Persons With Disability (PWD)

  • About 4-8% of the population are differently abled. One in every 10 children is born with or acquires a physical, mental or sensory disability. These translate into 40-90 million children. Only 35.29% of all people living with disabilities have access to schools.
  • Despite improvements in the health care system, the situation of differently abled children remains deplorable, particularly in rural areas and among lower socio-economic populations.
  • Differently, Disabilities abled children in India are subject to multiple deprivations and limited opportunities in several dimensions of their lives. Some of these include, not being enrolled on schools, lower employment rates, limited awareness of entitlements and services available and lack of social welfare support.

Common Challenges

  • Differently, abled children are subjected to ugly forms of discrimination: Due to the stigma associated with disabilities, families become victims of discrimination and human rights abuse. When poverty, physical neglect and social marginalization intersect, the impact on the disabled can be devastating. Differently, abled children are kept hidden away in their homes and denied the fundamental rights of mobility, education, and employment. They are viewed as dependent persons. Such discrimination in some cases starts from the family members and spreads right up to the policymakers and state authorities. As a result of such discrimination, differently-abled children face chronic ill health, socio-economic burden, and povertyHome-Based. Sometimes it is difficult to define marginalization — they are outside the margin or within the community meaning, locked in the rooms, institutionalized, and families isolate themselves.
  • Denial of disability: Predominantly in the cases of mental or intellectual disability, the family members are reluctant to accept the disability or refer to it as a physical illness and treatable condition. The pseudo-stigma attached to such disabilities, makes them hide the fact of having a disabled or challenged member at home ultimately leading to social isolation and restrictive behaviors. There is a fear that they would be victims of disgrace and indignity and thereby family members lose the status or acceptance they enjoy in the community. This denial becomes a hurdle for early identification and treatment.
  • Physical restraints: Superstitions prevailing in the communities also play a big role in subjecting people with disabilities to various harmful treatments. The black magicians and quacks physically hurt people, subject them to food restrictions etc. They are claiming to cure the “disability” leading to acquiring a disability. Families often lock or chain their children with intellectual disability having behavioral issues, due to helplessness, ignorance and/or under social pressure.
  • Social boycott: Preventing of CWDs from participating in any social events. Even the differently abled family members often tend to avoid such social gatherings in shame or fear that someone would ask about their family member with a disability. Differently, abled children are not exposed to any social gathering, nor does our community recognize the need for children’s participation. CWDs are not given opportunities in the areas of education, training, and employment. Under these circumstances, it is natural that CWDs feel rejected or unwanted in society.
  • Denial of property rights: As per Indian laws, all kith and kin in the family are eligible to get their share of inherited property, but persons with disabilities are denied these rights. The siblings take responsibility for providing care and they would enjoy the property meant for the person with a disability. Families perceive that CWD is incapable of managing their property, they are denied their property rights and made dependent on able-bodied siblings. Worst of all would be when family members ensure the chronic condition of the disability by denying treatment or other aids so that the siblings enjoy the property.
  • Decreased marital life prospects: In India, the elders arrange most marriages. Suppose a family has a person with a disability. In that case, eligible boys and girls finding a prospective spouse is almost next to impossible because of the stigma and the disability being seen as a family illness. There are occasions where they hide the information and after marriage, the problems erupt. It is also common for a close relative to get pressurized to marry such a person.
  • Implications on the sexuality of a person with a disability: Sexual identity is a critical component of overall personality development and self-esteem, which matures during adolescence. CWDs are at a particular disadvantage in this regard as well. There is a strong attitude of overprotection toward the disabled child. Parents infantilize disabled children and imply that sex is only for the able-bodied and irrelevant to the disabled. These parental attitudes are transmitted to the child subtly, making him/her feel that she/he is inferior and unworthy of love. Parents of CWDs encourage dependence and share the general societal perception of disabled persons as essentially child-like, innocent, and asexual.
  • Women with disabilities: Due to differential gender-based role expectations, education is not considered a priority for disabled girls. Dropout rates for disabled girls are higher than for disabled boys. There is an over-representation of disabled boys in education in special and mainstream schools. Parents become more protective and restrictive, especially after a disabled girl reaches puberty. Travelling to school is a huge problem, since, besides transport difficulties, the danger of sexual abuse and violation looms large. There is also the reasoning that there’s little point in investing in a disabled girl’s education as they will anyhow never be able to earn. Unfortunately, a girl child with a disability is seen as a lifelong burden on the natal family because marriage is not a realistic option. Hence, it is concluded to be economically unsound to invest in her education or vocational training.
  • Lack of investment in developing alternative schools for the disabled; Disabilities lack easy access to correctional and support devices, especially in rural areas. Most public spaces are not disabled-friendly.

