Improve job prospects in disability sector: Parliamentary panel to govt

Stating that there was a shortage of over 1.5 lakh trained professionals in the disability sector in 2012, a parliamentary panel has asked the government to create better prospects for those looking to work in the area.

In a report tabled in Parliament, the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment cited the government’s own data to state that there was a shortfall of 1,58,598 professionals in the disability sector in 2012.

Expressing concern, the panel chaired by Hemanand Biswal said that the primary reason for the shortfall was the poor compensation and pay packages given to those working in the sector.

In a landmark judgement, Delhi High Court had in September, 2009, directed Delhi government to ensure equal terms and conditions of service for special teachers with those having diplomas and degrees in general education, the panel noted.

It recommended that the Department of Disability Affairs take up with the HRD Ministry and state governments that matter of giving good pay packages to those working in the disability sector.

To encourage more young people to take up this noble profession, these workers should have good promotional avenues on a par with those employed in normal schools and universities, the panel added.

It also said that the national institutes in the disability sector should get greater funds so that they may fulfil their primary objective of training manpower, capacity building and research while catering to patients.

The panel stressed on the need for a legislation for persons with disabilities which would be in consonance with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.



Francesca Martinez: A leading light fighting welfare cuts for disabled people

The debate scheduled for 11.15am in Westminster on Thursday represents a significant parliamentary milestone – the first debate secured by disabled people for disabled people.

The motion, set down by the War On Welfare (WOW) campaign group, calls for an assessment of the cumulative impact of the government’swelfare reforms on sick and disabled people, and demands an immediate end to the work capability assessment (WCA), the test that determines fitness for work.

Comedian Francesca Martinez has spent a year campaigning to get the 100,000 signatures required to trigger a parliamentary debate on the issue, motivated by concern that the true impact on disabled people of the government’s welfare reform programme has never been measured.

Although the fact that the debate has been called represents a considerable triumph, Martinez is concerned the government may try to sweep the event under the carpet. “If the government does try to brush it aside, it will leave you thinking, ‘well, what democracy is there?’,” she says.

Mike Pennington, the minister of state for disabled people, will speak in the debate but MPs are not obliged to attend or turn up to vote. The petition has been supported by 250 MPs, who include only three Liberal Democrats and no Conservatives.

Martinez, who has a well-established career as a standup comedian, and has cerebral palsy, agreed to get involved with launching the WOW petition because of her anger about the direction of welfare reform.

“It seems we’re living in a country at the moment where if you do get sick or if you do become disabled, not only have you got to deal with those challenges but you have to deal with the fact that the vital safety net that society provided for many decades is being eroded away,” she says. “Disabled people around the country are dying from these policies.” She cites the figure of 10,600 people who died within weeks of being found fit for work by a WCA test. “Many more are falling into destitution and being subjected to humiliation and being targeted in a really awful way.”

She contests the argument that welfare reform is driven by a need to cut costs, and points out that since so many people are going to court to appeal against decisions to remove benefits, the savings are negligible. “We have to challenge the government rhetoric on the money-saving argument,” she says.

Martinez was granted lifetime eligibility for disability living allowance (DLA) in recognition of the fact that her disability means she needs extra support to live independently. Under the reforms, her eligibility will be repeatedly reassessed, although improvement in her condition is a medical impossibility.

“Reassessing people like me every few years is going to cost millions and it is actually entirely wasted money,” she says. She points to the government’s willingness to declare money no object in helping victims of the recent floods as further evidence of the weakness of the argument that welfare needs to be reformed on cost grounds. “We need to correct the distortion that there’s not enough money in this country. There’s more than enough money – there’s just not the will to spend it.”

Announcing its reform of DLA in 2010, the government said it wanted to cut the cost of the benefit by 20% – a decision that Martinez says will eventually prove more expensive because people will find it harder to get the support they need to work. Her early success as a comedian rested on the fact that DLA helped to pay for a car, allowing her a degree of independence she could never otherwise have had.

