) persons with disability having high support needs.
In a significant improvement from the old legislation (the 1995 Act), speech and learning disabilities and specific learning disabilities have been added in the RPWD Act, 2016. Moreover, the act provides that every child with benchmark disabilities between the age of six to 18 years:
- has the right and access to free education;
- five per cent reservation in all government and aided institutions;
- age relaxation of five years;
- minimum of four per cent reservation in employment and promotion; and
- other related benefits.
Some important definitions:
- “person with disability” means a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others
- “person with benchmark disability” means a person with not less than forty per cent. of a specified disability where specified disability has not been defined in measurable terms and includes a person with disability where specified disability has been defined in measurable terms, as certified by the certifying authority;
- “person with disability having high support needs” means a person with benchmark disability certified under clause (a) of sub-section (2) of section 58 who needs high support