“Disability” as defined by World Health Organisation is “any restriction or lack (resulting from any impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being”. Section 2(i) of the Persons With Disabilities Act, 1995 includes blindness, low-vision, leprosy cured, hearing impairment, loco-motor disability, mental illness and mental retardation within the meaning of disability. Persons with disabilities are entitled to exercise their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with others and education is the most important tool for the achievement of such rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 makes education a compulsory right for all and provides for free elementary education by the state. Constitution of India also, spurred by the case of Unnikrishnan J.P v. State of Andhra Pradesh, through the 86th Amendment Act, made elementary education a fundamental right and made the state responsible to provide free services for the same. The objective of this amendment is to provide equal opportunities for all without discrimination on any grounds including “disability”. Discrimination gives rise to self-perpetuating cycle of social and economic exclusion and undermines children’s ability to develop to the fullest. In the latest judgment passed by the Supreme Court in the case of Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan v. Union of India, it has been stated that the Right to Education Act, 2009 integrates the efforts of the state and non-state sectors in providing for welfare in order to build an “inclusive and solidaristic society” however, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Amendment Bill) passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2012 lays down a right for the “severely-disabled” to opt for home-based education which is in contrast with the principle of “inclusive growth” established in the above mentioned judgment.
It is evident from the history of disability that it is not “disability” itself but other cultural and social barriers that make it difficult for the disabled to participate in the society. Therefore it is a well-recognised fact that every child, including those with differing abilities has an entitlement to study with their peers and not be excluded from mainstream education. The concept of “social inclusion in elementary education for the disabled” which has been promoted in the Right to Education Act, 2009. Article 24 of Convention on Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 also lays down that the children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education on the basis of disability.
Every child in the country who has a disability has a right to be placed on an equal footing as other non-disabled children. But due to the lack of infrastructure, a lot of disabled children do not receive education. Therefore, concerted efforts should be made in order to protect the rights of these children. Disabled children have a right to suitable, effective and appropriate education.
About the Author
Ankita is currently pursuing an integrated law program from Amity Law School, Delhi. Her aim in life is to become an IAS officer.