Friday, December 22, 2023

Supreme Court Launches Initiative for Public Input by 31 Jan 2024 to Combat Stereotypes Against Persons with Disabilities in Legal Settings

Dear Colleagues,

In a groundbreaking move for 2023, the Supreme Court has embarked on a crucial initiative to address harmful stereotypes against individuals with disabilities within the legal realm. Following the successful unveiling of the 'Handbook on Combating Gender Stereotypes,' which aimed to guide legal professionals away from detrimental language related to women, the Supreme Court is extending its commitment to inclusivity. The court is now set to launch a parallel handbook dedicated to combatting prejudicial language and stereotypes surrounding individuals with disabilities.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, grants specific rights and benefits to individuals with disabilities, including those with "high support needs". However, to give real meaning to these rights, it is essential for the enforcing courts to be well-versed in and sensitive to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities. This understanding extends beyond addressing physical requirements; it involves comprehending and responding to the diverse challenges encountered within the legal system. Overcoming stereotypes about persons with disabilities is crucial, as these biases can introduce unfairness into legal proceedings, affecting the impartiality of outcomes.

Stereotypes often depict individuals with disabilities as less competent or reliable, unfairly influencing judicial proceedings, including the credibility of testimonies and the recognition of rights and responsibilities in legal contexts. By actively dismantling these stereotypes and ensuring that courts understand and support the needs of individuals with disabilities, the legal system can evolve into a more inclusive and just entity, reflecting the diversity of the society it serves. This commitment to accessibility and fairness not only benefits individuals with disabilities but also strengthens the integrity and equity of the legal system on a broader scale.

To encourage engagement from diverse stakeholders and gather a comprehensive range of perspectives, the Supreme Court of India has invited input on the following issues:

1. Proposing inclusive terminology suitable for addressing Persons with Disabilities, encompassing their needs and the issues affecting them.

2. Identifying inaccurate or harmful stereotypes about persons with disabilities that contribute to discrimination, distorted legal reasoning, or the denial of legal rights or benefits, along with strategies to counteract such stereotypes.

3. Recommending primary legal materials and academic literature that can be relied upon in formulating a Handbook on Combating Stereotypes concerning Persons with Disabilities.

All interested stakeholders are invited to share their insights by completing the form at the following link: on or before 31 Jan 2024.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Election Commission of India takes intiatives for accessible elections and respectful language for persons with Disabilities

The very foundation of democracy lies in representation of all communities in the electoral process including persons with disabilitiess. Accessible and Inclusive elections have therefore, been a non-negotiable priority for the Election Commission of India  (ECI) in particular to ensure equal participation of Persons with Disabilities. Section of 11 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016  provides as under:

"11. Accessibility in voting. - The Election Commission of India and the State Election Commissions shall ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with disabilities and all materials related to the electoral process are easily understandable by and accessible to them."

ECI has been striving to promote the principle of accessibility and inclusivity in the elections in line with the above mandate and understaken several intiatives.

Training Module on Sensitization of Field Level Officess

To the above effect, the ECI Team has prepared detailed "Training Module on Sensizitation and Capacity Building  of Field Level Officers on Accessibility Measures"  (visit Link to Training Module PDF 17 MB)

Advisory against use of Derogratory or offensie language about Persons with Disabilities

Off late, the Commission was been made aware of use of derogatory or offensive language in the political discourse about Persons with Disabilities. Usage of such semantics in speech/ campaign by members of any political parties or their candidates, can be interpreted as an affront to Persons with Disabilities.

Common examples of ableist language are words like dumb (gunga), retarded (pagal, sirphira), blind (andha, kana), deaf (behra), lame (langda, lula, apahij) etc. It is necessary to avoid usage of such derogatory language. PwDs have to be accorded, justice and respect in political discourse.

Thus to promote inclusivity and respect in the language of political campaigns and related communications, ECI has issued following guidelines to all political parties and their representatives on conduct towards Persons with disabilities.

The Advisory and press release can be accessed at the links below:

Link to ECI Advisory to Political Parties in respect of PwDs dated 20 Dec 2023 

Link to Press Release by ECI dated 21 Dec 2023