This year is a milestone year for the Indian disability movement. It marks 20 years of the Disability Act 1995 - India's first ever legislation that laid the foundation for equal rights of persons with disabilities.
For almost half a century after India won Independence, people with disabilities in the country were not considered to be equal citizens. They did not have equal rights when it came to education, employment, social and political opportunities. This changed when on December 22, 1995 both Houses of Parliament passed the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Bill of 1995.
The 1995 law paved the way for schools, colleges and universities to be inclusive; it ensured that people with disabilities found employment both in the public and private sector; and started the movement towards an accessible and inclusive India. It is because of the 1995 Act that today, millions of people with disabilities in India can dream to demand beyond what this Act provides.
India is now poised to be one of the first countries in the world to have begun the process of getting a stronger disability rights legislation based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This proposed new law stands to take the country to the next level of inclusion. Yes, it is true that the country still has a long way to go when it comes to disability rights, but it is also equally important to recognize that all the successes we have had so far would not have been possible had the country not started its journey towards equality and inclusion 20 years ago.
To commemorate 20 years of the Disability Act 1995, to celebrate the successes, to introspect on the missed targets and to pave the roadmap for the coming years, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) is launching a campaign called ‘Equality+20’. Over the next six months, we will have a variety of activities running up to December 2015.
‘Signs of the Times’: This will be a competition among young students to develop a logo to commemorate 20 years of the Disability Act 1995. The winning logo will be unveiled and adopted on December 3, 2015, which is also the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
‘Walk to Freedom’: On December 3, NCPEDP will organize a rally at India Gate to celebrate 20 years of freedom. We expect to have a few thousand people with disabilities, their friends and families from across the country for this event.
20 stories & more: This will be a campaign that will leverage the power of individual stories from across the country on how the Disability Act 1995 changed their lives. This campaign will encompass a variety of media: social media (through a few hashtag campaigns such as #Equality20, #20storiesofchange, #20yearsofdisability, #DisabilityRightsMatter, etc.); a post-card/letter campaign spanning the grassroots; and also a photo campaign. Selected stories would then be collated in the form of a book.
Equality+20 Conference: On December 1 and 2, 2015, NCPEDP will organize a conference that will host both national and international experts to assess the present scenario of rights of persons with disabilities in India in consonance with the global movement and India’s role internationally.
Please join us in celebrating 20 years of disability rights in India, 20 years of equality, 20 years of inclusion.