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Structured Negotiation as a Boost for Disability Rights

Context:

Structured negotiation is a frequently used procedure for resolving disputes collaboratively and offering an alternative to litigation through the pursuit of solutions. In this context, it is proposed that the right moment has arrived for India to fully embrace and implement structured negotiation.

Relevance:

GS- 2

  • Issues Related to Disability
  • Government Policies & Interventions

Mains Question:

Explaining the structured negotiation technique for boosting disability rights, evaluate its success in the global landscape for disability inclusion. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Disability in India:

  • As per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, an individual with a disability is characterized by a long-term impairment affecting their physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory capacities.
  • This impairment hinders their full and effective participation in society. The primary disability categories include behavioral or emotional, sensory impaired disorders, physical, and developmental.
  • As reported by the World Bank, 5–8% of India’s population is comprised of individuals with disabilities.
  • However, estimates from the NSSO suggest a lower figure of 2.2% of the population having disabilities.
  • The NFHS-5 survey conducted between 2019 and 2021 indicates that 4.52% of the population in India is affected by disabilities.

The above graph pertains to the year 2018.

Various Disability Models:

Medical Model:

  • This model perceives individuals with specific physical, intellectual, psychological, and mental impairments as disabled.
  • According to this perspective, disability is seen as an inherent characteristic of the individual, equated with activity restrictions, and addressed through cures, treatment, and rehabilitation.

Social Model:

  • In contrast, the social model directs attention to society, highlighting how it imposes unwarranted restrictions on individuals with impairments.
  • Disability, in this model, is not inherent to individuals but results from the interaction between individuals and society.

Constitutional Framework for the Disabled in India:

  • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) outlines that the State must make effective provisions to ensure the right to work, education, and public assistance for situations like unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement. These provisions are to be made within the economic capacity and development limits of the State.
  • Additionally, the responsibility for ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.

Structured Negotiation:

  • This approach commonly entails bringing the defaulting service provider into negotiations and emphasizing the advantages of adhering to social welfare legislations.
  • Although its applicability extends across various sectors, structured negotiation has demonstrated particular effectiveness in resolving disability rights cases in the United States.

Structured Negotiation and Disability Rights:

  • The success of structured negotiation has been evident in its ability to address issues related to inaccessible automated teller machines, point-of-sale devices, pedestrian signals, and service provider websites.
  • Notably, major companies like Walmart, CVS, and Caremark have been persuaded to create accessible prescription bottles for blind or low-vision customers through this approach.
  • Furthermore, it has played a role in driving institutional reform by facilitating strategies to enhance the accessibility of voting machines and websites.
  • The core of this success lies in the win-win situation that the structured negotiation methodology offers. Defaulting service providers are motivated to avoid the high costs and negative publicity associated with litigation, while complainants seek barrier-free participation in the marketplace—goals that structured negotiation can accomplish.

Structured Negotiation and India:

  • India’s bureaucratic procedures, which include mounting backlogs, extensive paperwork, and administrative hurdles in civil courts, are already discouraging parties from opting for traditional dispute resolution methods.
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016, India’s prominent legislation on disability, stipulates that any violation of its provisions can be reported to the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD).
  • Subsequently, the CCPD issues a notice to the defaulting service provider, with the authority to direct them to make services accessible or impose penalties for non-compliance.
  • While the establishment of a designated body for handling disability rights cases is a positive step, its tangible impact on rectifying accessibility barriers in the marketplace remains uncertain.
  • For instance, the CCPD recently instructed PayTM, a digital payments application, to enhance the accessibility of its mobile applications for Persons with Disabilities. However, compliance with the directive resulted in the PayTM application becoming even less accessible.
  • This incident highlights the need for continuous vigilance and user input to validate the effectiveness of solutions when attempting to make digital services accessible for persons with disabilities in real time.
  • This is where the potential of the Structured Negotiation technique becomes valuable.
  • On one hand, it provides an avenue for service providers like PayTM to evade the stigma of being labeled as non-compliant and helps them sidestep substantial legal fees and the bureaucratic entanglement associated with court proceedings.
  • On the other hand, it empowers Persons with Disabilities to directly express their concerns to service providers and oversee the implementation of fixes.

Way Forward:

  • Emphasizing priority is crucial. It is essential to recognize that the success of any alternative dispute resolution model is directly linked to the level of importance that service providers assign to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities.
  • Until these providers acknowledge the tangible benefits of offering services to persons with disabilities, attempts to resolve these claims amicably outside the court system will remain challenging to achieve.
  • It is crucial to acknowledge that the role of the law and legal advocacy remains essential in safeguarding the rights of marginalized populations.
  • The success of structured negotiation depends on the establishment of a robust body of disabled-friendly legal precedents, providing a solid foundation for this approach.
  • When courts define clear accessibility standards and compliance with the law in a specific sector, structured negotiation becomes a viable pathway for businesses to ensure their offerings are accessible without resorting to litigation.
  • Simultaneously, users with disabilities can obtain disability-friendly offerings without the costs and unpleasantness associated with legal proceedings.

Conclusion:

It is now the opportune moment for India to embrace structured negotiation on a significant scale. Businesses that hesitate to adopt this approach do so at their own risk, potentially missing out on the substantial purchasing power held by persons with disabilities, irrespective of the legal compliance aspect. It is high time for businesses to prioritize the needs of disabled users, and demonstrating a willingness to engage in structured negotiation would be a powerful step in this direction.


February 2024
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