At a northern India consultative meeting, organised by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, on amending the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, it was suggested that changes should be brought to the act to make it more effective.
At the meeting, the third such since 2006, it was suggested that the private sector be incorporated in the Persons with Disability (PWD) Act.
Anuradha Mohit, of National Institute for Visually Challenged, Dehradun, said:"In the non-discrimination chapter of the Act, the private sector is not mentioned. This despite the fact that everything is slowly getting privatised, be it in case of education, culture or public information system.
"Hence the act should be amended so that more disabled people are given an opportunity to work and be a part of the private sector companies," she said.
Health was another field mentioned at the meeting. Most participants said that people with disabilities still have to pay high premiums for health insurance schemes, which needs to be challenged.
Veena Chhotray, secretary of the ministry of social justice and empowerment, said the ambit of the disabilities act should be expanded.
"For instance, autism is not defined in the act. Dyslexia, a learning disability, is not mentioned either. Secondly, we are looking at reservation for people suffering from all kinds of disabilities in various sectors, including the private sector. Now there is reservation only for the hearing and seeing impaired and those with locomotive disorders," she said.
In the existing act, it is mentioned that the state has to see that there is a five percent reservation for disabled people in the workplace in the private sector.
The implementation mechanism of the act would be looked into with all seriousness and the state government would be bound by it as well, she stressed.
According to Chhotray, the ministry could have concluded the talks earlier but there was a demand by many stakeholders that the amendments should be taken up only after the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was finalised.
"Hence after India became one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention on March 30 this year, on the first day it was opened for signature and ratification, we decided to take the consultation forward," she said.
"There will be another national level meet before we come to a conclusion. There are a number of things we have to keep in mind before that, such as aligning by the UN Convention and that the amendments don't conflict with any other domestic legislation."
The earlier two meets were held in Patna, in consultation with stakeholders of the eastern and northeastern states, and in Chennai with stakeholders of the southern states.