Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why are institutes still using the word “handicapped”?

The Hindu, 24 June 2015, New Delhi

A year after an advisory by the Union Ministry of Social Justices and Empowerment stating that various national institutes for persons with disabilities should discard the use of the word “handicapped” in their institute name and rename them — institutes continue to flout the recommendation and stick to “discriminatory names”.

National institutes such as National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, National Institute of Mentally Handicapped, National Institute of Visually Handicapped and National Institute for Orthopaedically Handicapped were instructed to remove the word “handicapped”, but to no avail.

“The word is simply not going away despite instructions to do away and replace it,” said disability activist Satendra Singh, Assistant Professor at University College of Medical Sciences and Guru Teg Bahadur hospitals.

“I wrote to the directors of these national institutes asking why the name hasn’t been changed so far. Nobody replied except the National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped. Even when the consultation and change was done last year, no consultation was done with disabled people organisations,” said Dr. Singh.

He filed an RTI application asking about the ban on the expression of the word “handicapped” and renaming national institutes accordingly.

“The response from the Ministry stated that that the file dealing with this issue was not readily traceable in the division. The information will be provided as and when the file is traced in the division,” said Dr. Singh.

He applied again in May and got a response stating that “a committee was set up under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and directors of the national institutes suggested following names in names for the establishments.’’

Boxed image: Name Game

1.      2007: India has ratified UNCRPD which makes it legally binding to harmonise all existing laws and policies in line with UNCRPD. The Convention uses the terminology ‘Persons with Disabilities’.
2012: The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities  banned the expression “handicapped”. 
1.      2014: Deptt of Disability Affairs was renamed as Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

Name of the Institute
Name suggested by the committee
Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Institute for the Physically Handicapped
Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Institute for the Persons with Physical Disabilities
National Institute for Orthopedically Handicapped
National Institute for Persons with Locomotor Disabilities
Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped
Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Persons with Speech & Hearing Disabilities
National Institute for Mentally Handicapped
National Institute for Persons with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities
National Institute for Visually Handicapped
National Institute for Persons with Visual Disabilities

The RTI added that the committee felt that there was no need to change the names of National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities and Swami Vivekanand National Institute for Rehabilitation, Training and Research as they do not involve the expression handicapped.

“Negative terminology fosters attitudinal barriers. What is also shocking is the fact the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment doesn’t have the facility to provide information (circulars or RTI responses) in Braille. They told me that this information can be formatted only at the National Institute for Visually Handicapped, Dehradun,” said Dr. Singh.

While the directors of the institute refused to comment on the issue saying they were not authorised to speak to the media, a senior ministry official said the change of name was a long drawn process and takes time.


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