ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Disability Index

A disability index of education, skill development and employment, based on National Sample Survey and Census 2001 data presents a gloomy picture of the life of the disabled in India. It shows the limitation of various rehabilitation measures adopted by the government and non-governmental organisations. There is also an unawareness of some of the facilities that are available.

Disability Index

A Measure of Deprivation among Disabled

A disability index of education, skill development and employment, based on National Sample Survey and Census 2001 data presents a gloomy picture of the life of the disabled in India. It shows the limitation of various rehabilitation measures adopted by the government and non-governmental organisations. There is also an unawareness of some of the facilities that are available.


eople with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world. As a group they are starved of services and facilities available to the nondisabled and, consequently, they are the least nourished, the least healthy, the least educated, and the least employed. They have a long history of neglect, isolation, segregation, poverty, deprivation, charity and even pity.

The plight of the disabled in India is not different. The immense responsibility for the care of the disabled is generally left to their families and a few institutions managed by voluntary organisations and government. Since the disabled, as yet, do not have any economic or political or media power in India, they tend to be mostly ignored by society. They require special measures to be given to enable them to overcome the challenge caused to them by disability.

The government has initiated many schemes and projects for persons with disabilities. But the educational, social, health, transport and residential arrangements made by local, state, central governments or voluntary organisations frequently fall short of the requirement.

This paper develops the concept of a “disability index” which measures the deprivation suffered by the disabled. In the areas of education, skill development and employment, maximum deprivation level suffered by the disabled is 100. This index has been computed for seven disability types for 16 major states. The methodology for the disability index has been adopted from the human poverty index (HPI) presented in the Human Development Report 2003 of UNDP. The statewise and disability typewise disability index will help highlight the gravity of the problems of the disabled and is expected to be a good input for agencies involved in the welfare of the disabled. The formulation of this index is flexible in as much as it does not pose any constraints on the number of variables being used for constructing the index. Besides this, the paper also analyses the condition of the disabled with respect to literacy and working status.

This article has been organised into sections such as database and methodology, on prevalence of disability by type, description of the present situation of the disabled with respect to education and work status and assessment of condition of disabled statewise and disability typewise as reflected by the disability index.

Data and Methodology

In its 58th round (2002) of the National Sample Survey, data on disabled persons in India were collected. Earlier in the 47th and 38th rounds also such information were collected. At nearly the same time (2001), the census also collected the data regarding disability. Data from both the sources have been used in this paper to compute disability index for all disability type in 16 major states.

The NSS data classifies disability types in seven categories, viz, mental retardation, mental illness, blindness, low vision,

Economic and Political Weekly September 23, 2006

Figure 1: Percentage Distribution of Disabled Persons by Type of Disability

Mental illness 5 per cent

Mentally retarded 5 per cent

Locomotor 10 per cent

Note: The above chart is based on the Table 1.

hearing, speech and locomotor whereas the census classifies it in five categories, namely, mental, visual, hearing, speech and locomotor. In the calculation of the statewise disability index, the data on employment of disabled has been taken from Census 2001 while data on educational opportunities and opportunities for skill development (vocational education) has been taken from the NSS 58th round. The disability index for each disability type uses the data and categorisation of disability of NSS 58th round.

The disability index measures the deprivation in the following three basic dimensions affecting the condition of the disabled in India:

  • Educational opportunities: Exclusion from the world of reading and communication as measured by the weighted average of the adult illiteracy rate, nonenrolment in special schools and lack of pre-school intervention.
  • Opportunities for skill development: Lack of occupational skill as measured by the non-enrolment in vocational training.
  • Employment opportunities: Lack of access to any economic activity as measured by the percentage of non-working disabled.
  • However, while computing the statewise index, access to pre-school intervention and special schools could not be included since these were unavailable at the state level. The formula for calculating the disability index is: Disability index = [(1/3) (P1 α +P2 α +P3 α)]1/α Where P1 = ½(adult illiteracy) + ¼(non-enrolment in special school) + ¼(non-enrolment in pre-school intervention) [percentage among disabled].

    Here more weight has been assigned to adult illiteracy (1/2) assuming that it has more impact on deprivation of the disabled than the other two variables. The

    Blindness 10 per cent

    Low vision 4 per cent

    Hearing 15 per cent

    Speech 10 per cent

    non-enrolment in special school and preschool intervention along with many other factors contribute to adult illiteracy. P2 = Percentage among disabled who did not attend any vocational course P3 = Percentage of disabled non-working α = 3

    The value of α has an important influence on the value of the disability index.

