The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: Does It Address the Needs of the Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families

By Narayan, Choudhary; John, Thomas | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January-March 2017 | Go to article overview

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: Does It Address the Needs of the Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families


Narayan, Choudhary, John, Thomas, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: Choudhary. Narayan, Thomas. John

Introduction

After India signed and ratified the UNCRPD in 2007, the process of enacting a new legislation in place of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 (PWD Act, 1995) began in 2010 to make it compliant with the UNCRPD. After series of consultation meetings and drafting process, the Rights of PWD Act, 2016 (RPWD Act, 2016) was passed by both the houses of the Parliament. It was notified on December 28, 2016 after receiving the presidential assent.[sup][1] Principles stated to be implemented for empowerment of persons with disabilities (PWD) are respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons. The Act lays stress on nondiscrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference and acceptance of disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity, equality of opportunity, accessibility, equality between men and women, respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities, and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities. The principle reflects a paradigm shift in thinking about disability from a social welfare concern to a human rights issue.

The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995

The PWD (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participations) Act, 1995 was enacted to give an effect to the “Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of the People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region.”[sup][2] The Proclamation was issued in a meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Region in December 1992 at Beijing, to launch the “Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993–2002.” The Act listed seven conditions of disabilities, which were blindness, low vision, leprosy cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation, and mental illness. Mental retardation was defined as “a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person which is specially characterized by subnormality of intelligence.” Mental illness was defined simply as “any mental disorder other than mental retardation.” The Act adopted an approach of social welfare in respect of PWD and the main focus was on prevention and early detection of disabilities, education and employment of the PWD. The Act also provided 3% reservation in Government jobs and educational institutions. It stressed on making the barrier-free situations as a measure of nondiscrimination.

Salient Features of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

In the RPWD Act, 2016, the list has been expanded from 7 to 21 conditions and it now also includes cerebral palsy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, acid attack victims, hard of hearing, speech and language disability, specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, chronic neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, blood disorders such as haemophilia, thalassemia, and sickle cell anaemia, and multiple disabilities. The nomenclature mental retardation is replaced by intellectual disability which is defined as “a condition characterized by significant limitation both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem-solving) and in adaptive behavior which covers a range of every day social and practical skills including specific learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.” The Act provides an elaborate definition of mental illness which is “a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation, or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behavior, and capacity to recognize reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life but does not include retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, especially characterized by subnormality of intelligence. …

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