November 3rd, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
A draft law sets an employment quota of three percent for persons with disabilities in all public and private organisations in Punjab, Provincial Social Welfare Minister Yawar Abbas told Voicepk.net.
Abbas said the Punjab Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2021 would be passed by the provincial assembly ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3. “The legislation will be a gift to the persons with disabilities living in Punjab,” he added.
“The ministry has prepared a draft law which comprehensively covers the rights of persons with disabilities, implementation of the law and sentences for violations and offences,” Abbas said.
The minister said the draft legislation laid special focus on employment and education of persons with disabilities in the province. According to the draft bill, public and private organisations in Punjab will have to allocate an employment quota of three percent for persons with disabilities. “The quota shall equally be divided amongst Visually Impaired Persons, Hearing Impaired Persons and persons with Physical Disabilities,” reads subsection 2 of clause 28 of the draft bill.
Abbas said organisations that do not employ persons with disabilities will have to contribute monthly an amount equivalent to the minimum wage of a worker employed in the organisation to a fund established under the proposed legislation for the welfare of persons with disabilities.
Access to education
The social welfare minister said the proposed legislation would entitle persons with disabilities to equal right of education in public or private educational institutions at concessional rates. Similarly, public or private educational institutions are barred from denying admissions to persons with disabilities on ground of his/her disabilities. “No educational institution or its staff members shall discriminate against or abuse or otherwise violate the rights of a ‘Person with Disabilities’ at his place of education,” reads susbsection (3) of clause 8 titled Equity in education.
The draft bill sets a quota of three percent for children with disabilities in private and public educational institutions in the province.
Council on Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Under the draft bill, the provincial government will establish a Council on Rights of Persons with Disabilities for their protection, welfare and rehabilitation. The council will ensure enforcement of the rights and entitlements of ‘Persons with Disabilities’ listed under the act. The council, headed by the minister for social welfare, will consist of 37 members. The council will have 9 representatives from members of provincial assembly for each division of the province. There will be three persons of disabilities, including a woman, on the council.
5-year target to make buildings, public spaces accessible
The council will develop minimum standards of access and guidelines on removing barriers and obstacles to access in buildings, roads, parks, places of entertainment, modes of transportation, housing, hospitals, schools, workplaces, communication and information related services. The provincial government is to ensure that public buildings and spaces are made accessible to persons with disabilities within five years from the date of promulgation of the Act.
District unit to maintain database
The council will establish a unit in each district of the province to facilitate training and employment of persons with disabilities. The District Welfare and Rehabilitation Unit will maintain a database of persons with disabilities, certified by the assessment board.
The unit is to redress grievances as well as help persons with disabilities apply for jobs in the public and private sector. It will also provide financial assistance and arrange adult literacy programmes to them. The unit will also register establishments in private and public sector and coordinate with non-governmental organisations and philanthropists for rehabilitation of persons with Disabilities.
Appeal to council
Under the draft law, any aggrieved person can appeal to the council within 30 days against an order passed by the District Welfare & Rehabilitation Unit. The Council shall decide the appeal within 60 days of its filing.
The council is to notify a provincial assessment committee are experts or specialists in the fields of Physical Impairment or Intellectual Impairment or Hearing & Vocal Impairment, or Visual Impairment or Medical Impairment or Neuro Impairment. The committee will review the complicated and disputed cases referred by the Assessment Board through the council. The committee can modify or reverse the assessment decision of the assessment board. It will frame guidelines for assessment of persons with disabilities.
The draft law calls for establishment of assessment board for persons with disabilities to examine and assess their nature of functional differentiability, aptitude, nature and ability to work. The board is to issue certificate on the basis of such assessment.
Any person aggrieved by assessment decision can appeal to the Provincial Assessment Committee within thirty days of the assessment.
Registration of persons with disabilities
Any person with disabilities desirous of being employed or otherwise facilitated or rehabilitated has to register with the unit of the respective district after getting a certificate from the assessment board.
The unit shall record the particulars of every person with disabilities and indicate the nature of work according to his disability for employment.
Persons with Disabilities Rehabilitation Fund
The provincial government will establish ‘Persons with Disabilities Rehabilitation Fund’ to be administered by the council.
Government grants, donations, fines, penalties, and contributions from private establishments under section 30, are to be deposited in the fund.
According to the draft law, the provincial government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, specify for each district a court of sessions to be a Special Court for Persons with Disabilities to try the offences under the act.
The government will notify a public prosecutor for every ‘Special Court for Persons with Disabilities. The draft law also calls for an effective institutionalized mechanism to monitor such cases by the prosecutor general.
The special court can impose a sentence from six months to five years imprisonment for offences under the proposed law. Besides, it can impose a fine of Rs 100,000 to Rs 500,000 on any person who contravenes any provision of the act.
Pakistan signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 25th Sep 2008 and ratified it on 5th July 2011. The proposed provincial legislation is part of Pakistan’s efforts to meet obligations under the convention.
In its Initial country report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2019, Pakistan reiterated that it was taking appropriate measures for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. According to the report, the persons with disabilities constituted 2.49 percent (3.286 million) of the overall population as per the 1998 census. Out of the total persons with disabilities, 18.93 percent are crippled, 8.23 percent have multiple disabilities, 8.06 percent are blind, 7.43 percent are deaf/mute, 6.39 percent insane, 7.60 percent mentally retarded, and 43.37 percent had other disabilities.
The report said Sindh and Balochistan provinces had promulgated laws on the empowerment of persons with disabilities to promote and ensure the effective inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community. In 2015, Punjab amended its ‘Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) (Amendment) Act’ to increase the reserved quota for persons with disabilities in public jobs from two to three percent.