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Handicapism — Disabling Images or Images Disabling?
by Justice Jitendra N. Bhatt

Cite as : (2003) 8 SCC (Jour) 1

The definition of “disability” under the human rights concept and philosophy is wide and covers various forms of disability. Disability in the Act means, physical disability or impairment, physical ailments, psychiatric illness, intellectual or psychological or anatomical structure or function, reliance on a wheelchair or other remedial means, in the presence of body or organism capable of causing illness. Dr Sam Niwa, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant, Osaka, Japan, has observed that another area they are very concerned with relates to “social innovation”, namely, the concepts of normalisation, integration, equalisation and inclusion. These do not, however, appear to have kept pace with the rapid development of technological changes. Technology which permits a severely disabled person to work on a computer terminal, at home, would isolate the disabled and lessen the prospect of social integration which is the ultimate objective of rehabilitation.

Let us, at the outset, recall the observation of Krystina Mrugalska made on the “Day of Dignity”: “Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that disability only concerns the disabled person. It is a problem of the entire society.” Until the non-disabled understands the disabled ones, the problem can hardly be seriously viewed. In fact, “Disability Rights Movement” (DRM) activists, in United States and western countries, have taken up the cause of the disabled on a higher pedestal. Disability Rights Movement has acquired momentum and motivation. Activists of such movements advocate the doctrine that makes the disabled, taxpayers and not only tax consumers. Partly, this concept has been successful in certain countries. The doctrine of “duty versus pity” has, thus, emerged in DRM.

There appears to be no consensus on the size of the disabled population because researchers, experts and authorities concerned have not, so far, agreed on what constitutes “disability”. One out of every seven Americans has disability that interferes with daily pursuits and activities of life, like work, or keeping a household. That is the reason why disability ranks as the nation’s largest public health hazard and issues affecting not only the individual with handicapism and their immediate families, but also the society and the nation at large. Disabilities are of innumerable categories, which, briefly, can be articulated in the following broad classifications as per one school of thought on disability:

(i) Congenital

(a) in which most of the disability comes later in life. Some are progressive advancing with advancement of age like muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, vision and hearing impairment.

(b) Some are episodic for example, multiple sclerosis is episodic and progressive.

(c) Some are static like the loss of anatomical part or amputated limb.

(d) Some like cancer and occasional paralysis sometimes can even go away if properly initially diagnosed and are given required medical management.

(ii) Hidden

Disability like epilepsy or diabetes.

(iii) Disabilities which are not disabling but create prejudice and discrimination, like obesity or stuttering.

Undoubtedly, it is, rightly described that human rights are sure and sound guarantees of democracy. Every person should know that he has rights and that they are protected by the State. A supplementary recognition and human rights respecting guarantee is the harmonisation of the juridical frame of the republic and the international normative acts to which the democratic republic has adhered to. Human rights and their respect, obviously and evidently confirms the degree and the status of civilisation of a nation. It is easy to understand the universal truth that all people are born equal, that their Creator invests them with some inherent, indivisible, inalienable, non-negotiable and non-derogable natural and basic rights and through this we can count the effort to a decent life, liberty, freedom, happiness and harmony.

Human rights, broadly speaking, may be regarded as those fundamental and natural rights which are essential for decent life as a human being. They are the rights which are possessed by every human being irrespective of his or her nationality, race, religion, sex, colour, simply and only because she or he is a human being. Human rights and fundamental freedoms allow us to fully develop and use our human qualities and our intelligence, our talents and our conscience and to satisfy our physical, spiritual and other needs, as human beings. They are founded upon mankind’s increasing demand for normal but decent life in which the inherent dignity and worth of each human being will receive regard and respect, protection and parental care. Human rights are sometimes characterised as fundamental rights, or natural rights, or basic rights.

In a democratic set-up, the “rule of law” is the heart of democracy. If justice is not easily accessible to every citizen, there can hardly be “rule of law”. The traditionally inherited legal system is very expensive, timeconsuming and more complex. As a result of which, it is said that the poor and vulnerable class has started to look upon such a system as a foe, instead of a friend. In a country like India, free and competent legal aid to the needy and indigent in general and the handicapped in particular is absolutely imperative and an obligation of the State.

