Laws for the Deaf in India
Fundamental rights are equally available to persons with disabilities. Hence, the Constitution grants them with the Right to Equality (Article 14), Right Against Discrimination (Article 17), Right to Life (Article 21), Right to Education (Article 21A) and so on. The Directive Principles of State Policy also contain provisions for their welfare including public assistance (Article 41).
Under the 2016 act, it is provided that every person with benchmark disability between 6 and 18 years of age shall have the right to free education (s. 31). The act also provides that 5% seats should be reserved in higher educational institutions for them. Further, Chapter III of the 2016 Act as well as the 1995 Act provides for various other provisions to improve the access and inclusiveness to education for persons with disability, with certain obligations on the educational institutions and the government.
The two acts contain provisions for non-discrimination, schemes and programmes for vocational training and self-employment, reservation in government jobs (4%, including 1% for persons with benchmark disabilities including hearing impairment, under the 2016 Act). The 1995 act also provides for incentives to both public and private employers which have employed at least 5% of persons with disabilities (s. 41).
Some Other Provisions
The 2016 Act also creates responsibilities and duties of the appropriate governments to increase and ensure accessibility, including access to justice, voting, public transport, public places and communication and technology. It also provides for protection of persons with disabilities from cruelty, exploitation, discrimination and reiterates their equal status in the society, at par with others.
Sections 24 and 25 of the Act state the government shall undertake social security measures including financial support, provision of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, disability pension, insurance scheme and so on; and ensure free and accessible healthcare facilities for them, respectively. Additionally, it lays down penalties for contravention of the provisions of the act. Section 37 of the Act provides for 5% reservation in allotment of agricultural and housing land as well as in land allotted on concessional rates.
The 1995 Act also follows a similar scheme for providing rights and privileges to persons with disabilities. Further, under Chapter XII, there are provisions for grievance redressal through Chief Commissioner and Commissioner for persons with disabilities.
The deaf are also given a 50% concession in railway fares for First, Second and Sleeper class tickets. One escort is also eligible for the same.
The Income Tax Act 1961 allows for concession in income tax for persons with disability (as defined in s. 2(i) of the 1995 act) upto Rs. 75,000 for persons with 40-80% disability and Rs. 1.25 lakhs for persons with greater than 80% disability (‘severe disability’ as defined in s. 56(4) of the 1995 Act). Under s. 80DD, such concession can be claimed in respect of a dependant who is disabled and s. 80U provides for the concession if the person claiming is herself/himself disabled.
Despite these welcome provisions, persons with disabilities face severe hardships in their daily lives, ranging from being the object of ridicule to finding it difficult to access public resources and facilities. A more empathetic approach from the state as well as fellow citizens is required such that accessibility and inclusivity is enhanced.
Garg S, Chadha S, Malhotra S, Agarwal AK. Deafness: burden, prevention and control in India. Natl Med J India. 2009 Mar-Apr;22(2):79-81