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Persons with Disabilities


Who are persons with disabilities?

  • Disability is not a homogeneous concept, as it varies from person to person.

  • Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments- in body functions & structure, activity limitations, and participation restrictions in involvement in life situations.

  • The Social Statistics Division under the MoSPI, GoI, came up with a report titled Disabled Persons in India: A statistical profile 2016. While defining disability, the report states: “From the conceptual point of view, there is no universal definition of what constitutes a disability or of who should be considered as having a disability. Moreover, there is no one static condition of disability. A disability is a result of the interaction between a person with a health condition and a particular environmental context.”

  • The United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) defines disability differently. It says: “Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

  • The World Report on Disability 2011 sums up the various definitions of disability by stating that: “Disability is complex, dynamic, multidimensional, and contested”.


  • According to the Census 2001, there are 2.19 crore persons with disabilities in India who constitute 2.13% of the total population.

  • World Bank data on the total number of PwD in India suggests the number is between 40 and 80 million- making India one of the highest numbers of people with disabilities globally.

  • MoSPI’s report titled Disabled Persons in India: A statistical profile 2016- reveals that as per 2011 population census, the number of persons with disabilities is highest in the age group 10-19 years (46.2 lakh people).

  • Data on disability points to a correlation between ‘disability’ and ‘poverty’. A large number of people with disabilities are born into poor households. This is not just a mere coincidence- 75% of PwD live in rural areas, 49% of disabled population is literate and only 34% are employed.

  • The lack of care due to systemic fallacies leads to medical complications during pregnancy leading to the birth of children with disabilities in many cases.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that the State shall make effective provision for securing right to work, to education and to 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.

International conventions

  • December 3rd has been marked as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by the United Nations since 1992.

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is an international human rights treaty dealing with the rights of disabled people- entered into force in 2008, it reaffirms that all persons have equal rights and fundamental freedoms. India ratified it in 2007- as a result Launching Sugamya Bharat (Accessible India) & the (below mentioned) Act of 2016.

  • Further, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to “leave no one behind”. It states that persons with disabilities must be both “beneficiaries and agents of change”.

  • In August 2020, the United Nations (UN) released its first-ever guidelines on access to social justice for People with Disabilities (PwD) to make it easier for them to access justice systems around the world- the guidelines outline a set of 10 principles and detail the steps for implementation.

Legal provisions in India uplifting the disabled

  • The Indian cross-disability rights movement that began in the early 1990s was inspired by its counterpart in the US. This movement led to the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995, which guaranteed that people with disabilities in India had the same right to education, employment and accessibility that any other citizen of the country had.

  • The above act was further amended in 2016- which increased the number of disabilities from 7 to 21. It also increased the quota of reservation for persons with disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and 3% to 5% in higher education institutions.

  • Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)- financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to Persons with Disabilities

  • Scheme of Assistance to Disabled Persons for purchase/fitting of Aids/appliances (ADIP Scheme)- aims at helping the disabled persons by bringing suitable, durable, scientifically-manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances within their reach.

  • District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRC)

  • National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities (RGMF)

  • National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disability Act, 1999 has provisions for legal guardianship

Challenges faced by differently-abled persons

  • The main problem lies in the psyche of a significant mass which considers persons with disabilities a liability, and this leads to discrimination and harassment against them and their isolation from the mainstream.

  • Their ‘disability’ is often seen as their ‘inability’ by many and people in general have preconceived notions about their capabilities.

  • India still lags behind in a big way when it comes to removing infrastructural, institutional and attitudinal barriers for the persons with disabilities. Even now, most buildings in India are not disability-friendly, despite the government of India, under the Accessible India Campaign, instructing all ministries to make their buildings accessible to persons with disabilities.

  • It is poverty that forces a poor pregnant woman to work in the late stages of her pregnancy. Poverty provides a ripe ground for the birth of persons with disabilities – both during and after.

  • Rural areas- Two biggest problems:

  • ➤ lack of awareness and care to pregnant mothers

  • ➤ lack of good and accessible medical facilities

  • Lack of inclusivity in healthcare programmes and educational systems have prevented them from really becoming a significant part of the society.


  • The first thing to be done is to move away from the ‘charity-based approach’ to the ‘rights-based approach’.

  • We have a moral duty to:

  • ➤ remove the barriers to participation, and

  • ➤ to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities

  • Preventive programmes- Kerala has already started an early prevention programme. Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) programme seeks early identification of deficits in infants and reduces the state's burden of disability.

  • Awareness - would reduce the stigma against the PwD

  • There should be proper teacher training to address the needs of differently-abled children and facilitate their inclusion in regular schools

  • Safety measures like road safety, safety in residential areas, public transport system etc, should be taken up

  • Policy interventions:

  • ➤ To eliminate the barriers of affordability and accessibility- especially in the rural heartland, the state governments need to invest heavily in their health sector as health comes under the ‘state subject’ in our constitution- A study by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People examined union budgets and spending by various ministries from 2008 to 2012 to ascertain how much the government spent on disability-related concerns and discovered it was a measly 0.0009% of GDP.

  • ➤ More budgetary allocation for welfare of the disabled. There should be a disability budgeting on line of gender budget.


  • Legislation alone is not enough; implementation remains abysmal. For instance, data from the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People show that 84% of seats for persons with disabilities lie vacant in top universities.

  • We must also keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach is unhelpful for disabled persons. Levels and types of disabilities differ and so do needs.

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