What is a disability certificate?
In 1995, the Indian Parliament passed the The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, which recognized certain disabilities and granted certain rights and entitlements to persons with these disabilities.
Free education to children with disabilities
Reservations in government jobs
Reservation in educational institutions
Schemes for preferential allotment of land
Social security schemes
The right to seek redressal against deprivation of rights by the Chief Commissioner of Disabilities
The disabilities included under this law include psychosocial disability, as “mental illness”. However, the applicability of the law and schemes framed under it extends only to persons who have been found to have more than 40% of a particular disability, and have obtained on that basis, their disability certificate.
Do I qualify for a disability certificate?
Since psychosocial disability is so complex, there is a lot of uncertainty on the manner of certification. It may be easy to calculate the percentage of disability caused by a particular physical impairment, but psychosocial disability is not something which can be calculated very easily. Guidelines which exist at present use the Indian Disability Evaluation and Assessment Scale (IDEAS).
The extent of psychosocial disability is to be certified at panels constituted for the same purpose. All psychiatric institutions have information regarding the panel set up, and you can check when the panel is available for certification, or check with your State Commissioner for Disabilities. The panel typically consists of:
(a) The head of an institution – this may be the chairperson or dean or medical superintendent, or either of their nominees
(b) A psychiatrist member
(c) A physician member
You need to apply to the panel with your medical history, with details filled out in a prescribed form. If you fall short of being found to have at least 40 percent of a disability, you will not be given a disability certificate.
How will I be assessed?
The IDEAS scale has 4 components on which a person with a psychosocial disability will be assessed. The scale and method of calculation is extremely detailed and this is a brief summary of the parameters:
I. How the person cares for themselves (self care): Does the person appear to be hygienic – do they bathe, have clean toilet habits, for example? Do they groom themselves properly? Do they dress properly? Do they eat well enough and are they able to monitor their own health?
II. How the person maintains relationships and activities between themselves and other people (social relationships): Is the person able to begin and maintain societal relationships and interactions in an appropriate manner?
III. Is the person able to communicate and understand conversation? (Communication and Understanding): Is the person able to communicate and respond to conversation (verbal/non verbal manner)
IV. Is the person able to cope in a work environment? (Work): Is the person able to manage a work, household, or education-related atmosphere in terms of workload?
The process is quite intense and requires your medical history and detailed responses by those evaluating you. The process may take very long and require multiple visits to the panel or the assessing authority, so bear that in mind.
Should I get a disability certificate?
A disability certificate is not mandatory, by any means. If you have a disability certificate, you may be entitled to the following, depending on the schemes available in your state for persons with disabilities:
1. Concessions on transport
2. Increased allowances under PDS (ration) schemes
3. Preference in land allotment/housing schemes
4. Disability allowance/pension
5. Filing complaints before the Commissioner for Disabilities (State and Central) for violation of rights under the 1995 Act.
You should note, however, that much of this depends also on your income – even if you are entitled to receive a disability certificate, you might not be able to avail of these schemes if your total income is beyond the specified level.
At present, persons with psychosocial disabilities are not entitled to reservations in government jobs.
A disability certificate is not necessary in order to avail of treatment for your diagnosis from any hospital or clinician, or to avail of medication.
Merely having a disability certificate for psychosocial disability does not create any impediment for you and the exercising of your constitutional rights. It does not result in being institutionalized under the Mental Health Act, it does not subject you to extra surveillance, it does not require you to submit yourself to regular testing, nor does it have the effect of declaring you to be of "unsound mind”.
If you have multiple disabilities i.e. you have a psychosocial disability along with any other condition such as hearing impairment, vision impairment, a locomotor disability etc., you may qualify to be recognized as a person with “multiple disabilities”, and therefore also be eligible for schemes and facilities under the National Trust Act, 1999.
What is the validity of a disability certificate?
The disability certificate issued by the panel is valid throughout India, though you can only avail of entitlements under the State that issues you the certificate. If you are traveling in a train through Tamil Nadu and your certificate is from Delhi, you can use the same to avail of railway concessions or travel in compartments reserved for persons with disabilities, for example.
A disability certificate can be permanent if the assessing panel believes that your condition will be a lifelong one. However, in most cases of psychosocial disabilities, the panel may believe that there could be a change in the condition of the person in the future, and therefore may require regular reassessment prior to the renewal of the certificate.
What if I apply for a disability certificate but don't get it?
In the event that you are refused a disability certificate on the ground that you do not qualify, and if you feel that you have been wrongly assessed, or if there is undue delay in deciding your application, you can file a complaint with the State Commissioner for Disabilities with the copy of the rejection of your application.
Amba Salelkar is a lawyer based in Chennai, with a special interest in disability law and policy.