More than 2.68-crore differently-abled people in the country are all set to get a new sports facility and 15 more Braille presses, apart from currency notes with Braille signs and help from the government to buy aids and appliances designed for them.
Presenting the Union Budget on Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 560 crore to the Department of Disability Affairs under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Making the announcement, Jaitley outlined a slew of measures for the empowerment of differently-abled people, including a proposed centre for disability sports and national-level Institutes for Universal Inclusive Design. Establishing mental health rehabilitation institutions have also been proposed for more than 22 lakh mentally challenged people in the country.
Over 50 lakh visually-impaired people, who account for 18.8 per cent of the differently-abled population in the country, will get 15 new Braille presses.
Stating that state- and private-run Braille presses were unable to meet the demand for textbooks for visually-challenged students, Jaitley said the 10 existing Braille presses will be modernised.
Besides, the government has also decided to print currency notes with Braille signs to assist the visually-challenged. “The government will make all-out efforts to create a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities to enable them to enjoy equal opportunities…,” Jaitley said.
Welcoming the steps, Rajive Raturi, head (Asia Pacific) of Disability Rights Promotion International, said the new Braille presses would augment the textbooks available for visually challenged students across the country. But he added that disability rights activists were expecting excise and import duty waivers on key technology meant for the differently-abled.
“The capacity of the existing Braille presses is limited, but the demand is very high. So, the new presses will take care of that and we welcome it. But in the past few years, technology has moved at a fast pace. Today, there are softwares that immediately convert a text file into audio-recording, which a visually-impaired student can use for studies. There are Braille notepads that encrypt the text into Braille immediately but are very expensive… battery-run wheelchairs that help a physically-challenged person be independent but cost lakhs of rupees. The import duty waivers and excise exemptions would have been a major help,” Raturi said.
Inder Singh, vice-president of the National Federation of the Blind, said it had expected “better from the BJP government, which has always stressed on technological advancement”.