Understanding The Disability Certificate
In a country where 2.21% of the total population have some form of disability, India also needs to provide means to ‘include’ them meaningfully into society. The Government is working towards this through a variety of Laws, Schemes etc. drawn out and implemented by the Centre and States. Keeping this in mind, the Disability Certificate becomes an important document for the Persons with Disability (PwD).
As per Census 2011, India’s population of 121 Cr population has about 2.68 Cr persons with ‘disability’. The Indian Government is becoming more sensitive and aware of PwD and therefore has made recent amendments to the Disability Law to aid more individuals with Disability in a variety of different ways.
This article talks about the important document – the Disability Certificate- and unravels from frequently asked questions about it.
1. What is the Disability Certificate?
The Disability Certificate is a document that indicates a proof of a persons’ disability. This may also be referred to as the PwD certificate or PH certificate or handicap certificate.
This brings us to the question of – How does one define disability.
The World Health Organization or WHO defines it as ‘An umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.’
In India, the Persons’ with Disability Act (PWD Act) is an important Law, which talks about the different disabilities that are recognized by the Indian Governing bodies and its Laws. It also clarifies and defines each of the disabilities clearly. Read about the Act here.
The Disability certificate is not a mandatory document but is beneficial if obtained by the PwD.
2. Which disabilities are included?
The PWD Act defines which disabilities are included in the Disability Certificate. As per the 1995 version of the Act, only 7 disabilities were included, however, in 2016 a wonderful change was made to include many more.
As per PWD Act, 2016 there are now 21 disabilities that are covered. These include blindness, low-vision, locomotive disability, hearing impairment, mental retardation, mental illness, and leprosy. Cerebral Palsy (CP), Dwarfism, Muscular dystrophy, Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD), deafness, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, Haemophilia, Thalassemia, Sickle cell disease, Multiple disabilities (condition of any two disabilities or more) and Acid Attack Survivors.
Persons with permanent and temporary disabilities can obtain the Disability Certificate.
A Permanent disability refers to one in which there are no possible variations in the (degree of) disability. This may include disabilities such as – amputations of limbs.
However, a Temporary disability may change in its nature and may even resolve over time. This includes temporary disabling conditions resulting from injuries, surgery or short-term medical conditions. An example of this includes – broken limb and loss of speech due to an accident, which causes inability to work.
The Disability certificate for a temporary disability would have to be renewed every 5 years, whilst this is not the case for a permanent disability (whose certificate is lifelong).
3. Why is the Certificate important?
The Disability certificate is a document that allows an individual with a disability to avail benefits and facilities that they are rightfully entitled to, by the Central and State Government bodies.
Several services and schemes are provided by the State bodies/government, which may differ from one State to another. However, some of these schemes are provided by the Centre.
Few benefits, schemes, and facilities available to PwD are:
- Income tax deductions (under section 80 U)
- Travel concessions – such as for railway fares or Airlines (Government airlines)
- Disability Pensions – under the Gandhi National Disability Scheme
- Subsidy for medical aids or prosthesis – such as wheelchairs
- Employment quota – Within government jobs for PwD
- Free education – for children between 6 to 12 years
- Scholarship schemes for students with disabilities
- Conveyance allowance – for central government employees who are handicapped
- Increased allowances under PDS (ration) schemes
- Preference in land allotment/housing schemes
- Filing complaints before the Commissioner for Disabilities (State and Central) for violation of rights under the 1995 Act.
The concessions and allowances may depend on the income of the individual, degree of disability etc. These details must be looked into carefully before applying under the schemes.
4. Who can get a Disability Certificate?
To get the certificate the individual must –
- Be an Indian citizen,
- Have a valid medical report (indicating the type of disability) and its severity.
- A disability.
All 21 disabilities mentioned under PWD Act, 2016 are included.
5. Who is authorized to give the certificate?
In India, this certificate is usually issued by medical authorities (or board). The individual with disability or parent of the child with a disability must visit the authorized medical center or hospital with the request for a disability certificate.
To simplify and decentralize issuance of the Disability certificate, a multi-tier system was established (in 2009). This allows a PwD not to rely on the Medical Board alone. Based on the type of disability (obvious or not) a medical certificate can be obtained from a Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs), Hospitals at the Sub-Divisional level, a single specialist or through a multi-member board.
The medical authority will assess the individual’s disability (as prescribed by the Act) and provide relevant information (including type and severity /percentage of disability) for processing the disability certificate. Read about the multi-tier medical authorities here.
A person can apply for the disability certificate in person or online (http://www.swavlambancard.gov.in/pwd/application). A youtube video can guide how to apply for the certificate online. Check the online link here.
Validity and Guidelines:
The card has a lifelong validity when issued to a disabled person – above the age of 18 years. For disabled children below 18 years of age, the card is required to be updated once in every five years. No fresh medical examination is necessary in the case of permanent disability. Individuals with a temporary disability also must update their certificate every 5 years.
The disability certificate is to be issued as far as possible, within seven days from the date of receipt of application but in any case not later than 1 month.
The Government has provided few guidelines to ease the process of obtaining the disability certificate. They include:
- Specific day(s) in a week/month for the issue of certificates may be fixed.
- Camps may be held for issuing disability certificate at the taluka/block level.
- Camps with other programs such as rural development and poverty alleviation may be linked up.
- A specific time frame may be prescribed for issue of disability certificate may be given.
- Difficulties are being faced in issuing of disability certificate for persons with mental retardation due to non-availability of psychiatrist / clinical psychologist/pediatrician in the Medical Board. Private practitioners of repute may be co-opted in the Medical Board.
- No fee should be charged from the persons with disabilities for issuing of disability certificate.
The disability certificate is valid across the country. Earlier the concessions and schemes of the State where the certificate was issued were only applicable. This changed with the amendment to The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
Disability Certificates will soon be replaced by Unique Disability ID Cards in India. India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will launch a centralized database of disabled persons and issue Unique Disabled Identity (UDID) cards. (more details from here or here).
Once PwD receives the Disability Certificate, they can work on receiving the concessions. Unfortunately, there can be long and arduous paperwork involved. The Centre (Indian Government) has been issuing notices to various government bodies to keep processes easy for PwD as possible and least taxing.
8. Some Useful Links
* To understand the step by step process of how to get a certificate, visit these useful links.
* The Office of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities is the government agency responsible for implementing the Persons with Disabilities Act. http://delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_ocpd/DoIT_OCPD/Home/
* The Association of People with Disabilities is a national organization that aims to empower disabled people http://www.apd-india.org/
We hope this article was informative. Have any comment or query? Leave us a few lines.
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