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Do not use derogatory words for persons with disability: ECI tells parties

ByShriya Ganguly
Dec 21, 2023 02:26 PM IST

ECI said that the the violation of these guidelines may lead to an imprisonment of up to five years under Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has asked political parties and its leaders to not use “derogatory words” for persons with disability in public speeches.

Election Commission of India (Representative Photo)

Usage of such semantics in speeches/campaigns by members of any political party or their candidates can be interpreted as an affront to the PwDs, said the ECI. Their public speeches, campaigns and other activities should also be accessible to PwDs, and so should their websites and social media, it said.

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It also has asked parties to provide a training module on disability to their workers and include more PwDs as party workers and members.

“Common examples of ableist language are words like dumb(gunga), retarded (pagal, sirphira), blind (andha, kana), deaf (behra), lame (langda, lula, apahij) etc. It is necessary to avoid usage of such derogatory language,” the ECI said.

According to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, appropriate terms to refer to disabilities include blindness, low vision, deafness, locomotor disability, intellectual disability, etc.

The ECI also released a set of guidelines for political parties to “promote inclusivity and respect” towards persons with disabilities (PwDs).

According to the guidelines, the parties are not to use derogatory language towards PwDs and also ensure that their websites, social media, speeches, etc. are accessible for PwDs.

The guidelines instruct parties and their representatives not to use terms related to disability or disabled persons in the context of human incapacity or in a manner that is “offensive or perpetuates stereotypes”.

Rather, while referring to PwDs, the parties can only use rights-based terminologies as mentioned in the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the election panel said. All campaign materials must undergo an internal review to ensure that they do not contain any ableist or discriminatory language, it said.

ECI said that the the violation of these guidelines may lead to an imprisonment of up to five years under Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Parties should also “ensure and declare on their website that they will use disability & gender-sensitive language and etiquette as well as respect inherent human equality, equity, dignity and autonomy.”

The guidelines direct parties to provide training modules on disabilities to party workers and include more PwDs as party workers and members, shedding the “attitudinal barrier” between the party and the public. It also asks them to appoint a nodal authority to hear complaints of persons with disabilities about the usage of ableist language.

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