However, it is heartening to note that the Supreme Court and the High Courts, in India, by exercising constitutional powers and rights with the aid of writ jurisdiction under Articles 32 and 226, respectively, have in their dynamic approach, widened the concept of providing free and competent legal aid to the suppressed and oppressed, the disabled and disadvantaged class of people. Through innovative interpretations of Articles 19 and 21, in particular, the Apex Court and High Courts, have charted neo-juristic dynamic and visionary mission and have contributed and added new dedicated multi-dimensional profile to achieve socio-economic goals as per the constitutional commandments and have provided neo-concept and philosophy of “right to life, liberty and freedom” for the weaker and handicapped mass and notice is being taken in the whole of the world.

Pursuant to the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region and the meeting to launch Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, convened by the Economic and Social Commission for Asian and Pacific Region, held at Beijing in December 1992, and since India is a signatory to the said Proclamation, Parliament has enacted “the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (1 of 1996) which came into force on 7-2-1996 (the Disability Act, 1995, for short)”.

The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999 (Act 44 of 1999) came into force on 30-12-1999. It aims at consolidation of the body at the national level for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities and connected and incidental matters thereto. This Act is in an acknowledgement of a wide range of competencies among individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities and is an affirmative action in favour of these individuals by setting up a National Trust to support programmes which promote individuals, facilitating guardianship where necessary and address the concerns of those persons who do not have family support and to strengthen families and protect the interest of such persons.

The main design and desideratum of such legislative measure is to provide them restorative, rehabilitative, participative support with dignity so as to bring them to the mainstream. Such legislative schemes are at an early stage of implementation to merit any deeper analysis or serious comments. However, it awaits a headstart soon.

There are various challenges staring at us, in the very beginning of the 21st century and particularly insofar as the issue of disabilities is concerned. Estimates of the number of disabled vary a great deal depending on the definitions, the source, the methodology and extent of use of scientific instruments in identifying and measuring the degree of disability. According to one rough estimate, India has approximately over 90 million population with disability and out of these, 12 million are reported to be blind, 28.5 million persons are living with low vision, 12 million people are with speech and hearing impairment, 6 million persons are orthopaedically handicapped, 24 million mentally retarded, 7.5 million mentally ill. It is also reported that 1.1 million leprosy-cured persons are living in India.

The following startling data and information as per the survey conducted by NSSO in 1991, would be eloquent testimony to show the high magnitude of persons with disabilities in India. It would be expedient and useful to refer the outcome of the survey which is highlighted hereinbelow with important findings:

(i) About 1.9 per cent of the total population of the country i.e. 16.15 million persons have physical or sensory disabilities which include visual, speech, hearing and locomotor disabilities. There was, thus, a slight increase in disability over the previous decade both in terms of absolute numbers and percentage.

(ii) In a separate survey of children (age 0-14 years) with delayed mental development, it was found that 29 out of 1000 children in the rural areas had developmental delays which are usually associated with mental retardation. Approximately 3 per cent of the children between 014 years of age have developmental delays associated with mental retardation.

(iii) The prevalence rate for physical disability was observed to be significantly more amongst males (22.77/1000) than females (16.94/1000).

(iv) As regards the Statewise distribution of physical disability, the States which have higher prevalence rate than the national average were Andhra Pradesh (24.98/1000), Himachal Pradesh (28.70/1000), Karnataka (21.31/1000), Madhya Pradesh (27/1000), Orissa (23.06/1000), Punjab (29.36/1000) and Tamil Nadu (23.72/1000). The national average is 19/1000.

(v) The rate of prevalence of physical disability in urban population was 16.75/1000 as compared to 19.75/1000 in rural areas.

(vi) About 12.3 per cent of the disabled people identified were multi-handicapped.

(vii) 9.14 and 6.77 per cent of the total estimated households respectively in rural and urban India were reported to have, at least, one disabled person in the household. The average household size in urban and rural sectors was 5.8 persons.

