Autism is not currently recognised as a separate disability under ‘The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995’, the main piece of legislation that provides for the rights of and benefits to persons with disability in India. The Act recognises seven disabilities:

1. Blindness;
2. Low vision;
3. Leprosy-cured;
4. Hearing impairment;
5. Loco motor disability;
6. Mental retardation;
7. Mental illness;

Given this scenario, advocating for the specific needs of people with autism, for appropriate policies and legislation to cater for the same and recognition of autism as a separate disability is an ongoing campaign at Action For Autism (AFA).

The endeavour to establish effective policies for persons with ASD and their family dates back to 1996, when AFA led a delegation of parents of autistic children from throughout India to meet the then Ministry of Welfare and lobby for inclusion of autism in the National Disability Bill. This was the first mobilisation of parents of children with ASD in India, and this action subsequently led to a meeting in February of 1997 with the Joint Secretary of Welfare, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and numerous other officials.

In the forthcoming years, several advocacy drives and lobbying with the government and policy makers spearheaded primarily by AFA succeeded in the inclusion of autism in the National Trust Bill – ‘National Trust for Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act 1999’, the first ever legislation to be passed in India that recognized autism as a distinct condition of its own.

AFA has always stressed on the need for equipping professional with a deep understanding of autism and providing formal training to equip them with the appropriate know how to teach people with autism. And, though AFA had been providing a training course to meet this need, AFA continued to lobby with policy makers to provide formal recognition to such training programmes. This endevour finally yielded results, when in 2003, the AFA training course was converted to a one year Diploma in Special Education DSE-ASD under the Rehabilitation Council of India and this resulted in more such recognized training courses being offered by other organisations across the country.

In 2010, marking an extremely important landmark in disability legislation in India, the drafting process of a new Act replacing the existing The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 was initiated. Merry Barua, founder director AFA, was nominated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, to the Committee constituted to prepare the draft legislation. In order to bring to the forefront the specific needs of people with autism, AFA mobilized organisations providing services to individuals with autism across the nation, collated their inputs and ensured that these specific needs were included in the new draft of the legislation. However, the draft legislation is yet to be passed by the government and become a formal piece of legislation.

Needless to say, AFA will continue lobbying and advocating for the needs of people with autism until appropriate legal reforms for people with autism and related disabilities have been achieved.

Mentioned below are some of the acts and policies that govern the status of autism and provide for some benefits for people with autism in India:

  1. Autism in India_legalinformation_National Trust
  2. Autism in India_legalinformation_Nirmaya
  3. Autism in India_legalinformation_PWD andNew PWD
  4. Autism in India_legalinformation_RCI
  5. Autism in India_legalinformation_UNCRPD