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Disability News/Events

The State of Disability in India

“People with disabilities are vulnerable because of the many barriers we face: attitudinal, physical, and financial. Addressing these barriers is within our reach and we have a moral duty to do so…… But most important, addressing these barriers will unlock the potential of so many people with so much to contribute to the world. Governments everywhere can no longer overlook the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied access to health, rehabilitation, support, education, and employment — and never get the chance to shine.” Stephen Hawking

The state of disability is grim and is pushed to the periphery in times of pandemic.  There are various schemes for the welfare of the PwDs but the implementation of the scheme often gets misplaced. Inclusion is not the benefits and schemes. As much as it is vital to have the schemes, it is crucial to understand it philosophically. Inclusion means respect for you, for me and everyone. 

A socially inclusive environment is one where everyone is welcome and permitted to establish their identity and express their feelings. Social inclusion assures that one’s opinions and experiences are honoured like anyone else’s.

A number of international commitments and guidelines came into effect in the recent past targeting the welfare of disabled persons. India is a signatory to the ‘Declaration on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia Pacific Region’ (2000). India has ratified the ‘UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (2008). India is also a signatory to the ‘Biwako Millennium Framework ‘(2002) for action towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society. The ‘Biwako Plus Five (2007): further efforts towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific’ added the emphasis. The Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific (2012) provides the Asian and Pacific region and the world with the first set of regionally agreed disability-inclusive development goals.

As per the Census 2011, in India out of the 121 Cr population, 2.68 Cr persons are ‘disabled’ which is 2.21% of the total population. 

Among the disabled population, 56% (1.5 Cr) are males and 44% (1.18 Cr ) are females. In the total population, the male and female populations are 51% and 49% respectively.  The majority (69%) of the disabled population resided in rural areas (1.86 Cr disabled persons in rural areas and 0.81 Cr in urban areas). In the case of the total population also, 69% are from rural areas while the remaining 31% resided in urban areas.

The percentage of disabled population among males and females are 2.41% and 2.01% respectively. At all India levels as well as disaggregated by various social groups, the proportion of disabled in the corresponding population is higher for males than females.

During 2001–2011, an increase in the number of disabled persons was observed both in rural and urban areas and also among males and females. The share of disabled persons in the total population, as well as in the male and female population also increased during this period.  The percentage of disabled people in the total population increased from 2.13% in 2001 to 2.21% in 2011. In rural areas, the increase was from 2.21% in 2001 to 2.24% in 2011 whereas, in urban areas, it increased from 1.93% to 2.17% during this period. The same trend was observed among males and females during this period.

The percentage of decadal change in the disabled population during 2001 -2011 is 22.4, whereas, for the total population, the percentage of decadal change is 17.7.

Types of Disability

The Census 2011 revealed that in India, 20% of the disabled persons are having disability in movement, 19% are with disability in seeing, and another 19 % are with disability in hearing. 8% have multiple disabilities.

Males are more in number among the affected for all the types of disability.

Among the male disabled, 22% are having disability in movement, 18% each have disability in seeing/ in hearing while 8% of them suffered from multiple disabilities. In the case of the female disabled, 20% each have disability in seeing / in hearing, 18% have disability in movement and 8% of them are having multiple disabilities.

Educational status of the disabled population

 Inclusive education is at the basis of an inclusive society. The disability may act as a major impediment in formal education. However, the educational attainment of disabled persons is important in improving their living conditions. According to Census 2011,  Of the total disabled population, nearly 55% (1.46 Cr.) are literates.  Out of the male disabled population, 62% are literates and among the female disabled 45% are literates.

The Census 2011 showed that in India, among the total disabled persons, 45% are illiterates. 13% of the disabled population has matric/ secondary education but are not graduates and 5% are graduates and above. Nearly 8.5% among the disabled literates are graduates.

Among the male disabled persons, 38% are illiterates. 16% of the disabled male population has matric/ secondary education but are not graduates and 6% are graduates and above. About 9% among the male disabled literates are graduates.  Among the female disabled persons, 55% are illiterates. 9% of the disabled female population has matric/ secondary education but are not graduates and 3% are graduates and above. About 7.7% among the female disabled literates are graduates.

Similarly, India’s National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), a framework of pervasive policy gaps in the education of children with disabilities. Inclusive education in India has been described as exclusive to children with disabilities. For instance, children with autism and cerebral palsy and girls with disabilities are least likely to be enrolled in schools. Disability is most likely to inhibit a child’s access to pre-school and primary education. Less than 40% of school buildings have ramps and around 17% of schools have accessible toilets. Although technology is a key focus of the NEP, only 59% of schools across the country have access to electricity.

For the empowerment of the disabled population, education and participation in economic activity are extremely important. The work status of disabled persons, by sex, by residence and by type of disability and the attributes of disabled nonworkers are discussed to throw light into the various aspects of their participation in economic activity. The Census 2011 highlighted that nearly one-third of the total disabled persons are working.  At the all India level, 36% of the total disabled persons are workers. Among the male disabled persons, 47% are working and among female disabled, only 23% are working.  In rural India, 25% of the female disabled are working, while in urban India, the corresponding figure is 16%.

The socio-demographic outline of a Person with a Disability is imperative for the welfare of disabled persons. Information about their functional status is important to identify needs since two individuals with the same impairment may face different types of difficulties in undertaking certain activities, and so have different needs that require different kinds of interventions. 

Functional status data is essential for determining the broader social needs of persons with disabilities, such as the provision of assistive technology for use in employment or education or broader policy and laws. Population disability data is essential for monitoring the quality and outcomes of policies for persons with disabilities. In particular, these data help to identify policy outcomes that maximize the participation of persons with disabilities in all areas of social life from transportation and communication, to participation in community life.

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