Persons with Disabilities in India: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion
Persons with Disabilities in India

Persons with Disabilities in India: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Relevance: GS 2- Governance (Government Policies & Interventions)


India, with its cultural diversity, houses a significant population of persons with disabilities (PWDs). Despite challenges, PWDs contribute to the nation's growth. Legal frameworks like the 2016 Disabilities Act strive for equality and inclusion, marking India's evolving journey towards a more inclusive society.

In recent years, awareness and support for persons with disabilities in India have grown significantly. Organizations, both government and non-governmental, are working tirelessly to create accessible environments and promote employment opportunities. The collective effort is fostering a more inclusive and equitable future for PWDs in the country.


  • Globally, around 1.3 billion people live with some form of disability, equivalent to almost the entire population of India.

  • 80% of individuals with disabilities reside in developing countries, and 70% of them live in rural areas.

  • In India, there are 26.8 million persons with disabilities, making up 2.21% of the total population, according to the 2011 Census.

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment established the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) to focus on policy issues related to persons with disabilities and their empowerment.

  • Notably, the Indian constitution and preamble did not initially include any mention of disabled persons.

A Case for Inclusion:

  • Inclusion of persons with disabilities in the economy can potentially boost the global GDP by 3% to 7%, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

  • The current employment scenario is limited, offering fewer job opportunities for persons with disabilities and perpetuating stereotypes that hinder their access to the labor market.

  • Disability inclusion is rooted in assuring the rights of persons with disabilities and recognizing the economic benefits of their inclusion.

Challenges in Rural Areas:

  • Central and State governments in India have various schemes and a unique id for persons with disabilities (UDID) card, established as part of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016).

  • The first step in addressing these challenges is raising awareness and ensuring the last-mile connectivity of government benefits for people with disabilities, beginning with the capacity building of community leaders who can advocate for these benefits at the grassroots level.

  • A bottom-up approach to disability inclusion is crucial to build productive pathways out of poverty and ensure that persons with disabilities are recognized as active members of society and the economy.

  • Engaging the private sector and building the confidence of companies to hire and retain workers with disabilities is essential.

  • Engagement with employers' federations, including those representing small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as trade unions, has great potential to promote the employment of persons with disabilities.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016:

  • This disability legislation was passed by the Indian Parliament to fulfill its obligation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007.

  • Key features of the Act include the expansion of disability criteria and an increase in the types of recognized disabilities, from 7 to 21, with the Central Government empowered to add more.

  • The Act provides benefits such as reservation in higher education, government jobs, land allocation, poverty alleviation schemes, and more for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.

  • Reservation in government vacancies has been increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or classes of persons with benchmark disabilities.

  • Government-funded educational institutions and government-recognized institutions are required to provide inclusive education to children with disabilities.

  • Every child with a benchmark disability between the ages of 6 and 18 has the right to free education.

  • The Act establishes Central and State Advisory Boards on Disability as apex policy-making bodies at the Central and State levels.

  • District-level committees will be formed by State Governments to address local concerns of persons with disabilities.

  • National and State Funds will be created to provide financial support to persons with disabilities.

  • The Act includes penalties for offenses committed against persons with disabilities and violations of its provisions, along with the designation of special courts in each district to handle cases related to the violation of rights of persons with disabilities.

SC Observations:

  • The Supreme Court made several observations in the V Surendra Mohan v. State of Tamil Nadu (2019) case, raising concerns about the treatment of disabled individuals and emphasizing the need for sensitivity and recognition of their legal rights.

The SPARK (Sparking Disability Inclusive Rural Transformation) Project:

  • Implemented by the ILO and IFAD in collaboration with the Women's Development Corporation in Maharashtra, the SPARK project empowers persons with disabilities in rural areas.

  • Disability Inclusion Facilitators (DIFs) are identified from villages and trained to raise awareness about disability inclusion and barriers to inclusion.

  • DIFs identify women with disabilities and integrate them into existing self-help groups for social and economic development, allowing these women to access funds to start enterprises.

  • The SPARK project has brought about an attitudinal shift towards persons with disabilities, from societal to administrative levels.


Persons with disabilities in India face significant challenges, yet there are positive strides towards inclusivity and empowerment. As of 2021, India's census reported approximately 2.2% of its population having disabilities. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, marks a legislative advancement, promising equality, accessibility, and full participation. Government initiatives like the Unique Disability ID (UDID) project and increased accessibility in public infrastructure reflect a growing commitment to improving the quality of life for disabled individuals.

Advait IAS