(viii) The incidence of physical disability (number born or otherwise rendered disabled) in the rural areas of the country was on an average 90 persons per 1,00,000 population during the past one year. The figure in respect of the urban areas was 83.

(ix) The incidence rate, as is the case with prevalence rate, is higher in the case of males than females. There were significant inter-State variations. The rates among males were 99 and 90 in rural and urban India respectively as against 81 and 75 among females in rural and urban areas respectively.

(x) Among the physically disabled 25 per cent of the disabled people in the rural areas and 20 per cent in urban areas suffered from such severe disabilities that they could not perform activities of self-care and daily living even with aids/appliances.

It is, therefore, very easy to conclude that estimates of disability vary a great deal. One thing is certain that for policy, plan and project formulation and resultant provision of services, it is absolutely imperative that reliable estimates of incidence and prevalence of various disabilities must be made in accordance with the accepted definition of various categories of disabilities. Unfortunately, despite preventive measures and coordinated efforts with modern techniques at the global level, the universal application of the standard, the rate of disability ought to have decreased.

Despite the enactment of the Disabilities Act, 1995, it has been felt by some of the human rights activists that at times, judges, lawyers and government offices have remained oblivious of its provisions. It is also felt by them that despite the rapidly increasing number of HIV-positive people, the lack of medical care and offensive discrimination is being routinely practised and no law exists to protect their fundamental rights. There is also a school of thought that judicial responses have been mixed whereas rapid strides were made in environment law with some progress and administrative law and on law relating to women.

The sociological approach towards the disabled is to lead them to normalisation, to provide them integration and independence out of the shadow lamp. They need “sheltered workshop” for employment not segregation. They do not need special protection. They do not need pity. Mainstreaming the disabled is the call and creed of the time. Such legislative actions and measures can definitely play a significant role and contribute to a greater extent for the disabled persons’ amelioration, employment and integration in the mainstream.

For effective implementation and efficient enforcement of human rights particularly with regard to the physically handicapped and mentally challenged in the changing times, there are various aspects posing challenges in the 21st century. The common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are acknowledged, respected, coordinated with other rights, defended and promoted, so that in this way, each one may more easily carry out his duties. Every person has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and finally the necessary social services. Therefore, a human being also has the right to security in cases of sickness, inability to work, widowhood, old age, unemployment, or in any other case in which one is deprived of the means of subsistence though no fault of his own.

It will be interesting to note that at the instance of Rehabilitation International, an organisation dedicated to supporting handicapped children, Abilympics, is started. In fact, handicapped children are participating in the Olympics with a difference. They have labelled it as the Abilympics as the disabled children are participating with a difference and this is a celebration of the abilities of persons with disabilities.

Rehabilitation International (RI) is an institution of various national organisations and agencies for the prevention of disability, rehabilitation of persons with disabilities and equalisation of opportunities within, on behalf of persons with disabilities and their families also throughout the world. It is presently composed of almost 200 organisations spread over 90 countries. RI maintains official cordial relations with UN and Social Council, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Office, UNESCO, UNICEF, the Organisation of American States, the European Union and the Council of Europe and UN Economic and Social Council for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP). RI was founded in 1922, at Elyria, Ohio (USA) with a benign design and laudable object and it has a long history of accomplishments. It was recognised in 1939 and in 1960 came to be known as “International Society for Rehabilitation of the Disabled(ISRD) and since then, it is known as Rehabilitation International. It generated a charter for the 80s highlighting global priorities for the prevention of disability and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, which formed the basis for the UN plan of action in the Decade of Disabled Persons.

It must be mentioned that there is a tremendous rise in thinking, helping, solving the issues of the disabled because of “Disability Rights Movement” which is very much strong in the United States, and some leading developed countries in the western world. The champions of this movement have, also, started advocating that it is not so much disabled individuals who need to change, but the society. The activist of this movement Judy Heumann has observed, “disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives — job opportunities, or barrier-free buildings, for example, it is not a tragedy to me that I am living in a wheelchair”. It could, therefore, very well be concluded that the proponents of Disability Rights Movement in their new concept and thinking believe that disability itself is not tragic or pitiable. It is, mainly, because of the strong strategies of Disability Rights Movement programmes that the American Disability Act came to be enacted in 1990 (ADA-1990). This new legislative mechanism has, significantly, helped the disabled in leading towards independence and rehabilitation to a great extent.

