The Central Government has invited comments on draft guidelines permitting scribes for persons with disabilities who have difficulty in reading and writing for academic and professional examinations, even if they do not meet the 40% threshold for issuance of a disability certificate. This was pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Vikash Kumar vs. Govt. of India, argued by the Disability Law Initiative, in which it was held that the provision of a scribe came within the scope of reasonable accommodation required under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
Click here for the May 11 tweet of the Department of Disability Affairs linking to the draft guidelines. The email id for submission of comments by June 1 is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a landmark judgment on Feb 11, 2021 in the case of Vikash Kumar vs. Govt. of India, the Supreme Court had held that reasonable accommodation, as required under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, had to be tailored to the specific disabling condition, even if it did not amount to 40% disability. The Court said the provision of a scribe (i.e., reader / writer) came within the scope of reasonable accommodation, and directed the Central Government to formulate guidelines for provision of scribes for persons whose disabilities, while not reaching the 40% threshold, yet resulted in impairment in reading and writing for examinations.
This comes as a relief for many people, particularly young persons, who have conditions causing significant difficulty in reading and writing, but do not possess a disability certificate stating at least 40% disability. The guidelines require that the affected persons apply to the Chief Medical Officer in their district of residence, who will constitute a medical board to evaluate and certify whether the applicant is entitled to a scribe for academic and professional examinations. The draft guidelines enumerate the range of conditions for which a scribe may be provided, such as:
i. Congenital Anomaly
ii. Post traumatic deformity and amputations
iii. Hansens and other paralysis
iv. Arthritic Hand
vi. Persons with chronic neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis who have intermittent diplopia or who are not able to use hands due to burning sensation
vii. Persons with epilepsy as the drug taken by them can cause drowsiness affecting writing ability
viii. Sleep disorder
ix. Visual field affecting reading and writing ability.
x. Persons with specific learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities can face difficulty in comprehending and in coordinating which may affect their writing capability with required speed. Similar is the case for persons with autism spectrum disorder.