The Medical Council of India (MCI) have started allowing 21 groups of even seriously disabled applicants to pursue graduate and post-graduate medical courses, a landmark change in its policy after a serious stricture from the Supreme Court in 2017.
Physical disability can no longer be grounds for stopping a person from being a doctor, bringing down the two-decade-long fight that ended just four years ago between specially-abled students and India’s medical studies regulator.
Blindness, poor vision, hearing deficiency, locomotor deficiency, dwarfism, mental disability, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy are also included. The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry is also amid drafting rules to define medical job functions for various categories of disability.
Until then, the MCI allowed only candidates with less than 70 percent disability of the lower limb to study medicine, even though condition violated all of the country’s disability-related rules, requiring those students to fight individual legal battles for enrollment into med schools.
MCI members concluded that times had changed, and it did not make sense to prohibit disabled people from being doctors any more with advancements in science.
The decades-old stance of the MCI that barred physically impaired students from its courses represented a larger apathy towards the disabled and elderly in Indian society who face difficulties in accessing everything from schooling to public transport.
India’s first law on disability was written as late as 1995. It offered people with seven forms of disabilities 3 percent reservations in education, although the law was seen as insufficient by many experts. Worse, the rule was more observed in the violation.
The legislation was reinforced and replaced by a new one, increasing the limit for people with disabilities to 5% and the types of disabilities to 14%. Medical colleges have been opened up to people with locomotor disorders, due to the 1995 Disability Act. But until quite recently, these doctors have shut out of all central health service (CHS) jobs. This strategy has taken four years of RTI appeals and legal tussles to alter.
Doctors in India have found a community named ‘Doctors with Disability: Agents of Change’ to inspire more doctors to come out and fight for their rights.