NcPEDP (National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People), India’s apex disability rights organization along with over 21 Disability Rights Activists and Organizations working across the country have written to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Government of India, strongly opposing the government’s stance to set up a university covering the entire gamut of disability studies and rehabilitation sciences in an accessible format.
In this regard, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had invited comments from stakeholders on the Draft University of Disability Studies and Rehabilitation Sciences Bill, 2021.
The reasons that were highlighted in the letter dated 1st Jan 2020 to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment Government of India to withdraw the said Draft Bill include :
1. Setting up of a University only for disability studies and rehabilitation goes against the interdisciplinary approach and is not in consonance with inclusive practices. Much emphasis needs to be given on setting up Centres/Departments of Disability Studies in Existing universities and Higher Education Institutions on the lines of cross-disability and cross-gender approaches. The focus needs to be laid on increasing the number of trained human resources by offering courses which are in line with that of NIMHANS/IISC/IITs including doctoral degrees. These also need to have on-line alternatives for delivery of courses based on Universal Design of Learning and Reasonable Accommodation as per RPWD Act 2016, NEP 2020 and GOI and International Guidelines for digital platforms.
2. Disability studies should be made part of the mainstream academic endeavors which the proposed University through its exclusionary approach fails to do. Knowledge construction around disability should be one of the primary goals that can only be achieved by across the disciplines comprehensive universities.
3. The proposed Draft Bill lacks clarity on the actual disability studies/ rehabilitation by focusing more on the governance aspect of it and also deviates from the norms and practices of the Higher Education system and may downgrade the status.
4. We are also not in agreement with the proposal for running the university in a “self-sustaining” model.
Arman Ali, executive director, NCPEDP shares, “The proposed Bill might seem to fill in the gap that exists in the Disabilities Studies but it instead leads to exclusion of persons with disabilities to say the least and even though we unquestionably require more focus on enhancing the periphery of Disability Studies and Rehabilitation Science as part of the curriculum having a department of disability studies in every university will be a more prudent way to bring in inclusive development”.
“The proposed draft bill focuses on Central University. It ignores the need for disability studies and research in every University in the country,” shares Major General Ian Cardozo, Former Chairman of Rehabilitation Council of India
“Disabilities Studies(DS) deepens the humanistic relationship in the rehabilitation sciences but its execution in the draft Bill is flawed diluting its relevance & enhancing the divide between disability studies & services,” states Dr. Satendra Singh, University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi
“I think that the draft bill is regressive, again excluding the disabled from the mainstream. I think epistemology of disability studies is a critical part of academia Disability studies must be interdisciplinary as a part of different universities in India,” says Prof. Anita Ghai, Dean, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi.