The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016, read the RPWD Act ensures that persons with disabilities get what they deserve. It replaced the older legislation of 1995, aligning itself with global standards outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). What makes this Act particularly special is its expanded definition of disabilities. The
revised framework now explicitly recognizes twenty-one specified conditions, underscoring the diverse challenges individuals may encounter. It places emphasizes on upholding the rights of people with disabilities, particularly in the realms of education, employment, healthcare, and overall accessibility. Even though the RPWD Act does not dive deep into the specifics of sports, it
acts as a catalyst extending inclusivity and equal opportunities… It is like saying, “Hey, everyone deserves a fair shot at enjoying playing sports, regardless of disabilities.” This means that sports organizations and facilities are urged to step up their game, creating spaces and programs that welcome everyone. This Act encourages and compels us to act, speak and think in such a
way that we create a safe, nurturing environment. We must strive for ground rules that are equal and beneficial to all playing the sport. So, the RPWD Act is not just legal jargon; it is a commitment to building a more inclusive and rights- focused framework for people with disabilities.
Chapter V Section 30 of the RPWD Act 2016 puts down some guidelines regarding sports for people with disabilities. They are: –
(1) The appropriate Government shall take measures to ensure effective participation in sporting activities of the persons with disabilities.
(2) The sports authorities shall accord due recognition to the right of persons with disabilities to participate in sports and shall make provisions for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in their schemes and programmes for the promotion and development of sporting talents.
(3) Without prejudice to the provisions contained in sub-section (1) and (2), the appropriate Government and the sports authorities shall take measures to,
(a) restructure courses and programmes to ensure access, inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in all sporting activities;
(b) redesign and support infrastructure facilities of all sporting activities for persons with disabilities;
(c) develop technology to enhance potential, talent, capacity and ability in sporting activities of all persons with disabilities;
(d) provide multi-sensory essentials and features in all sporting activities to ensure effective participation of all persons with disabilities;
(e) allocate funds for the development of state-of-the-art sports facilities for the training of persons with disabilities;
(f) promote and organise disability-specific sporting events for persons with disabilities and also facilitate awards to the winners and other participants of such sporting events.
One of the key achievements is the emphasis on creating accessible infrastructure for sporting facilities. The law says that every public place like parks, playgrounds and stadiums should be welcoming and accessible for disabled people. It makes sure that everyone can join in the fun of sports. A world in which individuals with disabilities can actively take part in sports and
feel the same excitement and joy is the aim of this Act. It is about creating an environment where nobody is left out. But it does not stop there. This law encourages special programs and projects for people with disabilities. It is all about crafting opportunities that embrace the specific needs of each individual and celebrate the unique strengths they bring to the game. It strives to ensure
that sports truly become something everyone can be a part of. Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” This includes the development of adaptive sports programs and the provision of necessary support and accommodations to facilitate their participation in mainstream
sporting events. The RPWD Act promotes the concept of universal design, aiming to make sports equipment and facilities adaptable to the needs of individuals with various disabilities. This approach fosters an environment where persons with disabilities can engage in sports without encountering infrastructural roadblocks. The Act also seeks to ensure that achievements in sports by persons with disabilities are acknowledged and celebrated. This recognition not only boosts the morale of athletes but also contributes to changing societal perceptions about the capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
While the RPWD Act addresses several shortcomings present in its predecessor, the Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995, there remain notable areas where further improvements are needed. Many sports facilities (which are also public places) like playgrounds, parks and stadiums still lack proper infrastructure which makes it difficult for disabled people playing sports to
access them. Even for spectators with disabilities, it is a huge problem- for example, Sachin Tendulkar’s mother had ramps made for her as a last-minute exercise so that she could watch her son’s last Test game at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai as it lacked the facilities to make it accessible for people with disabilities. The Act also falls short in providing specific guidelines or provisions related to the inclusion of disabled people in mainstream sports. Clear guidelines are essential to address the unique challenges faced by them. Discrimination against disabled athletes persists despite the changes made to
form the existing legal framework as inclusive as possible. The integration of anti-discrimination measures and robust reinforcement mechanisms within the legislative framework would undeniably prove instrumental in advancing the rights and opportunities of disabled people. A poignant illustration of the pressing need for such measures appeared in December 2021 when Sameeha Barvin, an eighteen-year-old athlete facing significant speech and hearing impairments amounting to 90%, sought relief from the Madras High Court. Her plea stemmed from being denied participation in the World Deaf Athlete Championships in Poland. The basis for this exclusion was distressingly discriminatory, as she found herself the sole woman in a ten-person contingent representing India. Madras HC backed her and all women stuck in a similar predicament, by passing a judgement, under Article 226 issued directives to enhance the participation of women athletes with disabilities. The directives
currently encompass the prevention of discrimination, provision of financial aid, ensuring fair selection, offering training and medical facilities, supplying necessary materials, extending financial support to accompanying families, ensuring safety during travel, promoting equality, and rewarding all female participants in international games.
Now, let us take a look at how India’s RPWD Act stacks up when compared to similar acts passed internationally. India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, though adopting a rights-based approach and covering a wide range of disabilities, encounters challenges in implementation within the diverse Indian context. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of United States, the
Equality Act of 2010 in the UK, and Sweden’s disability legislation provide distinct yet impactful frameworks for addressing the rights of individuals with disabilities. Notably, the ADA’s strength lies in its expansive definition of disability, encompassing both physical and mental impairments. It significantly emphasises eliminating architectural and communication barriers, thereby ensuring comprehensive accessibility. The enforcement mechanism through federal agencies, backed by penalties for violations, contributes to a robust and effective framework. In comparison, the UK’s Equality Act of 2010 stands out for its comprehensive approach to disability rights within the broader context of equality. Enforced since 2010, this legal framework addresses discrimination and promotes inclusivity across various dimensions. Sweden’s disability legislation distinguishes itself with a holistic social welfare system, offering robust support services for individuals with disabilities. The Swedish approach prioritizes integration, emphasizing universal design principles to create inclusive environments. In contrast to India’s focus on reservation, Sweden implements nuanced employment policies for inclusive workforce integration. This comprehensive and culturally embedded approach to disability rights in Sweden is reflected in its legal mandates, highlighting their commitment for inclusivity.
In conclusion, India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, marks a significant step towards fostering inclusivity and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the realm of sports. The Act, influenced by global standards outlined in the UNCRPD, expands the definition of disabilities, emphasising rights in education, employment, healthcare, and sports. Chapter 5 Section 30 specifically addresses sports for people with disabilities, outlining measures to ensure effective participation, accessible infrastructure, and the development of disability-specific sporting events. While the RPWD Act has commendable aspects, such as promoting universal design and recognizing achievements in sports, there are notable challenges and areas for improvement. Awareness about the rights and capabilities of persons with disabilities is still a challenge and I feel that the Act would benefit from
additional provisions that focus on awareness campaigns and sensitisation programs to change the attitude of the society in terms of how they view para-athletes. Clear guidelines for inclusion in mainstream sports and additional provisions for awareness campaigns and anti-discrimination measures could further strengthen the Act. Comparatively, international counterparts like the
ADA in the United States, the Equality Act of 2010 in the UK, and Sweden’s disability legislation offer diverse yet impactful frameworks. Each has strengths, such as the ADA’s emphasis on eliminating barriers and the UK’s comprehensive approach to equality. Sweden’s holistic social welfare system stands out for its commitment to integration and inclusivity. In moving forward, India’s RPWD Act can draw inspiration from these global models to address remaining challenges, ensuring a more inclusive society where persons with disabilities can actively and fully engage in sports and all facets of life. By refining implementation, addressing infrastructure gaps, and enhancing awareness, India can build upon the foundation laid by the RPWD Act, fostering a truly inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities.