News Excerpt
December 3 is marked by the UN as International Day of Persons with Disabilities in a bid to promote a more inclusive and accessible world for the differently-abled and to raise awareness for their rights. In India, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment observed the day with essay and painting competitions among other events.

Pre-Connect
•    Any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in a manner or within the range considered normal for the human beings, resulting from impairment is termed as disability. Impairment concerns the physical aspects of health; disability is the loss of functional capacity resulting from an impairment organ; handicap is a measure of the social and cultural consequences of an impairment or disability.
•    The 2011 census estimated that the number of people with disabilities in India is close to 2.68 crore (or 2.2% of the population) — that is more than the entire population of Australia.
•    Until the 2011 census, there were questions on seven kinds of disabilities in the questionnaire. This list of disabilities was expanded to 21 when the Rights of People with Disabilities was introduced in 2016.

Who are disabled and in what way?
    Rural men had the highest prevalence of disability in India, according to the NSO report. A higher proportion of men were disabled in India compared with women, and disability was more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.
    Inability to move without assistance was the most common disability. More men experienced locomotor disability than women.

Issues related to Disabilities in India
    Persons with disabilities are considered as one of the marginalized groups in the whole world. They have the same kind of health needs like non-disabled ones — for health screening, immunization etc.
    They may even experience a narrower health margin, both because of social exclusion and poverty.
    They are disabled not only by their bodies but by society as well. Thus, disability isn’t only a health problem. It’s a complex phenomenon that reflects the interaction between the features of an individual’s body & characteristics of the society in which the person lives in.
    A large number of children with disabilities (CWDs) remain out of school.
    Although the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has made an effort to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities, the system faces a lot of challenges in identifying these children as well as responding to their needs.
    A number of disabilities in India can be avoided and prevented including those that arise from medical issues during pre-natal, natal and post-natal conditions, injuries, accidents and malnutrition.
    But the health sector hasn’t yet reacted proactively to disability, particularly in rural regions.
    Even though many persons with disabilities are capable of productive work they remain unemployed. Forget about the private sector offering employment to these people even the public sector hardly does.
    Despite of the fact that 3% is reserved for PWDs, only ten percent posts are identified as suitable. The quota policy even covers only three kinds of disability — hearing, visual and locomotor.
    Evidence suggests that PWDs face different kinds of barriers in accessing the health as well as rehabilitation services they require in several settings.
    Overcoming all kinds of difficulties faced by persons with disabilities needs interventions for removing environmental & attitudinal barriers.

Constitution Rights
    Article 15(1) enjoins on the Government not to discriminate against any citizen of India (including disabled) on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
    There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens (including the disabled) in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
    No person including the disabled irrespective of his belonging can be treated as an untouchable. It would be an offence punishable in accordance with law as provided by Article 17 of the Constitution.
    Every person including the disabled has his life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
    Article 25 guarantees to every citizen (including the disabled) the right to freedom of religion. Every disabled person (like the non-disabled) has the freedom of conscience to practice and propagate his religion subject to proper order, morality and health.
    No disabled person can be compelled to pay any taxes for the promotion and maintenance of any particular religion or religious group.
    The right to education is available to all citizens including the disabled. Article 29(2) provides that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on the ground of religion, race, caste or language.
    Article 45 directs the State to provide free and compulsory education for all children (including the disabled) until they attain the age of 14 years.

Other major problems
    The 2011 census estimated that the number of people with disabilities in India is close to 2.68 crore (or 2.2% of the population).
    This number was based on the older definition of disability, yet the proportion of disabled people in the population is not different from the 2019 NSO report, which used the expanded definition of disability.
    However, the 2019 edition of disability statistics reported a slightly higher prevalence than those reported in earlier editions of the survey.
    Other metrics for evaluating disability have provided different estimates. A 2019 study by the Public Health Foundation of India found that the use of the Annual Health Survey’s metrics results in a lower prevalence.
    Similarly, a group of doctors from AIIMS found that alternate questionnaires like the Rapid Assessment of Disability have resulted in a prevalence ranging from 1.6%-43.3%.
    Similarly, a group of doctors from AIIMS found that alternate questionnaires like the Rapid Assessment of Disability have resulted in a prevalence ranging from 1.6%-43.3%.

Conclusion
    In India, the numbers of disabled are so large, their problems are complex, available resources also scarce, social stigma still attached and people attitudes so damaging.
    Attitudinal barriers engrained as part of India’s historical response to disability must be changed through education programs for both teachers and the general populace. These programs require financial and collaborative commitment from key national and state education stakeholders, and partnership with universities to support research-based initiatives.
    It is the only legislation which can eventually bring about a substantial change in a uniform manner.
    Therefore, in country like India mainstreaming of these people is challenging issue. For achieving this task it’s necessary to change public attitudes, remove social stigma, provide barrier free environment, needs reformation in the area of policy and institutional level.