RPWD ACT 2016: Implications for education of deaf children in India


Ms. Sangeeta Singh

Ph.D Scholar, Department of Education, University of Delhi, Delhi

*Corresponding Author Email: sangeeta29singh@gmail.com



Education is a human right. Every child has a right to education irrespective of her/his caste, creed, race, religion, region and disability.  Deaf children are not exceptional and have right to education for their overall development of personality. Prior to RPWD Act 2016, there were minimal endeavors that could be seen for accessibility to communication and education of deaf children. The present paper is an attempt to critically analyse the RPWD Act 2016 to understand its educational implications for deaf people in India. The first part will discuss about the policies and educational acts prevailing in India for the education of persons with disabilities. It will be followed by scrutinizing RPWD Act, 2016 in order to understand its implications for education of deaf children in India.


KEYWORDS: Education, Deaf, RPWD Act, 2016.





Education is a powerful tool for social change. It is an instrument for bridging the gap between different sections of the society. The significance of education for all children, especially, the children with special needs is indisputable.  Right to education for children has been given the central place in national and international policies and acts. The article 26 of Universal declaration of human rights (1948) states, “ everyone has the right to free education at least at the elementary and the fundamental stages and it shall be compulsory”. Similarly, article 45 of our constitution has made provision for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.  After the enactment of “Right to Education Act” 2010 (RTE Act), India became one of the 135 countries to make education as a fundamental right for its citizen. The Act provides free and compulsory education to the children between 6-14 years of age.


Though the act came into effect promising free and compulsory education for all children between 6-14 years including children with disabilities, the situation of children with disabilities are on margin. According to the NCERT report — ‘Status of Implementation of RTE Act in context of disadvantaged children at elementary stage’ — says that “poor infrastructure, non-availability of appropriate furniture for children with disabilities, non-availability of special aids and appliances, poor quality of aids and appliances for children with locomotor disabilities are major challenges in the fulfillment of RTE to these children” (The Indian Express, 2014). Further lack of trained teachers for rendering their needs and requirement in school makes situation of the children with disabilities devastating.


Deaf children especially those who use sign language for communication purposes are not exception. The schools pay no heed to language needs of deaf children which impact their language development, academic growth and social skills. According to Vasishta (2014), in India ‘sign language has been denied in various forms by educators of deaf children since at least 1975’. It is still prevailing in most of the special schools for deaf children and regular schools where oral approach is used for teaching deaf children. The previous act namely ‘Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995’ (PWD Act, 1995) has nowhere mentioned about the sign language for educating deaf children and access to information for deaf children. It reflects the dismissal of sign language and alienating the deaf people by bestowing them in the society where environment is adaptable only for those people who can listen and speak.


The incorporation of sign language as a mode of communication, ensuring that education is imparted to deaf in their appropriate language and mode of communication and accessibility to communication for deaf in the Right to persons with disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD Act, 2016) is the result of endeavours taken by the Deaf community of India, National organisations like National association of the Deaf (NAD), interpreters and other organisations advocating for deaf people’s rights. The focal point of RPWD Act, 2016 is that it is in compliance with United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which was ratified by India in 2007. The act lays emphasis on respect for dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices and independence of persons, non-discrimination, respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity. Further it stresses the implementation of full and effective participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society. It demands equality of opportunity, accessibility, equality between men and women and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities for the empowerment of persons with disabilities. With specific reference to deaf people, UNCRPD has given the recognition to sign language as language.


Since the present article focuses on deaf people, I would like to highlight here the key features of RPWD Act, 2016 which necessitate the appropriate government and local authorities to take efforts to provide the inclusive education to deaf children.


·        Section 16 (v): ensure that the education to persons who are blind or deaf or both is imparted in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication


This section is utmost important for fulfilling the language needs of deaf children in both the special schools and regular schools as well. In the previous PWD, 1995 Act, there was nowhere mentioned about the use of appropriate language and modes of communication specifically for deaf people. National curriculum Framework, 2005 (NCF, 2005) underpins the introduction of standard sign languages to support children’s continued growth and development. However, it is unlikely to find the encouragement of sign languages at school level for educating deaf children.