    Table 1: Number of Disabled Persons (in 00) by Type of Disability

    Type of Disability Rural Urban Persons
    Mentally retarded 6995 2951 9946
    Mental illness 8399 2611 11010
    Blindness 16030 4104 20134
    Low vision 6545 1588 8133
    Hearing 23687 6930 30617
    Speech 16027 5518 21545
    Locomotor 79826 26514 106340

    Table 2: Per 1000 Distribution of Disabled by Their Literacy Status

    Type of Disability Literate Illiterate
    Rural Urban Rural Urban
    Mentally retarded 113 191 887 809
    Mental illness 376 508 620 488
    Blindness 173 452 826 546
    Low vision 223 422 774 576
    Hearing 303 537 695 463
    Speech 284 472 715 527
    Locomotor 514 679 486 318
    Any disability 410 600 590 400

    As α rises, a greater weight is given to the dimension in which there is most deprivation. Here α has taken as 3 just to give additional but not overwhelming weight to the areas of more acute deprivation.

    Disability Index

    The disability index for 16 major states

    – each of the seven disability types – are given in the Tables 5 and 6. Side by side, the state-wise per capita NDP has also been given in Table 5.

    The disability index of a particular state shows the level of deprivation suffered by the disabled people in the state, the maximum deprivation level being 100. It is seen that the disability index of Orissa is at the maximum (80.39) and the disability index for Himachal Pradesh is the lowest (73.92). The fact that the minimum value of the disability index is 73.92 suggests that deprivation of basic growth facilities is at a very high level even where deprivation is low. This further means that disabled are being bypassed in the process of economic development.

    While looking at the disability by type, the disability index is highest for the mentally retarded (92.89). This is because they suffer deprivation since their birth. As mental retardation can be checked (corrected to a large extent if proper attention is given at an early stage) the high disability index calls for great attention by the policy-makers. Again, here, the minimum value of disability index is 75.49, a very high deprivation level.

    Prevalence of Disability

    According to the survey 1.8 per cent of the total population of the country, i e,

    18.49 million people have various types of disabilities which include visual, speech, hearing, mental and locomotor disabilities (Figure 1). There is a slight decrease in disability over the previous decades (1.9 per cent).1 Among the different types of

    Table 3: Number of Disabled Children Who Attended Pre-School Intervention Programme, Special School and Vocational Training (Age 10 Years and Above) Per 1000 Disabled Person

    Type of Disability Pre-School Intervention Special School Vocational Training
    Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban
    Mentally retarded 47 142 32 139 4 15
    Mental illness 85 163 19 94 13 20
    Blindness 100 514 18 569 10 32
    Low vision 155 207 6 19 5 25
    Hearing 147 208 5 47 11 24
    Speech 97 293 10 250 14 23
    Locomotor 123 151 2 19 18 43
    Any disability 114 225 6 106 15 36

    Economic and Political Weekly September 23, 2006

    Figure 2: Per 1000 Distribution of Illiterate Disabled Persons Distribution of disabled persons by lit











    0 Mentally Mental Blindness retarded illness

    Note: The above chart is based on the Table 2.

    disabilities, the prevalence of locomotor disability is the highest in the country followed by visual and then hearing disability Table 1. This may be due to the prevalent polio menace, a high incidence of various types of accidents and other reasons. The recent emphasis on mass polio vaccination drives by the government is likely to have a positive impact in the future. Somehow, mental disability has not received much attention from the government. That 10 per cent of the total disabled population of the country suffer from mental illness or retardation is a serious problem.

    Present Situation in Education and Work

    In India, literacy rates have shown a remarkable improvement in the last decade, both for rural and urban areas. As per the 2001 Census the literacy rate in rural and urban India is 49 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively. But if we look at these percentages for disabled persons, the picture is much more depressing as it is only 41 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. We may appreciate that literacy has much more meaning for a disabled person as it can, to a great extent, minimise the impact of disability on his/her livelihood. The People with Disability Act,2 1995 stipulates that the government and appropriate local authorities shall “ensure that every child with a disability has access to free education in an appropriate environment till he/she attains age of 18”. It is certainly a laudable provision but how far it has impacted can be very well seen from Table 2. The education level of disabled persons as compared to the general population shows a gloomy and depressing picture (Figure 2).

    Rural Urban

    Low Hearing Speech Locomotor vision

    eracy status is given in Table 2, separately for rural and urban areas. The results reveal the usual rural urban bias in literacy among the disabled. About 59 per cent of the disabled in the rural and 40 per cent in urban aeras are illiterate. A similar pattern is exhibited by literacy ratios in respect of various types of disabilities, viz, mental, visual, etc. Quite understandably illiteracy is highest among persons suffering from mental problems. This reflects inadequate availability of educational facilities for the disabled, which is most acutely felt in the case of mental disability.