Normalisation does not mean that disabled persons become fully normal. It does, however, mean the environment around the disabled persons to become normal to facilitate his or her mainstreaming integration into society. Removing physical, psychological and social barriers and obsolete ethos around individual disabled persons is normalisation. A disabled person may be surrounded by invisible glass walls and glass ceiling which prevent him or her access to open employment. The negative attitude of society, inadequate education and training, lack of transport facilities, inaccessible buildings and workplaces and other barriers will determine the difference between meaningful employment and unemployment of any disabled person. No doubt, the task ahead is full of challenges and many unanswered questions.

It will be interesting to note that in China, at present, more than 70 per cent disabled people with working abilities are employed in large and medium-sized factories. The average employment rate of disabled people in the urban area is about 60 per cent. In the rural area, training and employment opportunities of disabled people are primarily in farm work. Along with current economic development in the country, “special welfare factories” for the disabled have gained rapid progress and growth in the recent times. As per one report, there are about 40,000 special welfare factories employing 7,00,000 disabled workers. Some 1500 varieties of factory projects are for export earning US $ 240 million.

The Disability Act, 1995, in India, is also providing recognition of institutions for persons with disabilities for providing help and logistic support. The provision is also incorporated for persons with severe disabilities so as to make such persons fit for rehabilitation. The important provision in Section 66 of the Act provides for Social Security Insurance Scheme for employees with disabilities and unemployment allowance to persons with disabilities, registered with special employment exchange for more than two years and who could not be placed in any gainful occupation are also envisaged. For the purpose of fulfilling the statutory mechanism for administration for planning and research etc. provisions are also made in this Act. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Rules were also framed under the said Act in 1996.

In acknowledgement of a wide range of competencies among individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities, a special enactment known as “the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999” has been legislated which came into force on 30-12-1999. The main design and goal of this Disabilities Act of 1999 is to provide infrastructure, funds management for the purpose of charting out affirmative actions in favour of persons covered under the Act. Towards this goal, the National Trust provision is made.

The Constitution lays down as fundamental in the governance of this country, the establishment of welfare State and social order for the promotion of a democratic republic and secular values. Thus, we have accepted the doctrine of social order in a welfare State. Therefore, the main goal should be to minimise inequalities, inequities, injustice and provide maximum means of livelihood to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of the people, and improve public health to provide public assistance. The motto of a welfare State ought to be to create a healthy, harmonious and happy environment for the poor, indigent, illiterate, aged, infirm, sick and disabled members of the society. As such, it is a constitutional mandate. It is, therefore, said that the State is not successful in its role so far.

Nonetheless, the Indian judiciary has played an important role in correcting and punishing for the commission or omission or excesses committed by the State. However, in case of projection and protection of human rights and particularly of people of the weaker sections and the disabled, the general judicial response except constitutional courts is believed to be not very encouraging and satisfactory mainly due to docket explosion, slow-motion justice system and high and heavy quantum of expenses in litigation, complexity of processual justice system, the heart of the judicial anatomy — the common litigants (consumers of justice) are frustrated. It is also, felt by them that the administration of justice is woefully out of tune with the unprecedented crisis and new challenges of modern India. Shall we not, therefore, innovate and evolve effective and efficient systematic and scientific strategies, to meet the neo-socio-legal new challenges of the 21st century?

Let me plead my inability with candour, that since, in one such article, many important aspects may not be possible to be covered and dealt with in greater detail, due to time and space constraint, we, therefore, propose to highlight some of the top tenets and tips for prospective and promising areas, in the concepts of “normalisation, integration, equalisation” and to reaching ultimate design and desideratum of “rehabilitation of people with disabilities”:

(i) Strengthening international accountability.

(ii) Provision for advisory services.

(iii) Provision of adequate funding.

