Dr. Kanika Gupta
“Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life”… Emma Thompson
Over the last three decades, there has been a significant transformation in our understanding of disability. Rather than viewing it solely as an individual impairment, we have come to recognize it as a multifaceted and socially influenced phenomenon. Disability is now seen as the result of an intricate interplay between a person’s bodily characteristics and the societal context in which they exist. In this perspective, individuals with disabilities encounter limitations in their daily activities due to a complex web of factors, encompassing personal attributes, environmental conditions, and social and political structures.
The social concept of disability emphasizes that society often constructs barriers, whether physical or attitudinal, that impede the full participation of individuals with disabilities. Consequently, government programs and policies have evolved to address these barriers comprehensively. This includes initiatives such as making buildings accessible to all individuals and providing income assistance or work-related support to enable people with disabilities to engage more fully in their communities and workplaces. Even global organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) have embraced this broader perspective, acknowledging the pivotal role of the environment in either facilitating or obstructing an individual’s functioning.
There are over 1 billion individuals with disabilities worldwide, accounting for approximately 15% of the global population. To put it differently, nearly 1 in every 7 people is born with a disability. This diverse group comprises 253 million individuals who are visually impaired (blind), 200 million with intellectual disabilities, 466 million who are hearing and speech impaired (deaf and mute), and 200 million who rely on wheelchairs for mobility.
In India, out of a population of 1.21 billion, 2.68 crore individuals are living with disabilities, representing 2.21% of the total population. Among the 70.22 crore male population in India, 1.5 crore individuals have disabilities, with the highest prevalence found in the age group of 10-19 years, accounting for 46.2 lakhs. Among the 65.46 crore female population in India, 1.18 crore individuals have disabilities. Notably, 20.3% of Indians with disabilities experience movement disabilities, 18.9% have hearing disabilities, 18.8% are visually impaired, and 8% have multiple disabilities.
The prevalence of disability among children is a concerning issue. In India, 20.42 lakh children aged 0-6 years have disabilities, meaning that one child in every 1000 children in this age group faces some form of disability. Moreover, literacy rates among urban individuals with disabilities surpass those in rural areas. In rural regions, 45% of disabled persons are literate, while in urban areas, this figure rises to 67%. In the region of Jammu & Kashmir, there are 2,04,834 disabled males, of which 1,03,730 are literate. Among the 1,56,319 females with disabilities, 47,239 are literate. Additionally, there are 27,939 disabled children in this region. Furthermore, there are 8,207 disabled male graduates and 3,584 female disabled graduates in Jammu & Kashmir.”
(The author has completed Ph.D. in Human Development with special focus on children with special needs [Hearing impaired] from University of Jammu).