The Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Goa, in partnership with the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), collaborated with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, to organise a consultation event in Goa on Friday.
The purpose of this event was to discuss the status of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016 in the western region of India. The consultation aimed to provide a platform for dialogue, establish a way forward and promote the empowerment of people with disabilities in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Lakshadweep.
In his keynote address, Guruprasad Pawaskar, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Goa, emphasised the importance of such a consultation which will help in observing the legislation and preparing the vision for the entire disability sector.
Setting the context of the consultation, Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP, said, “June 2023 marks six years of the RPWD Act, a landmark legislation recognising 21 disabilities compared to the previous 7. It ensures equal rights, inclusive employment, accessible healthcare and improved infrastructure. In view of this, NCPEDP has been holding regional consultations in the South, North-East, East, North and West zones in the last few months to assess the status of people with disabilities in the key thematic areas of education, sports, employment, health, disaster management and accessibility, specifically in the context of gender and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) realisation.”
“The western region of the country has a high prevalence of disabilities, yet people with disabilities remain marginalised and excluded. Being a hub for trade and tourism, the region holds potential for generating livelihoods and reducing poverty among disabled individuals,” he added.
The chief guest for this consultation, Goa Minister for Social Welfare Subhash Phaldessai said, “The long-due census is one of the major concerns for the disability sector. In the absence of proper data, the allocation of the budget for the sector is never justified. The missing millions should be included in the stats. The number is much higher than the present data available. The larger disabled population is in villages, which must be identified and addressed to reach the last-mile development. We have come a long way, but there are miles to be covered.”
The day-long consultation extensively addressed several key issues related to disability inclusion. These included challenges in disability-inclusive education, particularly in relation to the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
It also focused on access to healthcare services, including rehabilitation facilities, health insurance schemes, and reproductive and sexual health, as well as the certification process for disabilities and associated challenges.
Access to information and infrastructure in various domains such as education, employment, tourism, sports and political participation was discussed.
The consultation also highlighted challenges in employment for people with disabilities in both the public and private sectors as well as the promotion of self-employment. Mainstreaming women with disabilities, disability inclusion across the SDGs, and prioritising outreach to persons with disabilities during disasters were also key thematic areas of discussion.
The consultation brought together participants from NGOs representing the western states, organisations representing persons with disabilities, professionals working in disability rights, state commissioners for persons with disabilities and government representatives.