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Supreme Court bans use of words ‘disabled’, ‘mentally retarded’, ‘physically handicapped’

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SC advises authorities to use “persons with disabilities” or “persons with different abilities” instead. — AFP/Files

The Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the Centre and provincial governments to stop using the words such as “disabled”, “physically handicapped”, and "mentally retarded" for official correspondence, directives, notifications, and circulars as they violate a person's dignity, Geo News reported Saturday.

The apex court advised the authorities to use “persons with disabilities” or “persons with different abilities” instead.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah authored the 12-page order while adjudicating upon a case concerning the job quota of persons with disabilities (PWDs).

A three-member bench comprising Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin heard the appeal.

The petitioner had approached the apex court against the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict. He had filed the case at the LHC after he was denied the job at an elementary school in Multan and challenged the allocation of jobs for the disabled.

The court, in its order, said that the allocation of 2% disability quota based on the advertised posts as compared to the sanctioned posts is adverse to the interest of the persons with disabilities as 2% disability quota can only be actualised if there is a minimum of 50 posts advertised to secure one post for the PWDs.

If the advertisement is for less than 50 posts (due to the vacancies arising at that particular time), disability quota based on the advertised posts cannot be worked out, depriving the PWDs of their prospect of employment, the order stated.

“This can go on for a long time as posts are advertised as per vacancies that vary from time to time, therefore, if Disability Quota were to be based on the advertised posts, the fate of the PWDs would continue to hang in the balance and remain uncertain unless the posts advertised happen to be above 50.

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“It is, therefore, in the interest of the PWDs that the disability quota for the establishment is first worked out based on the total sanctioned posts and then apportioned against the total sanctioned strength of different categories of posts.

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Thereafter, the posts can be successively filled as and when the vacancies arise through advertisement, keeping the total disability quota in mind, rather than the number of posts advertised.”

The judgment emphasised the need to provide the infrastructure, access, support, and facilities, so that persons with disabilities, once appointed to a post, can perform their job without feeling physically or emotionally incapacitated in any manner.

The court order noted that the biggest barriers in the employment of persons with disabilities is the accessibility and their social acceptability at the workplace. The government and the concerned establishment is bound to make provisions for it, for otherwise, the disability quota and the purpose of the ordinance will stand frustrated and serve no useful purpose. This support and facilitation for persons with disabilities has been recognised as Reasonable Accommodation under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) that Pakistan had ratified in 2011.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 386 million of the world's working-age are PWDs.

The unemployment among the PWDs is as high as 80% in some countries. Often employers assume that persons with disabilities are unable to work. In Pakistan, estimates of the number of persons living with disabilities could have as many as 3.3 million and 27 million, added the judgment.


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