(iv) Improve efficiency of review bodies.

(v) Information and education.

(vi) Training the officials to train the disabled.

(vii) National institutions for promotion and protection of human rights.

(viii) The disabled persons should not be treated as objects but as subjects for normal rehabilitation and equal opportunity is imperative.

(ix) The creation of environment so that pride against prejudice transforming attitude to disability.

(x) The disability issue should be strictly taken as a human rights issue.

(xi) The principle that mere institutionalisation of people with disabilities makes lawful discrimination. It has, already, been accepted in the United States law under ADA. The Supreme Court (USA) in Olmstead v. L.C. has ruled that the States must provide community placements for individuals with disabilities, who are capable of living in the community.

(xii) Deinstitutionalisation will help the people with disability a normal process to normalisation and rehabilitation. Serious efforts are required in this behalf.

(xiii) Unless linking improper institutionalisation and discrimination can be adopted by international agencies interpreting international human rights covenants.

(xiv) The International Commission on Human Rights in its first case on the right of a person with mental disability is an eye-opener. The case of “Victoria Ratario Kango” recognised that Mental Illness Principles (MI Principles) can be used as a guide to the interpretation of American Convention Regarding the Rights of People with Mental Disabilities.

(xv) It must be propagated that discrimination on the basis of disability is unlawful. At the World Conference, 1993 in Vienna, it was formally resolved that people with disabilities had the same protections as the other people under international law.

(xvi) Persons with disabilities were and are in many countries, even at present, carrying an impression that they do not have the same rights and opportunities as the normal people. This mindset of the disabled needs to be changed. It is, therefore, necessary that there should be a new worldwide convention on the rights of the disabled to ensure that they could greatly contribute to the protection of rights of people with disabilities.

(xvii) People with disabilities are subjected to a pervasive pattern of abuses in institutions world over. The worldwide effort to document these patterns of abuses is aptly and on priority, called for. It may be that Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), an advocacy organisation, will be useful to preach equal rights for people with disabilities. It is reported that MDRI has documented the discrimination and abuses of people with disabilities in no less than 16 countries, mainly, in Latin America and Central and Western Europe within a spell of the last 7 years.

(xviii) The human rights jurisprudence in America is much more limited with regard to the rights of institutionalised people and mental disabilities, but it represents much greater hope than does the European system.

(xix) The jurisprudence in European human rights system is emblematic of the difficulties of applying general human rights conventions in the context of institutional care, particularly with regard to areas that have traditionally been left to medical discretion or domestic social policy. The contrast to this is Article 23 of the Convention of Rights of a Child (CRC), which provides important detailed protection for children with mental and physical disabilities.

(xx) The right to community integration, as a human right, is founded upon the doctrine of non-discrimination and is yet to be recognised under formal international human rights conventions. Of course, right to community integration has gained recognition in the last two decades in various human rights declarations of the United Nations General Assembly, including in the Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, 1991, Principles for Protection of Persons with Mental Illness (MI Principles) of 1993 and Standard Rules of Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

(xxi) Segregation of people with disabilities in institutions is one of the worst forms of discrimination. Yet, ADA considers that the emancipation, proclamation for people with disability does not even mention institutionalisation. Obviously, therefore, ADA cannot be used as a basis for the right to community integration and against the institutionalisation for people with disabilities.

(xxii) No doubt, ADA prohibits in a range of areas, including employment, public life, transportation, telecommunications and in public accommodations. ADA came to be passed with larger majority and with bipartisan support and recognised the principle that individuals with disabilities are equally entitled to equality of opportunity, full participation and economic self-sufficiency. In the United States, the Olmstead decision may lead the way for further development of the right to community integration as a part of general prohibition against the discrimination contained in the ADA Act, but the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead together with human rights instruments like Convention on Rights of a Child (CRC), MI Principles and UN General Assembly Resolutions present a new opportunity for the interpretation of international rights instrument to prohibit unnecessary institutionalisation in favour of right of community integration for people with mental disabilities.