    The disabled children attending preschool intervention programme, special

    Table 4: Age-Specific Percentage Distribution of Non-Working Disabled Persons by Broad Usual Activity Status for Each Type of Disability

    Age Group Mentally Mental Blindness Low Vision Hearing Speech Locomotor Any
    Retarded Illness
    15-19 97.6 96.5 92.8 86.8 64.5 73.6 81.0 81.1
    20-24 92.3 88.5 86.6 61.6 55.0 63.5 61.2 64.9
    25-29 86.1 88.9 76.9 52.5 41.7 52.9 47.5 54.0
    30-34 85.7 83.6 78.2 58.9 38.2 50.4 45.0 52.0
    35-39 87.6 80.2 78.1 45.5 33.0 44.9 41.9 49.0
    40-44 88.3 78.2 82.8 56.0 35.7 42.3 43.7 50.1
    45-49 89.7 80.0 81.2 52.8 32.5 39.0 49.3 51.8
    50-54 81.6 82.1 85.4 56.3 37.0 51.9 57.8 58.7
    55-59 85.3 89.9 83.7 70.8 51.7 61.8 68.7 68.4

    Table 5: Disability Index for 16 Major States

    State Illiterate Percentage of Disabled Not Enrolled in Non- Disability Index Per Capita NDP1 (Rs)
    Vocational Course Working
    Andhra Pradesh 63.7 98.2 63.63 78.71 14715
    Assam 48.4 98.9 67.34 77.31 9612
    Bihar 65.5 98.6 66.38 79.93 6328
    Gujarat 45.1 96.4 63.84 74.65 18625
    Haryana 51.7 98.3 67.43 77.47 21114
    Himachal Pradesh 51.5 95.7 58.36 73.92 15012
    Karnataka 56.5 97.6 63.96 77.04 16343
    Kerala 33.1 95 74.52 75.82 18262
    Madhya Pradesh 52.1 98.1 62.4 76.22 10907
    Maharashtra 47.6 97.2 66.16 75.98 23398
    Orissa 64.2 99.5 67.6 80.39 9162
    Punjab 57.8 96.9 71.72 78.87 23040
    Rajasthan 58.1 98.5 61.84 77.35 12533
    Tamil Nadu 52.8 97.8 58.58 75.35 19141
    Uttar Pradesh 58.4 98.5 67.99 78.82 9765
    West Bengal 47.9 98.4 66.74 76.82 15569
    India 54.7 97.9 65.51 77.25 17527

    Note: 1 NDP data advance estimate relating to 1999-2000 as reported by the directorate of economics and statistics of respective state governments.

    Table 6: Disability Index by Type of Disability

    Type of Disability Adult Non-Enrolment in Non-Working Disability Illiteracy Pre-School Special Vocational Index School Training

    Mentally retarded 86.2 93.1 79.4 99.3 91.3 92.59 Mental illness 56.8 89.8 81 98.2 85 86.19 Blindness 78.8 77.4 61.5 98.5 83.2 86.46 Low vision 75.7 83.6 46.8 98.9 61.3 80.20 Hearing 66.8 84.3 48 98.5 44.1 76.35 Speech 70.4 85.5 54.8 98.3 57.1 79.07 Locomotor 46.5 87.1 42.3 97.5 57.7 75.49 Any disability 56.8 86.8 49.2 97.9 60.7 77.66

    Economic and Political Weekly September 23, 2006

    100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 Note: The above chart is based on the Table 4.

    Figure 3: Age-Specific Distribution of Non-Working Disabled Population

    P l ti P l tiPercentage of Non-working 9.0 8.0 7.0 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 0 15-19 20.24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-58 Disabled population 8.11 64.9 54 52 49 50.1 51.8 58.7 68.4 General population 65.5 45.4 34.6 29.8 26 25.7 26.9 28.2 36.3 Disabled population General population

    Figure 4: Age-Specific Distribution of Disabled Persons

    Mentally retarded Mental illness Blindness

    Low vision

    Hearing Speech Locomotor

    schools and vocational courses for various categories of disability are given in Table 3. It can be seen here that only a limited proportion of disabled children attended a pre-school intervention programme. It can be more appropriately said that preschool intervention is available to them only at a limited scale. The proportion is about 20 per cent in urban area and almost half of it at 11 per cent in rural India. The position with respect to availability or use of special schools is quite serious. The proportion of disabled children attending special schools is negligible in the villages. However, this position is somewhat better in towns and cities. With regard to the type of disability, a majority of disabled children with blindness attended pre-school intervention programmes and special schools in rural and urban areas. But this is not the situation if we look into the results for rural India. At the same time, if we look at the percentage of disabled attending vocational training, we get a more depressing picture. