As per the 2011 census, the number of disabled in India was 2.68 crore out of which about 44% was women. The country's disabled population has increased by 22.4% between 2001 and 2011. The persons with disabilities include persons with visual, hearing, speech, locomotor and mental disabilities. Rural areas have more disabled people than urban areas. According to the 2011 census, 20.3% of the disabled are movement disabled followed by hearing impaired (18.9%) and visually impaired (18.8%). Nearly 5.6% of the disabled population is mentally challenged. Earlier, polio was the major cause for disability but after its eradication from various states, the main cause of movement disability is road and industrial accidents.
While there is a Department of Disability Affairs under the Government of India to take care of the disabled and a law has been prepared for their welfare, all able-bodied persons need to chip in if real difference is to be made. The fact that a large percentage of persons with disabilities is women and belongs to rural areas makes the task of caring for the disabled more demanding. Suitable facilities have to be created for them, their educational needs have to be taken care of, necessary skills have to be imparted to make them self-dependent and job as well as entrepreneurship opportunities have to be created. Sports, Yoga and other recreational facilities have to be provided to them to bring some cheer to their lives.
Commitment of able-bodied will spring only from their realization of the plight of persons with disabilities. It is difficult for the able-bodied to put themselves in place of the persons with disabilities. I have read with interest recent reports about some organizations blind-folding people and giving them the experience of the problems the visually impaired face while walking and doing various chores. Project Vision, an NGO which spreads awareness about eye donation organized a blind walk in Bengaluru some time back.
I also read reports of Prince Harry of Britain playing Rugby on a wheel chair with disabled persons. I wish that such events are organized more and more in our country so that able bodied people can empathise with the disabled and can experience their difficulties and discomfort. This will hopefully bring about the change that mere lectures and videos cannot.