The federal and provincial governments have been directed to discontinue using the words “disabled”, “physically handicapped” and “mentally retarded” while referring to people with disabilities.
Using these words “deeply bruise and offend human dignity of persons with different abilities,” the court said in a verdict released on Saturday.
The governments have been told to use either “persons with
disabilities” or “persons with different abilities” in their official correspondence, directives, notifications, and circulars.
The court said this in a verdict on a petition filed by a man named Ubaidullah. He said that he had applied for the post of senior elementary school educator Arabic in Multan on the quota for people with disabilities.
The Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981 (“Ordinance”) requires that 2% of the total number of people employed by an establishment at any time shall be people with disabilities, said the petitioner.
According to the post’s advertisement, issued by the Multan education department, a total of 81 posts were available, of which 42 were for women and 39 for men. This means that at least five people with disabilities should have been hired for the job. However, only one person, Asma Qasim, was appointed under the quota.
Ubaidullah then challenged the appointment in Lahore High Court, but the court rejected his petition. The Supreme Court has now set aside the high court’s verdict.
The government has been given one month to complete the quota by hiring people with disabilities on merit.
Pakistan’s “Constitution, as a whole, does not distinguish between a person with or without disabilities,” the court said. “It recognises the inherent dignity of a human being; equal and inalienable rights of all the people as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. Every person is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind.”
In Pakistan, estimates of the number of persons living with disabilities vary between 3.3 million and 27 million. Most of them, however, face a hard time securing jobs because employers mistakenly assume that “these people will probably underperform in most areas of their duties – something which is actually not the case.”
Another plausible issue is that when the majority of workplaces are not made accessible to people with disabilities, employers may feel that they will have to make an unwarranted investment to provide facilities for them.
In Pakistan, policy approaches to disability have largely been focused on the following:
This has been changing since the UN Convention on the Rights Of Persons With Disabilities, which Pakistan ratified in 2011, but progress around building an inclusive society has been woefully slow, the court said.
The government had been instructed to provide “reasonable accommodation” to the people with disabilities “through assistive technology, which is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices”.