The Supreme Court has ordered government and private organistations to fully fill the disability quota for jobs and avoid the use of words that may hurt disabled persons and make them feel small, which runs contrary to humanity’s experience. The court is correct in its observation while indirectly asking society to change its attitude towards disability considering the celebrity status of the visually-challenged Helen Keller and the wheel-chair bound physicist Stephen Hawking. It said the disability quota should be fixed taking into account the total sanctioned posts in an establishment. It asked organisations to refrain from the use of words ‘disabled, physically handicapped, mentally retarded’ as these words offended the self-respect of differently-abled persons. The court has told federal and provincial governments to stop the use of offensive words in official correspondence, directives, and circulars and shift to ‘persons with disabilities’ or ‘persons with different abilities (PWD)’.
Authored by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, the judgment said in every tier of an organization, quota should be allocated in such a way so as to ensure a fair and equitable representation of PWDs. If a PWD is not suitable for a particular post, the quota should be adjusted against another post as this would not disturb the overall quota. The advertisements for all categories of posts must clearly mention the total disability quota for that category of posts and the number of positions vacant under the quota at the time of ads. The court gave the decision on a petition filed by Malik Ubaidullah who was not appointed to a post of a schoolteacher reserved for persons with disabilities by a government department.
The top court observed that employers avoided employing PWDs because they doubted their abilities and some employers did so to save money on providing access facilities to such people. The other factor is the issue of the acceptability of PWDs at the workplace. It’s not our disabilities; it’s our abilities that count.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2020.
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