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Series of sops for disabled

New Delhi, Feb. 28: The Centre today approved changes in a scheme for the disabled that will help more of them buy aids cheaper and get higher cash assistance for surgeries.

A key change in the scheme, last reviewed nine years ago, opens it to those with incomes higher than current limits, effectively widening it.

Under the revised guidelines of the Scheme of Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase, Fitting of Aids/Appliances (Adip Scheme), 100 per cent concession will be given to those with incomes up to Rs 15,000 a month, up from Rs 6,500 at present.

The rebate will be 50 per cent for those earning above Rs 15,000 and up to Rs 20,000. The changes take effect from April. The proposals were put forward by the ministry of social justice and empowerment.

A plan to provide mobile phones to visually impaired students aged 18 and above every five years was also cleared, as was a proposal to give laptops and Braille machines once in 10 years to others.

Activists had long demanded the modifications, saying there was a need to lift the income-linked criteria from “poverty levels”.

“It is a good thing because the income of a person with disability cannot be kept at poverty levels. Such persons spend an enormous amount of money, be it on aids or surgery,” said activist Amba Salelkar.

But she suggested the Centre should have gone beyond the traditional Braille tools. “The government should have focused on screen readers and software in which messages are read out. A considerable number of the blind have no training in Braille, thus these are of no use to them,” Salelkar added.

The government has also revised the price limits in the concession scheme, increasing it by Rs 4,000 for items costing up to Rs 12,000.

For surgeries, the cash assistance has been doubled to Rs 1,000 for the speech-impaired. The visually challenged will get Rs 2,000 instead of Rs 1,000. The orthopaedically disabled will receive Rs 5,000, up from Rs 3,000.

Subsidies will be raised too. The sum will go up from Rs 6,000 to Rs 25,000 for the severely disabled — those with three or four limbs, or one half of the body, impaired.