What does disability mean?
- Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.
- Such impairment is a problem in body function or structure or an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action.
- Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that the State shall make effective provisions for securing the right to work, education, and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
- The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Condition of Disability in India
- As per Census 2011, in India, out of the total population of 121 crore, about 2.68 Cr persons are ‘Disabled’ (2.21% of the total population)
- Out of 2.68 crore, 1.5 crore are males and 1.18 crore are females.
- A majority (69%) of the disabled population resided in rural areas.
- After the government launched the legislation for Persons with disability act, of 2016, it is evident that till now no state can fulfill the criteria for disability infrastructure.
- Progress on public transport was less, with only 8.73% of buses fully accessible as against the target of 25%.
- The DEPwD had raised concerns about the slow pace of implementation of AIC and emphasized the need for concrete changes in the ecosystem of public infrastructure to make it accessible for Divyangjans.
Legislative backing for the Disabled in India
Rights of Persons with Disability Act,2016
- The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, of 1995.
- “Person with a disability” means a person with long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which, in interaction with barriers, hinder his full and effective participation in society equally with others.
- Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
- Principles stated to be implemented for the empowerment of persons with disabilities (PWD) are respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons.
- The principle reflects a paradigm shift in thinking about disability from a social welfare concern to a human rights issue.
- The act added mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities including deaf blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinson’s disease which were largely ignored in the earlier act.
Issues and Challenges
- Health: A large number of disabilities are preventable, including those arising from medical issues during birth, maternal conditions, malnutrition, as well as accidents and injuries.
- Healthcare facilities and poorly trained health workers in rehabilitation centers are another concern.
- Education: There are various issues such as the availability of special schools, access to schools, trained teachers, and availability of educational materials for the disabled.
- Further, reservations for the disabled in higher educational institutions have not been fulfilled in many instances.
- Employment: Even though many disabled adults are capable of productive work, disabled adults have far lower employment rates than the general population.
- The situation is even worse in the private sector, where much less disabled are employed.
- Accessibility: Physical accessibility in buildings, transportation, access to services, etc still remains a major challenge.
- Discrimination/Social Exclusion: Negative attitudes held by the families of the disabled, and often the disabled themselves, hinder disabled persons from taking an active part in the family, community, or workforce.
- Inadequate data and statistics: The lack of rigorous and comparable data and statistics further hinders the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Related Links: Rare Disease & National Rare Disease Policy 2021.