Globally, the last few decades have witnessed a significant change in the treatment of disability and persons with disability. The most important contribution of this progressive reconstruction of disability has been a slow shift from the medical model of disability to a sociological model, that is, the recognition of dis-ability not in relativity to ability but in highlighting the inability of an ableist society to meaningfully accommodate the needs of persons with disability. This shift in narrative marks not only the end of a patronising attitude towards persons with disability, but also signals towards interpreting disability to unpack the variety of problems of access faced by persons with disability. Such an exploration of nuance shifts the focus not on supposed ‘shortcomings’ of the individual, but on the duty of the society and state at large to accommodate their needs.
We must, as a nation, attempt to analyse how far the Indian picture has kept pace with this shift in narrative. More importantly, we must, as a community, be more cautious about the influence of ableist attitudes and able-bodied ignorance on the conversation surrounding accessibility. In keeping with James Charltons’ revolutionary conception of “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, persons living with disability must be given the loudest voice in defining and facilitating accessibility.
While the legal regime has shown a slow shift along the sociological understanding of disability through the enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 and repeal of the Persons with Disability Act, the rules accompanying the new legislation, as well as the Divyang initiative have been subject to scrutiny by activists for propagating ableist narratives and not sufficiently providing for the objectives of the Act. Moreover, the Mental Health Act continues to promote a regressive view of persons with mental disabilities.
The Law and Society Committee of National Law School of India University, Bangalore focuses on highlighting the intersection between law and society, with a special emphasis on the perspectives of marginalised groups. In 2017, the Committee convened “The Indian Apartheid: A Conference on Caste” in collaboration with the Savitribai Phule Ambedkar Caravan (SPAC) to explore themes of social exclusion and marginalisation of groups in a brahminical society. In continuing with this tradition of annual conferences, and with the intent to critically explore the nuances of accessibility vis-à-vis the public and the private realm, we invite you to the “Revisiting Ability: A Conference on Disability and Its Intersections” on April 21, 2018 and April 22, 2018 at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. We hope that you will join us.
Please note: This is not meant for asking for Call for Papers.