Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
As per Census 2011, at the all India level, disabled persons constitute 2.21% of the total population. 7.62% of the disabled persons belong to the age group 0-6 years.
India signed the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability and subsequently ratified the same on October 1, 2007. Enactment of a new disability legislation (Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016) increased the number of disabilities from 7 conditions to 21.
Focus on disabilities has been shifted from the individual to society, i.e., from a medical model of disability to a social or human rights model of disability.
What are the Various Models of Disability?
- In the medical model, individuals with certain physical, intellectual, psychological and mental impairments are taken as disabled.
- According to this, the disability lies in the individual as it is equated with restrictions of activity with the burden of adjusting with the environment through cures, treatment and rehabilitation.
- Social Model:
- The social model focuses on the society which imposes undue restrictions on the behavior of persons with impairment.
- In this, disability does not lie in individuals, but in the interaction between individuals and society.
- What is the Constitutional Framework for Disabled in India?
- Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that the State shall make effective provision for securing the 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.
What are the Issues Related to Persons with Disability in India?
- Continuous discrimination on the basis of the stigma attached to persons with disabilities, compounded by a lack of understanding of their rights, makes it difficult for them to attain their valued “functioning’’.
- Women and girls with disabilities are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.
- A large number of disabilities are preventable, including those arising from medical issues during birth, maternal conditions, malnutrition, as well as accidents and injuries.
- However, there is a lack of awareness, lack of care, and lack of good and accessible medical facilities.
Education and Employment:
- Lack of availability of special schools, access to schools, trained teachers, and educational materials for the disabled.
- Even though many disabled adults are capable of productive work, disabled adults have far lower employment rates than the general population.
- The exclusion of disabled people from the political space happens at all levels of the political process in the country, and in different ways such as:
- Lack of live aggregate data on the exact number of the disabled people in the constituencies.
- Inaccessibility of the voting process (no widespread adaptation of braille electronic voting machines).
- Barriers to participation in Party Politics.
- Political Parties in India generally do not find the disables as the large electorate to specifically address their needs.
- The government has had some admirable initiatives to improve the condition of PwDs.
- However, 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.
- Similarly, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act has provided for a quota of reservation for persons with disabilities in government jobs and higher education institutions, but the majority of these posts are vacant.
What should be the Way Forward?
- Preventive Actions:
- Preventive health programs need to be strengthened and all children need to be screened at a young age.
- Kerala has already started an early prevention programme.
- The Comprehensive Newborn Screening (CNS) programme seeks early identification of deficits in infants and reduces the state's burden of disability.
- Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Approach:
- The CBR approach is needed to ensure that people with disabilities are able to maximize their physical and mental abilities, have access to regular services and opportunities, and achieve full integration within their communities.
- Increasing Public Awareness and Understanding of Disability:
- Governments, voluntary organisations, and professional associations should consider running social campaigns that change attitudes on stigmatised issues related to PwDs.
- In this context, mainstream media has taken the right path by increasingly showing positive representations of people with disabilities, from the movies like Taare Zameen Par and Barfi.
- Special schools with the label special needs can have a stigma or negative connotation. Students may only learn and interact with peers with special needs.
- They won’t be exposed to a wide range of influences.
- There should be a proper channel of transition between special schools and the outer world to promote inclusiveness among the disabled.
- Collaboration With States:
- Awareness regarding care for pregnant mothers and good and accessible medical facilities across the rural heartland are the important pillars for addressing the occurrence of disabilities.
- For facilitation of both these factors, the state governments should be actively supported by the union government for fiscal decentralisation in their health sector as health comes under the ‘state subject’ in our constitution.