The Indian disability law treats disability, as a civil rights rather than a health and welfare issue. The Law recognizes that the primary issue facing people with disability is their exclusion from the mainstream activities of the society and hence the emphasis in the Law is on full integration and participation. It is discrimination, and not impairment, that disables people. The Law recognizes the importance of consultation with people with disability on issues which directly or indirectly affect them. The government, therefore, has set up mechanisms for consultations with people with all types of disabilities. Thus, those measures are carefully avoided which remove one group's barriers but increase them for others. Within our culture, negative stereotypes of people with disability are far too common and have been in circulation for such a long time that they appear to have become the norm. The new Law would help in bringing about cultural change and influencing attitudes and expectations of people with disability, their families and friends, their neighbors and schools, their employers and the shops they go to, the professionals who serve them, their lawyers and teachers, the bus and taxi drivers and scores of others. The stereotype is clear – people with disability must be pitied and given charity or that they and the society in which they live should forget that they have a disability. The implication of these impressions and images is that there can be nothing positive or beautiful or strong or powerful or productive or useful about people with disability. Yet most of the people with disability are all of these and much more.
Positive role for people with disability
This already complex social and psychological situation is made far worse by those using disability or the disabled themselves to raise funds, beg for alms on street corners and encourage people to give money to these “Poor, pitiable human beings who have been trapped by their fate in a cycle of deprivation and misery”. By insisting on greater participation of people with disability in all activities of society, the new Law has highlighted the role of people with disability as the assertive, productive and constructive providers of services and not as mere passive receivers of these and a burden on society. Projecting positive images of people with disability in the media must be done in a consistent and systematic manner.
Benefits to the entire society
It is sincerely hoped that the new law will create an accessible society through not just the buildings and footpaths and railway platforms but that the hearts and minds of Indian people will become more receptive, more open, more unbiased. The law is our important commitment to ensure full participation of people with disability in all activities of our society. Beyond cynicism, doubt and infidelity of a handful few, there is thoughtful debate in favor of people with disability. The law could not have been enacted if lawmakers and those who formulate policies did not really care for people with disability. With the enactment of the Law more and more people will pay attention to the real problems of people with disability because the law asks something from each and every Indian, whether disabled or not. This law, and its effective enforcement, will benefit the entire society and therefore it is imperative that all of us do our best to make it work. The law talks of independence, dignity and security. people with disability have always experienced exclusion and segregation. They have been prevented from using opportunities to make contribution to society with their fullest capacity. The law offers them equal opportunities. Now that the law has been enacted, the issues before the advocacy groups are different and the government agencies and NGOs must find new ways of serving people with disability. Measures to prevent and diagnose disabilities must be re–strengthened. There are a large number of children with disabilities who are unable to attend schools or are actually barred from classes. Unemployment of people with disabilities shall remain a mighty challenge for quite some time. The responsibility for improving job outlook for these people rests with society. Economic independence is essential for people with disabilities to become active and useful members of our society.