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Disabilities in India - statistics & facts

According to an estimate by the WHO, globally, 15 percent of the population live with some form of disability, while over 80 percent of that share live in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. While India is home to over 1.36 billion residents, over 2.2 percent of this population endures some form of severe mental or physical disability. In today’s progressive era, where integration and inclusion of all people is emphasized as the gateway toward sustainable development, targeted measures for the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities is becoming more indispensable. Conceptually, since the condition of disability is rather transient than static, there is no one universal definition of what comprises a disability or who is considered disabled. In India, the list of criteria that categorizes people as disabled was revamped in 2016 and came into effect with the Rights of People with Disabilities act (RPwD) – an established list of disabilities comprising of 21 criteria. According to the Census 2021, the revised definition based on the RPwD act of 2016 also includes the recognition of physical deformities and injuries relative to acid attacks as disabilities which entitles these victims to various forms of governmental aid and support.

Disability and poverty

In India, for the majority of the population, specifically those living in the rural areas, there exists an inextricable link between disability and poverty. De facto, the former compounds the latter causing increased vulnerability and ostracization of these groups from society. The key indicators that affect the level of disability and exclusion of disabled people into society are health, employment, education and living standards. Further, factors that contribute towards exacerbating prevention of integration of people with disability are the presence of social stigmas that still exist within the county. According to an estimate by the National Statistical Office, rural men had the highest prevalence of disability in the country. Locomotor disability, which is primarily affects the bones, muscles, or joints leading to movement restriction in the body extremities, was the most common form of disability among men.

Public attitude

The perception of a majority of the population toward individuals with special needs is largely negative. Among the more impoverished sections of society, a person with disability is isolated and often rejected by the family. This can be attributed to deep-rooted social and cultural stigmas and lack of awareness relative to the rights of people with disability and lack of governmental aid and support. In India, there is an urgent need for educating the general public about disabilities while ensuring individuals with special needs have the availability and access to mainstream facilities such as schools and healthcare. In several mainstream schools for instance, audio-visual tools such as learning aids and trained teachers for students with special needs are close to non-existent.

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