CHRI’s Access to Information (ATI) team organised a three-day training session on "Know your Rights: RTI for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), Strategic Partnership Training & Consultation" in collaboration with the Javed Abidi Foundation and Disability Rights India Foundation, and supported by FNF. The event was held from 8-10 June 2019.
The programme, which dealt with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD), entitlements and govt schemes for PwDs, and the use of the RTI Act, 2005, had over 40 people from across the country in attendance.
To aid accessibility – a must for all civil society organisations – sign language interpreters helped us communicate with persons with hearing impairments.
We began the session with a discussion on the history of disability, and how it evolved from being a physical/pathological model to a "social model" under the idea of ability is now understood as a function of one’s environment, not individuals. Guaranteeing accessibility, then, is a matter of ensuring facilities and removing barriers, the audience was told.
There is a strong overarching theme of rights and entitlements under RPwD Act, we observed. However, the government and authorities in most spaces across India usually get away with not proactively providing them. This is where the RTI Act can be used to seek rights and inquire about implementation of the RPwD Act. The discussion, thereafter, was centred around human rights and understanding the procedures for seeking information under the RTI Act.
The last two days focused on the more technical details of drafting RTI applications on the RPwD Act. The team, led by Mr. Venkatesh Nayak, the ATI team head, helped the participants work in groups to draft RTI applications. In the final session, participants presented their RTIs at the plenary for discussion, all focused on assessing the implementation of the RPwD Act.