(xxiii) The Social Welfare Model under which disabilities are seen as a defect in any individual renders him/her unable to work in a society. In a conventional way, it permits society prohibitory services and social institutionalisation without regard for people with disabilities on the premise that medical limitations will inevitably render people with disabilities unable to participate. It is, therefore, clear that inclusion of disabled persons is considered as an inevitable natural sequence of medical realities.

(xxiv) The process of Social Welfare Model is based on an enquiry into the medical effect rather than a moral or social judgment. This approach stems from the idea that disability is a discreet medically oriented study. The sorting process is always problematic, whereas the Civil Rights Model, the call of disability policy is to reform mainstream social institutions to include people with disabilities, to render to maintain a parallel track.

(xxv) Moreover, as the non-disabled majority increasingly gains contact with people with disabilities, prejudice may abate and necessity for legal intervention may diminish. Proponents of the Civil Rights Model, therefore, believe with this policy to accommodate flaws both conscious and unconscious averse to people with disabilities. The Civil Rights Model considers that the problem is one of discrimination rather than inherent medical limitations imposed by disability. Therefore, there are always tensions between the two models resulting in unhappy and uneasy relationship.

(xxvi) The Social Security Act, in which disability benefit programmes are provided, considers disability as analogous to old-age condition with clause available long term for permanent excuses, obligation to work and a justification for social support. Over the years, Americans have enacted a number of provisions intended to encourage disability-benefit recipients to return to work without jeopardising his or her benefits. Recently, in USA, a law is enacted known as “Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999” which expands the availability of health coverage and employment services for disabilitybenefit recipients who seek to return to the workforce. In a way, therefore, ADA is truly based on Civil Rights Model of Disability Policy, as discussed, to integrate people with disabilities into the social mainstream and to break down barriers due to prejudice. Of course, at times, it leads to tensions between employment quotas and antidiscrimination legislations.

(xxvii) Clause 15 of the Canadian Charter, based on Social Model of Equality, learning from the experience of USA that every individual is equal before and under the law and has right to the equal protection and equal benefit of law without discrimination and in particular without discrimination based on race, nationality or ethnicity, region, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter came into effect in 1985.

(xxviii) Review of disability concept and its amplitude: it requires broader dimension. The review of “disability” definition should be periodically undertaken. In Sweden (Law 1999; 132) to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in working life, the purpose of this law is to counter discrimination against people with disabilities in working life and in United Kingdom, under the Discrimination Act, 1995, a person has a “disability”, if he is physically or mentally impaired, which has substantial and long-term adverse impact and effect on his ability to carry out the normal activities and “disabled person” means a person who has “disability”. In USA, under ADA, the term disability with respect to an individual means a physical or mental impairment with substantial illness resulting in one or more major life activities. Such individual with regard to such impairment is regarded as having such impairment.

(xxix) On 3-12-2000, World Disabled Day was celebrated in New Delhi, India, by close to 5000 persons from various sectors of disability. In India 5% to 6% of the population is disabled, which adds up to cover 70 million Indians. For awareness and literacy, such celebration is expedient.

(xxx) National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) seeks in getting disability included in the 2001 Census and it was a major victory for the disabled movement. It also works for empowerment of the disabled. It believes that disability is an asset depending on your attitude, and disabilities do not count.

(xxxi) RI, also, distributes information regularly in more than 150 countries. RI is also publishing comprehensive periodicals and reports of disability issues including International Rehabilitation Review, the main object of which is to highlight: (a) social barriers to integration, (b) legislation concerning disability-barrier-free design, (c) economics of disability, (d) improving the image of disabled people through the mass media, (e) the movement of persons with disability to the leadership in their field. As such RI is an open forum for the exchange of experience and information with research and practice for prevention of disability and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. We may make a serious effort to learn and benefit from such wealth of information and equipment.

