Mobilizing District Committee Members
13. Write letters to committee members to resolve individual rights violations
The Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act, 2013 (DRPA) creates an important opportunity for persons with disabilities to seek remedies for disability rights violations through the Section 36 procedure. Applicants can seek formal orders from district committees to correct the rights violation or to award monetary compensation. But in districts where committee members lack experience with the Section 36 procedure, applicants may have to wait months to receive a final decision by the committee. Moreover, if committee members are not sensitized to disability rights issues, then applicants may not receive a favorable decision even if they complete all the necessary steps.
Depending on the nature of the rights violation and the type of remedy sought, DPOs should consider writing letters to the responsible parties informing them of their responsibilities under the DRPA. This is especially true when a rights violation can be remedied easily and for little or no cost. At the same time, DPOs should be mindful that the DRPA requires Section 36 applications to file their complaints within 30 days of experiencing a rights violation or form of disability-based discrimination. While certain complaints might easily be resolved informally outside, DPOs should be mindful to assist prospective applicants to preserve their right to a decision by the district committee if the responsible party does not quickly agree to provide a remedy voluntarily.
For example, instead of filing Section 36 applications, Tangail DPOD wrote a letter to a Tangail middle school headmaster to demand that reasonable accommodations be provided to two students with disabilities. Shahida Akter, an eighth grade student, and Habibur Rahman, a sixth grade student, received customized desks tailored to their physical disabilities and were seated in the front row of their classrooms so that they can more actively engage in lessons. Tangail DPOD learned of their need for reasonable accommodations at its July 27, 2019 legal aid camp. Following Tangail DPOD's referral, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust's (BLAST) Tangail Unit Office issued a legal notice to the students' school alerting them to the students' right under DRPA Section 16(1)(Da). Thereafter, not only did the school agree to provide customized desks, but also to install two ramps and to add a commode toilet in the bathroom, so that students using wheelchairs will have opportunities to enjoy their right to education on an equal basis with non-disabled students.
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This domain was previously home to a joint report by NGDO, NCDW, and BLAST entitled “Current Status of Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Bangladesh: Legal and Grassroots Perspectives 2015,” produced with funding from the Disability Rights Fund. It is now available here.