·        Section17 (c) emphasize to train and employ teachers, including teachers with disability who are qualified in sign language and Braille and also teachers who are trained in teaching children with intellectual disability


The section 17 (c) has accentuated the role of teachers with disabilities which was not given the concern in earlier act and policies for persons with disabilities. It is incredibly imperative to include teachers with disabilities for successful inclusion of children with disabilities. The presence of teachers with disabilities would facilitate the students, non-disabled teachers and other staff members to value difference and understand the disability though the perspective of teachers with disabilities. They could play a role of inspiring models for the children with disabilities in the school. The drive to employ teachers with disabilities is a major step to value disability and a move towards inclusion.


Further, the section 17 (c) gives emphasis on training the teachers for educating children with disabilities. Training is a vital part of curriculum for preparing teachers to teach children with disabilities. It is utmost important for the educational stakeholders to plan and organize teacher training programmes to give them the exposure about the nature of disabilities and addressing the needs of children with disabilities. Lack of trained teachers is the major cause that is precluding children with disabilities to get proper education. It is one of the main reasons for creating barriers to the inclusion of children with disabilities in the schools. For teaching deaf children, it is of keen importance for teachers to get trained in sign language and have proper understanding of diversity among deaf children and their needs.


·        Section 17 (f) asks to promote the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes including means and formats of communication, Braille and sign language to supplement the use of one’s own speech to fulfill the daily communication needs of persons with speech, communication or language disabilities and enables them to participate and contribute to their community and society


The section 17 (f) pay heed to promote the sign language which was not a matter of concern in educating deaf children from a long period of times. And it is still prevalent in the country today (Vasishtha, 2014). It is of vital importance to give recognition to sign language to accomplish true inclusion of deaf people in the field of education and society. In that way, this section persuade the use of sign language for eliminating the barriers in the society prevailing because of the unavailability of services including interpreters and professionals qualified in educational setups, public offices and private firms, hospitals and courts etc. The elimination of communication barriers in the society would broaden the scope for full participation of deaf people in the society. 



RPWD Act, 2016 can be seen as a souvenir for Deaf community whose primary language is sign language. Deaf people have suffered a lot in terms of communication gap prevailing in the society where majority of the people are hearing. It was for the first time that the term ‘deaf’ have been used in the disability act which reflects the acceptance of deaf people of India. Earlier they was no recognition of diversity among hearing impaired people, however, the present act has categorized hearing impaired people into deaf and hard of hearing. Besides, it has given due importance to sign language in the field of education and accessibility to communication in their day to day life activities.


RPWD Act, 2016 has laid a foundation for the promotion and flourishing of sign language in the educational institutes and other places for establishing access to communication. It is now the collective responsibility of educational stakeholders, community, rehabilitation institutes and other organisations involved in the education of deaf children directly or indirectly to implement the provisions given in the RPWD Act, 2016. The act is comprehensive in that it has focused on language needs of deaf people, teacher education and accessibility to communication for deaf people.



·        RTE has failed to enable the disabled: Study. (January, 2014). The Indian Express. Retrieved from http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/rte-has-failed-to-enable-the-disabled-study/

·        Vasishta, M. (2014). Overview and early History of Indian Sign Language. In T. Bhattacharya, N. Grover and S.P.K. Randhawa (Eds.), People’s Linguistic Survey of India: Indian Sign Language(s) (pp.1-5). New Delhi, India: Orient BlackSwan.

·        Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding deaf culture: In search of deafhood. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

·        National Council of Educational Research and Training. (2005). National Curriculum Framework 2005. New Delhi: NCERT.

·        The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, Gazette of India (Extra-Ordinary); 28 December, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.disabilityaffairs.gov.in/uploaad/uploadfiles/files/RPWD/ACT/2016.pdf

·        The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act. 1995. Retrieved from: http://www.disabilityaffairs.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/PWD_Act.pdf .






Received on 06.12.2017       Modified on 28.12.2017

Accepted on 15.01.2018      ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2018; 9(1): 01-03.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2018.00001.3