After six years of lobbying, advocating and waiting patiently during days of disruptions and adjournments in the heated Winter Session of the Parliament in 2016, we finally witnessed the compassion of our Parliamentarians with the unanimous passage of the much awaited Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Bill on 14th December, 2016 in the Rajya Sabha and subsequently in the Lok Sabha on 16th December, 2016. The Bill was further approved and signed by the Hon'ble President before the year end and 'notified' by the Government in its official Gazette on 28th December, 2016. Thus, RPWD Bill 2016 was 'enacted' and became a ‘LAW’, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016!
Indeed, a historic moment and a path breaking achievement! This Law will be a game changer for the estimated 70-100 million disabled citizens of India and will help move the discourse away from charity to one that is rights based with provisions to enforce implementation.
Apart from covering 21 categories of disabilities from the previous 7 categories under the 1995 Act, this new Act lays complete emphasis on one’s rights – right to equality and opportunity, right to inherit and own property, right to home and family and reproductive rights among others. Unlike the 1995 Act, the new Act talks about accessibility - setting a two-year deadline for the government to ensure that persons with disabilities get barrier-free access to physical infrastructure and transport systems. Additionally, it will also hold the private sector accountable. This also includes educational institutions ‘recognized’ by the government such as privately owned universities and colleges. A path-breaking feature of the new Act is the increase in reservation in government jobs from 3% to 4%
With the new law, the Indian disability movement has been catapulted onto the next level. This has ushered us into the next stage of disability rights, “Disability 2.0”.