“Already, with the benefits, a third of disabled people live in poverty. Now that figure is just going to rise,” she says. “Half of disabled people are unemployed. For a lot of people, these cuts mean that they can’t leave their house. They will be making decisions like: do I eat, or do I pay for a taxi to get me out of the house? Also many disabled people need extra support to be able to work. So, ironically, by taking away this support network, disabled people are going to be less able to go and contribute and live full lives. On every level it doesn’t make sense. You’re going to make disabled people more vulnerable and less independent.”

The debate is timely, coming a week after the announcement by the private company, Atos, contracted to carry out fitness for work assessments, that it was seeking an early exit from the contract, after criticism about the accuracy of its testing process and reports that staff had been sent death threats.

The company’s retreat provides little cause for celebration, Martinez says. “Atos is not the key problem; it is just going to be replaced by another company willing to carry out the government’s work.” She would prefer people to be assessed by their GPs for eligibility to sickness benefits. “A private company is far more likely to adhere to targets than a doctor will. You want private companies out of this. You need profit out of this.”

She is angry at the way that support for disability benefits has been reduced by a campaign of media misinformation. She dislikes the way the very word “benefit” suggests something positive and extra, rather than simply a levelling of an unequal playing field. “I hate the word benefit because it suggests a bonus,” she says. “I get benefits because I can’t walk out of my house on my own. I can’t make myself a sandwich. If you say to someone: ‘would you rather get £90 a week, or would you rather walk?’ No one is going to opt for the £90 a week.

“The rightwing press has had a huge impact on demonising claimants and demonising disability and disabled people as burdens on the state – useless parasites; we have seen a sustained attack over the last few years. Look at the increase in the use of words like ‘scrounger’ in relation to disability in news stories – there has been a three-fold increase. The media is rigorously pushing the government agenda on this. It has a profound effect on public perceptions of disabled people.”

She points to the proliferation of stories about fraudulent claimants. “Fraud is a non-issue, tiny, under 1% in these benefits. We never hear the truth. The truth is most disabled people really want to work but can’t, and all they ever think about is: ‘I wish I could work; I wish I could provide for my family; I wish I could feel like a fulfilled active citizen’. It’s not a dream of disabled people to sit at home doing nothing. I think that’s something we’ve really got to shift in terms of perception.”

Martinez hopes the parliamentary debate will be a chance for Labour to clarify its position on welfare reform. Aware that the WCA was launched by Labour, she knows the party’s support for her campaign is far from guaranteed.

“Labour clearly aren’t going to play the role of knight in shining armour. They are not going to change anything unless there is huge reason to do so. I don’t know where [Ed] Miliband stands on any of this – but slowly we are getting it on the agenda. I’d like the debate to make the top guys in Labour take this on seriously, for Miliband to say: ‘if we get to power, we will scrap the WCA’,” she says.

Source: Amelia Gentleman

On Disabilities Treaty, the Right Fights With the Right

Any suspicion that the political right, after suffering a defeat on the debt ceiling and facing threats from business donors, is losing its clout can be dismissed by the fight over the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

The treaty has been ratified by 141 countries. In the United States, it is backed by the White House, former President George H.W. Bush, the major disability and veterans’ advocacy groups, and businesses.

Senate Republicans, however, already defeated the treaty in 2012, and it now faces an uphill slog to get the two-thirds vote needed for ratification. Right-wing critics — led by former Senator Rick Santorum, the Heritage Foundation and home-schoolers — said that adopting it would allow global enforcers to determine the treatment of Americans with disabilities and the permissibility of home schooling, and that it would ease access to abortion.

In reality, the treaty is modeled on the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. It states that nations must ensure that people with disabilities get the same rights and are treated with the same dignity as all others. It might well pressure other countries to adopt American standards.

Proponents say American leadership is important, a demonstration of the soft power of ideals and values. If passage emboldens other nations to elevate their standards, it will make life easier for Americans with disabilities, including veterans, when traveling outside the United States.