Constitutional Provisions on Disability

  • Article 41 of the Constitution of India declares that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provisions for securing the right to work to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement and in other cases of undeserved want.
  • Article 46 lays down an obligation on the State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016

  • Defines a “Person with a disability” means a person with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others. Disabilities covered:
  • Physical Disability: Locomotor Disability, Leprosy Cured Person, Cerebral Palsy, Dwarfism, Muscular Dystrophy, Acid Attack Victims, Visual Impairment, Blindness, Low Vision, Hearing Impairment, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Speech and Language Disability.
  • Intellectual Disability: Specific Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum DisorderMental Behaviour (Mental Illness)
  • Disability caused due to-Chronic Neurological Conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Blood Disorder Haemophilia, Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Disease,
  • Rights and entitlements Responsibility has been cast upon the appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy their rights equally with others.
  • Reservations: Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education (not less than 5%), government jobs (not less than 4 %), reservation in the allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes (5% allotment) etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.
  • Education: Every child with a benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education. Government-funded educational institutions, as well as government-recognized institutions, will have to provide inclusive education to children with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in Public Places: For strengthening the Prime Minister’s Accessible India Campaign, stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time frame.
  • Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy-making bodies at the Central and State level.
  • Penalties for offences: Provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and violation of provisions of the new law.

Initiatives Taken for the Welfare of Differently Abled

Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan/Accessible India Campaign (AIC)

  • The centrally sponsored scheme by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD)

Key Features

  • A nationwide campaign to provide universal accessibility to persons with disabilities.
  • Aim: Enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in an inclusive society in all aspects of life.
  • It is in line with the Incheon Strategy and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to which India is a signatory.
  • Pillars of AIC

1.  Built Environment: Increase accessibility of the physical environment, particularly the public spaces.

2. Public Transport: Enhance the accessibility and usability of public transport

3. ICT: Enhance the usability of information and communication services

Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme

A central sector scheme under the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD).

Key Features

  • To create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of persons with disabilities
  • Financial assistance to voluntary organizations to provide services for the rehabilitation of divyangs.
  • The main thrust is on education and training programs

Projects Allowed

  • Pre-Schools, Early intervention and Training
  • Special Schools for Children with
    • Intellectual DisabilitiesHearing and Speech Disabilities
    • Visual Disabilities
  • Project for Cerebral Palsied Children
  • Rehabilitation of Leprosy cured persons
  • Halfway homes for psycho-Social Rehabilitation of treated and controlled Mentally ill persons
  • Home Based Rehabilitation
  • Community-Based Rehabilitation Program
  • Low Vision Centres
  • Human Resource Development

Kiran Helpline

  • Toll-free 24 × 7 mental health rehabilitation helpline developed by the Department of Persons with Disabilities under MOSJE. Counselling is available in 13 languages.
  • But Poor implementation of policies and schemes hinders the inclusion of disabled persons. Though various acts and schemes have been laid down with the aim to empower the disabled, their enforcement faces many challenges. So, in essence, we can say that disabled people must go through the everyday pain of being excluded from a whole host of normal life activities. 

Way forward

There are several unmet challenges, which need to be addressed in the disability sector in India.

  • Need for a dignified life for children and people with disabilities.
  • Need to remove attitudinal barriers among communities and provide rehabilitation of CWDs.
  • Need to improve infrastructures in mainstream schools to make them disabled-friendly and train teachers for optimal support.
  • Need to converge between various departments providing services for CWD.
  • Need for national harmonization of disability welfare program.
  • Need to give executive powers and necessary resources to the commissioner of disabilities for effective implementation and safeguarding rights of PWD.
  • Need for promoting and monitoring mechanisms for service outreach below the district level.
  • Need to improve effective collaborations between the Government and NGOs to avoid duplications.
  • Need to adopt a down-to-top approach in policy design.
  • Need to improve community participation programs.
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