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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS Navigating life as a consumer with disability

 

 

 

Source: The Hindu

Prelims: Current events of national importance(Different social service Schemes, abala, sabala, All India Women’s Conference, NFHS, Rights of persons with disabilities act.,2016, digital India, census 2011 etc )

  • Mains GS Paper II & III: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services etc.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • March 15 is celebrated as World Consumer Rights Day to create awareness about the rights of consumers.

disabled

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Disability:

  • It is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.
  • An impairment is a problem in body function or structure;
  • An activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action
  • A participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

 

Constitutional Frameworks for Disabled in India

  • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that State shall make effective provision for securing right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
  • The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.

 

Issues faced by Disabled people:

  • Current systems are designed for persons without disabilities and end up being exclusionary to people with disabilities, resulting in:
    • higher instances of poverty
    • lack of access to education and opportunities
    • informality and other forms of social and economic discrimination.
  • The current employment scenario is limited, providing fewer jobs for persons with disabilities
  • Current employment scenario perpetuates stereotypes that create further barriers for people with disabilities to access the labor market.
  • The limited access to education and employment.
    • Some developmental schemes, too, exclude them.
  • They are viewed as objects of charity and not as persons with agency with an ability to participate in decision-making processes.

 

Major challenges for consumers with disabilities:

  • The inaccessibility of goods and services
  • The inaccessibility of customer support options.
  • Businesses: They generally don’t perceive persons with disabilities as their target consumers.
    • Evidenced by their inaccessible offerings, which are typically designed for ‘mainstream’ consumers.
    • In India, persons with disabilities account for 5-8% of the population (World Bank, 2009): businesses could consider making their offerings accessible just to broaden their customer reach.

What steps need to be taken for accessibility of disabled people?

  • The gap in sensitisation among businesses can be abridged through effective policy measures.
    • For example, FSSAI in October 2023 issued an advisory to all food business operators for incorporating QR codes containing product information on all food products.
    • It will allow people with visual impairment to ascertain crucial product information on their own.
    • While transformative, this measure is limited to one type of product.
  • The government could consider bringing comprehensive accessibility guidelines for all goods and services.
  • India can build on the lessons from the initiatives in countries such as Australia, the U.S., and Canada and integrate similar strategies into its policies.
  • Persons with disabilities are empowered by laws that safeguard their rights and interests as consumers.
    • Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWDA), 2016, which grants a bouquet of rights including the rights to equality, accessibility, and reasonable accommodation.
    • The Act includes provisions for universally designed consumer goods and accessible services (Sections 43 and 46).
    • The Rules notified under the RPWDA require all Information and Communications Technology (ICT) goods and services
      • To be accessible in accordance with the BIS standards laid down by the government.

 

Way Forward

  • Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 2019: It details various consumer rights and empowers Consumer Commissions to impose penalties and award compensation against consumer complaints.
    • Consumers with disabilities have successfully obtained such remedies in numerous cases brought before Consumer Commissions.
    • In Suresh v. The Manager i/c, Gokulam Cinemas, a person with locomotor disability who encountered inaccessibility at a cinema hall was awarded a compensation of ₹1,00,000.
  • Unlike the RPWDA, the CPA has strong enforcement and compliance mechanisms.
    • It lacks any dedicated rights for consumers with disabilities contrary to the RPWDA
      • which may deter them from filing complaints with Consumer Commissions.
      • It becomes imperative to align the CPA with the RPWDA.
    • It is crucial to raise awareness about the existing rights and resources available to consumers with disabilities under the two chief legislations.
    • While consumer awareness has been a key focus of the state, particularly with the launch of the flagship Jago Grahak Jago Campaign, consumers with disabilities have never received attention.
    • The creation of a designated body for handling cases on disability rights has been a positive measure
      • Its actual impact on repairing accessibility barriers in the marketplace remains to be seen.

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 remains only a legal document without intense sensitisation of government functionaries and citizens regarding disability. Comment.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)

 

Editorial Analysis – 17 Apr 2024