Despite strong opposition from Senate Republicans, led by Tennessee’s Bob Corker, the treaty has a distinctively Republican flavor. The Americans With Disabilities Act was the signature domestic achievement of Mr. Bush’s presidency, and the treaty was negotiated and supported at the United Nations by his son’s administration. The most important champion of the treaty is former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, a disabled World War II veteran; it is supported by another former party leader, Bill Frist, a physician. Its chief backers in the current Senate are John Barrasso of Wyoming, another physician who is one of the most conservative members of the chamber, and John McCain of Arizona, a disabled veteran.

Veterans’ groups backing the treaty include the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Wounded Warrior Project. It is embraced by the United States Chamber of Commerce and companies like Nike, Walmart Stores, Coca-Cola and IBM.

The opposition from Mr. Santorum, the Heritage Foundation, a slice of the home-schooling movement and a few right-wing Catholic organizations would seem a mismatch. Yet these groups are vocal, and they capitalize on many Republicans’ fears of challenges from the right. The disabilities community is not that well organized, nor does it rank among the big campaign contributors.

Mr. Corker says his opposition is based solely on the dangers the treaty would pose to national sovereignty and the threat that it would supersede United States law and states’ rights. He cites a 1920 Supreme Court ruling on a migratory-bird treaty as precedent.

In the Senate, supporters are writing in “reservations, declarations and understandings,” attesting that nothing in the treaty would affect current law. This is a common practice, The Economist magazine notes, for treaties ratified by the United States and other countries.

It makes the Corker argument specious, says Richard L. Thornburgh, who was attorney general during George H.W. Bush’s administration and is an advocate of the treaty. “These reservations attached to a treaty are part of the treaty,” he says. “There is nothing in this treaty that would allow what critics allege.”

Mr. Dole says that ratification is such an easy call that when he ran the Senate, it “would have passed by voice vote.” He remains optimistic it will pass, though he says he is worried because “a few senators aren’t returning my calls.”

This astounds Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics. “What values here do these opponents not believe in?” he asks. “This treaty brings to the table a place where America is the shining light on the hill.”

Source: Albert R. Hunt

Finer points of human rights

People in the Isle of Man have a whole raft of rights they don’t know about according to a Manx advocate with a special interest in human rights.

Paul Beckett who is currently studying for a masters degree in the subject was speaking to an audience of deaf, blind or partially sighted people at the Manx Blind Welfare Society recently.

Some provisions in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights were formally enacted in the Human Rights Act of 2012 and can therefore be relied on in the courts.

But in addition to this, there are provisions, some contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (ICESCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC), which can also be relied on in court despite not being incorporated into an act of Tynwald.

This is not generally known by the Manx public nor is it something with which many advocates or even the judiciary are familiar, Mr Beckett said.

‘I am an advocate and as such I do not make political statements. The failure to incorproate the provisions is simply an oversight, it’s not malicious,’ he said.

However, he said anyone wanting to challenge an official decision using the judicial review process could still rely on the provisions to support their application.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2006 was never brought into force but there is a range of rights which already apply under these conventions and covenants.

‘These rights are not aspirational: they apply under Isle of Man law by virtue of the four instruments having been ratified on behalf of, or by, the Isle of Man,’ he told the audience.

The Disability Discrimination Act is now to be repealed and replaced with new legislation based on the Equality Act 2010 from the UK. The new act should be in place by 2016.

But in the meantime the various conventions and covenants do offer rights beyond what is contained in existing acts.

For example, he told the audience articles five and six of the ECHR give people a right to be told why they are being arrested and have any charge filed against them explained. In the case of a deaf person, this could mean that a sign language interpreter needs to be engaged.

Rights which might be enforceable under the ICCPR include being equal before the courts, having access to public services and being free from discrimination. Similarly he said the ICESCR deals with equal rights in education and work and the UNCRC deals with freeedom of expression and freedom from discrimmination.

The island’s deaf champion Gareth Foulkes told the audience a report, called A Life Less Equal, on the experience of deaf people in the Isle of Man was completed in 2011. The report said: ‘In many areas deaf people in the isle of Man have a much worse quality of life than hearing people.’