(xxxii) Nonetheless, prejudiced societies, low expectations and obsolete welfare and social service system frustrate these burgeoning attempts at independence and rehabilitation. As a result, new aspirations of people with disabilities have started going unnoticed and misunderstood by the mainstream people. It is in this context, the authority, governmental or non-governmental concerned with rehabilitation of the disabled must know, as to how the world and selfperceptions of disabled people are changing. New concept or perception of the disabled people is that there is no pity or tragedy in disability and that it is the societies, ethos, prejudices, fears, myths and stereotypes that most make being disabled difficult. In this connection, the views and the research work done by Joseph Shapiro of US will help in formulating innovative and new strategies for leading the disabled to independence and rehabilitation.

(xxxiii) A survey of International, Comparative and Regional Disability Law Reform (RDLR) has found that a series of regional laws is a catalyst for change towards “Europeans with Disabilities Act (EDA)”. The aforesaid survey has revealed that there is a rise in influence-based approach throughout the world. It takes the clue from the European Model of Equal Opportunities with its particular emphasis on non-discrimination as its main design and purpose. It looks to growing discrimination and authority as its model. At an international level in the United Nations system, it has, also, observed in the State survey that the process of reform is underway in many countries throughout the world.

(xxxiv) Of course, this process of reform is by definition, varied and complex, but it has stood to gravitate more and more towards nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunities Model and especially since the early 1990s. UN Standard Rules of 1993 have, undoubtedly, provided the key moral imperative for change on a global basis. Again, this reformative trend is reinforced by the enactment of Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA has, thus, given a fillip to the thinking that change has been possible and practicable. The paradigm shift from the medical to the social model of disability is a welcome feature.

Let me also recount the spiritual and holistic humanist universal commandment, with regard to the concept of disability. The awareness, education and more literacy of such concept would also prove to be a healing touch and inspire confidence of persons with disabilities.

  • If you have a mind and shall not reason, you are disabled.
  • If you have the opportunities and do not use them, you are disabled.
  • To be disinterested is to be disabled.
  • But if you are disabled and can think;
  • If you are disabled and are dedicated;
  • If you have talent and have skills;
  • If you have the will, then where do you go?
  • Only ahead. May even reach zenith.
  • That is the direction of joy, empowerment, achievement and adventure.
  • So come with us.

A positive-minded person expects an opportunity in every calamity but a negative-minded person expects a calamity in every opportunity. Let us, frankly, agree that in this realm it is neither a “myth nor a reality”. It is as such an admixture of both. Little is done and vast undone. It is, rightly, said by former USA President Jimmy Carter: “America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense ... human rights invented America.” Let us not forget: “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow — yes — is ours, to win or lose in projecting, proliferating and pioneering Disability Rights Movement, globally.”

Let there be no hoodwinking the handicapped. The process of transformation of the people with disability to social-oriented innovation, normalisation, integration, inclusion and equalisation in mainstreaming, not only would require firm and steadfast, scientific and systematic, projected and planned strategies but also would require healing, helping, humanist and holistic approach and activist visionary mission, palliative promising and paragon patronage, neo-native, spiritual and social actions to make “rights of physically handicapped and mentally challenged”, a complete reality.

The dignity of the human person involves the right to take an active part in public affairs and to contribute one’s part to the common good of the citizens. For, as our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, pointed out: “The human individual, far from being an object and, at it were, a merely passive element in the social order, is in fact, must be and must continue to be, its subject, its foundation and its end.”

“In the 21st century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right.” — Nelson Mandela

Let us end this article with what the Father of Nation said: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice. Let the handicapped and the mentally challenged get full justice as it is their hope and hope is power. Human rights are your rights. Seize them. Defend them. Promote them. Understand the human rights of the handicapped and nourish, flourish and enrich them so as to obey and implement normalisation, equalisation, inclusion and rehabilitation in the mainstream of normal social life and that shall be the best message on 10th December Celebration Manifesto. When human rights are ignored or violated and when the pursuit of individual interest unjustly prevails over the common good, then the seeds of instability, rebellion and violence are inevitably sown.

May everyone achieve happiness.

May everyone be free of disease.

May everyone be blessed with prosperity.

May everyone be free of grief.

May everywhere prevail peace and compassion.




MCom, LLM, DTLP, DLLP, Judge, High Court of Gujarat
Executive Chairman, The Gujarat State Legal Services Authority Return to Text


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