A welcome step
What the previous governments could not achieve, the bureaucracy headed by the Governor Satya Pal Malik is trying to achieve. No wonder then that we as a society need to appreciate these measures and provide our positive response to such developments.
The governors administration is actively pursuing a new legislation in Jammu and Kashmir that apart from identifying a range of facilities, proposes free education for children with benchmark disabilities as well as measures for effective participation of specially-abled persons in sporting activities. For this purpose the government has put the draft bill of Jammu and Kashmir Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act-2018 in public domain for feedback from various stakeholders. The new legislation shall replace the archaic Disability Act of 1998.
The legislation protects differently-abled persons often vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation and calls for their admission in educational institutions without any discrimination. It also offers a barrier-free environment for the differently-abled. The 47-page draft of the legislation outlines all rights to the persons with disabilities.
The persons with disabilities shall have equal protection and safety in situations of risk, armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters.
Importantly, the Act proposes all educational institutions to provide inclusive education to children with disabilities and admit them without any discrimination and provide education and opportunities for sports and recreation activities equally with others.
The bill proposes to make buildings, campuses and various facilities accessible; ensure that the education to persons who are visually challenged or deaf or both is imparted in most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication and conduct survey of school-going children every five years for identifying children with disabilities.
The legislation if at all is passed as a law will mark a new beginning for the physically challenged children as they have been provided a level playing field so far. Education can turn the tables around for these specially abled kids and if the government fulfills its commitment then it can work wonders for their overall growth and development.
The bill proposes that every child with benchmark disability between the age of six to eighteen years shall have the right to free education in a neighbourhood school, or in a special school, of his choice. The government and local authorities shall ensure that every child with benchmark disability has access to free education in an appropriate environment till he attains the age of 10 years.
The bill also states that the government shall formulate schemes and programmes including provision of loans at concessional rates to facilitate and support employment of persons with disabilities, especially for their vocational training and self-employment.
However, the government needs to walk an extra mile if it wishes the new legislation to work effectively on ground.
Providing admissions to these specially abled children in schools is just a miniscule part of the entire exercise. What will matter is the ground work done by the authorities to make sure that these children are retained in schools and the facilities that are needed for them to stay put are first put in place.
Not only do these basic infrastructural changes to be ensured but specially trained teachers too need to be prepared and appointed in educational institutions to cater to their demands and needs.
The legislation to take roots needs cautions planning at the very onset and for ensuring the same the planners have to make some special efforts.