‘Make Changes in Draft PWD Bill’

The Tamil Nadu unit of the National Federation of the Blind has appealed to the Union Government to place the draft of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Bill, 2013 before the Parliamentary Standing Committee and incorporate the changes suggested by the differently-abled groups.

“We want a differently-abled person to head the National Committee for the Differently-Abled as such a person alone can understand the issues that we face on daily,” Muthuselvi, Secretary, All India Confederation of the Blind, told the media recently

She said Draft Bill coming up in the Rajya Sabha has five per cent reservation for all kinds of disabilities with 0.5 per cent each to partial and complete visual impairment. But the Federation has been pressing for six per cent reservation with a clear definition of 1 per cent each for partial and complete impairment, she added.

According to her, Section 3 (3) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2013 states that ‘discrimination is allowed if the impugned act is appropriate to achieve an legitimate aim’. It should be removed, so that 70 million disabled people across the country are not deprived of their existing rights, she said.

The Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD Act 1995) was in tune with the United Nations Convention on Rights for the Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and it was amended in 2007 with relaxation in the procedures for application of the disability certificate. Since 2011, there have been dialogues with the government to draft a new bill to ensure social, economic and accessibility rights for the differently-abled.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2013 is a watered down version of the 2011 draft with no legal bindings on the Central or State government in the fields of education, job security, legal recourse and grievance redressal. It has been recently uploaded on the website of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment without any discussion on the Bill ahead of the Parliament session.

Members from differently-abled rights organisation held  a protest at Satyamurthy Bhavan last Friday to press the demand.


We are still pursuing the medical model in Hungary, as if it was still relevant at all…

I read an article today about the different tax benefits and financial aid available to people living with disabilities, and that made me think.

Our Hungarian laws are still listing various illnesses and reasons for disability, all dependent on medical evaluation and different percentages.

It is only one thing that these regulations are all based on the well-known old medical model, but the other is that these evaluation procedures give an unfortunately great opinion for corruption. It is not hard to imagine that in a system like this people with disabilities would give anything to get 10 more percent, and therefore get more aid.

In order to reach the ultimate goal, the proper employment of people with disabilities, it would be the best to find solutions on how to motivate employers (with tax benefits) to employ these people, so that it could be a common interest.

The only solution is that, rather than strengthening their dependence on aid.

February 11., 2014

Ábel Gergő Kaszián dr.


Disability study shows flaws

The Australian justice system is failing people with disabilities, both victims and offenders, the Australian Human Rights Commission argues in a new report.

The Equal Before the Law report calls for the Commonwealth and each state and territory to introduce a “holistic, over-arching disability justice strategy” to make the system fairer.

It highlights how people with disabilities, especially women, are much more likely to be the victims of sexual and other violence.

At the same time, many offenders with disabilities have reduced control over their behaviour and poor communication with police, lawyers, judges and prison staff.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said he was concerned by figures showing that at least 20-30 people with disabilities are detained in jails because they were found unfit to plead.

“Denying people appropriate accommodation, and the support needed to return to the community, is nothing short of a breach of human rights,” he said.

Orana Law Society president Andrew Boog said people with physical disabilities were well catered for but those with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses were not.

“The main problem is that not many people are trained in both law and psychology or psychiatry in order to look after and understand those who have a disability,” he said.

Mr Boog was particularly critical of the way mentally ill offenders were handled.

“For all kinds of spruious reasons we have turned our criminal justice system into a mental health system, without addressing mental health,” he said.

“Our jails are not built for that sort of thing.”

The Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) applauded the Equal Before the Law report but found no surprises within it.

“IDRS…sees injustice occur on a daily basis for its clients who have intellectual disability,” executive officer, Janene Cootes said.

Ms Cootes said people with intellectual disability risked finding themselves in jail “for offences related to behaviours they have little or no control over”.

The report noted with “grave concern” that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be living with a disability and much more likely to be incarcerated.

Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT chief executive Phil Naden said he welcomed the report.

“The disability of a client is not always physical and sometimes it can very hard to infer it,” he said.

“We’ve had some common cases where people are assumed to be affected by alcohol at a time when they are suffering the after effects or the first onset of stroke.”

Source: Patric Begley