Understanding Disability

Understanding Disability

Some of the things that we usually take for granted are the things that other people are praying for -- health, quality education, independence and job employment. People with disabilities get denied access to those services and among those are from the poorest part of India. We, who are blessed enough to be completely able, has a duty for the betterment of our society.

To be fully aware and understand disability, the World Health Organization released a report on disability last 2011. It covers the disabilities in a global picture – the factors affecting disability, the socioeconomic circumstances, as well as the barriers that hinder them in attaining their rights in health services, equality education, job employment and rehabilitation.

As the report says, about one billion of people or 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability — from loco motor and intellectual disability, speech and language disability and mental health.


‘Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. 

‘Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers’. –World Health Organization’s Definition


Also nearly 80% of people with disabilities live in low-income countries. But even in high-income countries, nearly 40% of people with disabilities do not have access to the health services they need.

The majority of studies find that persons with disability experience worse educational and labor market outcomes, have lower employment rates and are more likely to be poor than persons without disabilities.


A Quick Glance on Disability Count in India

India also released a report on disability that was based on the data gathered from surveys and research.


As per the Census 2011 on India’s Disability Population, 2.68 Cr are disabled which is 2.21% of the total population. Among the disabled population 56% (1.5 Cr) are males and 44% (1.18 Cr) are females. In the total population, the male and female populations are 51% and 49% respectively. And these numbers are growing over the years


Education and Employment Status of Disabled Population in India

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Of the total disabled population, nearly 55% (1.46 Cr.) are literates.  Out of the male disabled population, 62% are literates and among the female disabled 45% are literates.

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The Census 2011 highlighted that, nearly one third of the total disabled persons are working.

At all India level, 36% of the total disabled persons are workers.  Among the male disabled persons, 47% are working and among female disabled, only 23% are working. In rural India, 25% of the female disabled are working, while in urban India, the corresponding figure is 16%.

As per Census 2011, there are 1.7 Cr. disabled non –workers, among them 46% were males and 54% females.

Among the total disabled non –workers, about 46% are in the age group 15 -59 years, 31% in the age group 0-14 years and 23% are 60+ years. Among the male disabled non – workers, 42% belonged to the age group 15-59 years, while 49% of the female disabled non-workers belonged to this age group.

While the share of disabled non –workers are higher in 0-14 age group compared to 60+ years age group, for both male and female disabled non –workers, for females the difference is less.

Disabling Barriers

The WHO report has documented widespread evidence of barriers, including the following:

1.   Inadequate policies and standards. Policy design does not always take into account the needs of people with disabilities, or existing policies and standards are not enforced.

2.    Negative attitudes. Beliefs and prejudices constitute barriers when health-care workers cannot see past the disability, teachers do not see the value in teaching children with disabilities, employers discriminate against people with disabilities, and family members have low expectations of their relatives with disabilities.

3.      Lack of provision of services. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to deficiencies in services such as health care, rehabilitation, or support and assistance.

4.      Problems with service delivery. Issues such as poor coordination among services, inadequate staffing, staff competencies, and training affect the quality and adequacy of services for persons with disabilities.

5.    Inadequate funding. Resources allocated to implementing policies and plans are often inadequate. Strategy papers on poverty reduction, for instance, may mention disability but without considering funding

6.    Lack of accessibility. Built environments (including public accommodations) transport systems and information are often inaccessible.

7.     Lack of consultation and involvement. Often people with disabilities are excluded from decision-making in matters directly affecting their lives.

8.  Lack of data and evidence. A lack of rigorous and comparable data on disability and evidence on programmes that work often impedes understanding and action.

On Work and Employment

The majority of studies find that persons with disability experience worse educational and labor market outcomes, have lower employment rates and are more likely to be poor than persons without disabilities .

UN CRPD: Disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others...... Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Barriers in attaining work and employment

1.   Low Wages  people of disabilities earn less than their non-disabled counterparts; women with disabilities commonly earn less than men with disabilities

2.    Lack of Access – due to lack of education and training to develop their skills

3.    Misconceptions about disability – the belief that people with disabilities are less productive than their non-disabled counterparts

4.     Discrimination - Employers may discriminate against people with disabilities, because of misconceptions about their capabilities, or because they do not wish to include them in their workforce.

Addressing the barriers to work and employment


A variety of mechanisms have been used around the world to address the barriers to the labor market. Some of them are the following:

  • Laws and Regulations there are laws affecting employment in different countries, such as anti-discrimination law and affirmation law. In India, RPWD Act 2016, Chapter IV – 19. (1) “The appropriate Government shall formulate schemes and programs including provision of loans at concessional rates to facilitate and support employment of persons with disabilities especially for their vocational training and self-employment.”
  • Tailored Interventions – having quotas on the number of employed people with disabilities, giving incentives to employers like tax exemption, supported employment and etc.
  •  Vocational Rehabilitation and Training – alternative forms of training focusing on people with disabilities.
  • Self-employment and Micro Finance - Funding to help start small businesses can provide an alternative to scarce formal employment
  • Social Protection – providing benefits to people with disabilities
  • Working to change attitudes – changing perceptions on the disability and see them not as a disabled person but as an able and exceptional one.



Click here to view the whole report of World Health Organization 

Click here to view the whole disability report of India 

Click here to view the RPWD Act 2016