Disability Rights Bill (LK0032)
Action Plan: Sri Lanka Action Plan 2019-2021
Action Plan Cycle: 2019
Lead Institution: Ministry in charge of Social Welfare
Support Institution(s): National Housing Development Authority; National Secretariat for Persons with Disabilities; Ministry of Finance; Ministry in charge of Home Affairs Disability Organisations Joint Front (DOJF)
Policy AreasInclusion, Legislation, People with Disabilities
Disability Rights bill formulated with public participation in line with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and enacted by the Parliament by 2020
1st March 2019 – 31st August 2021
Lead implementing agency/actor Ministry in charge of Social Welfare
What is the public problem that the commitment will address? Persons with disabilities do not enjoy equal rights and privileges as other citizens in society. They are deprived of basic entitlements enjoyed by other citizens due to physical and psychological barriers in society. In Sri Lanka, 1.6 M (8.7%) persons are living with disabilities. The existing disability legislation, Act No. 28 of 1996 is limited to access to education, employment and physical accessibility to public places. With the ratification of UNCPRD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) in 2016, the government is accountable to prepare local legislation in line with UNCPRD. The proposed Disability Rights Bill, however, has been formulated with the absence of two separate mechanisms, i.e1) coordination of implementation and 2) independent monitoring as per article 33 of UNCPRD.
What is the commitment? The purpose of this commitment is to prepare a revised bill by the Ministry in charge of Social Welfare based on public consultations and in line with UNCPRD.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? The accommodation of 2 separate mechanisms in disability legislation as per article 33 of the UNCPRD, i.e coordination of implementation and independent monitoring will lead to improvement of the quality of life of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities will be able to access the draft bill in disability-friendly modes of communication. An island wide publicity campaign will be conducted on the provisions of the Disability Rights Act highlighting the entitlement of persons with disabilities.
Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? This commitment promotes public accountability as it provides for legislation to promote and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.
Additional information This commitment promotes the provisions of the National Human Rights Action Plan 2017-2021, disability legislation in Sri Lanka; the recommendations and commitments in the Draft Sustainable Sri Lanka: Vision & Strategic Path and the Vision 2025; targets influencing disability rights in crosscutting Sustainable Development Goals.
Milestone Activity with a verifiable deliverable Start Date: End Date:
1. The existing bill is revised based on public consultations in line with UNCPRD by the Ministry in charge. Already started May 2019
2. The draft will be available in alternative modes of communication for persons with disabilities (i.e. Braille, Sign Language etc.) for comments and feedback December 2019 April 2020
3. Approval by the Parliamentary subcommittee and enactment of revised bill by Parliament May 2020 September 2020
4. The Ministry implements island wide publicity campaign on the provisions of the revised Disability Rights Act highlighting the entitlement of persons with disabilities. October 2020 February 2021
IRM Midterm Status Summary
9. Disability Rights Bill
Relevant to Open Government: Yes
Potential Impact: Moderate
Aim of the commitment
Through a participatory process, this commitment aimed to enact the Disability Rights Bill in alignment with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which Sri Lanka signed in 2007 and ratified in 2016. Previously, the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was passed in 1996. The act does not account policy developments of the past 25 years, but passage of the new Disability Rights Bill has been stalled for over 15 years. With approval of the National Policy for Disability, a committee was first assigned to draft the bill in 2004. Successive administrations repeatedly redrafted the bill. However, it never progressed beyond the Legal Draftsman’s Department.  Preceding the action plan, the draft Disability Rights Bill proposed establishing the Disability Rights Commission. This commission was to coordinate between people with disabilities, representative organizations, and governmental and non-governmental institutions. Its mandate was not to cover investigating violations or ensuring provision of justice and human rights for people with disabilities. 
This commitment could have achieved a moderate impact on reforming disability rights, opening public participation for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are often marginalized by Sri Lankan society and denied full participation in the public sphere due to the absence of a legal, rights-based approach.  Progress on policies and regulations to provide equal rights stagnated after signing of UNCPRD.  Passage of the Disability Rights Bill could have rejuvenated outdated legal protections for a vulnerable population, although the commitment’s plan did not address obstacles that had stalled previous iterations of the bill.
Did it open government?
Did not change
Parliament did not pass the Disability Rights Bill. As of 2021, revisions of the bill were being undertaken by representatives of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), along with the Disability Organizations Joint Front (DOJF) and others. In terms of composition, the drafting group did not achieve a gender balance, and representatives were almost exclusively based in Colombo. The draft was only available in Sinhala, with an English summary prepared for the single Tamil representative. An attorney assigned by the Ministry of Social Welfare re-drafted the bill in August 2021, and faced a great deal of resistance from NCPD. That attorney attempted to shift responsibility for implementation of the bill from the Minister of Social Welfare to the Ministry Secretary, but was overruled.  Meanwhile, critics saw continued placement within the Ministry of Social Welfare as a means of maintaining the Ministry’s financial allocation, and argued for placing responsibility for implementation with the presidency.  Moving forward, this draft bill could be strengthened by public consultations and appropriately legislating the implementation and monitoring mechanisms required by UNCPRD Article 33. Additionally, the Law Commission could be better placed to draft this bill, given its complexity.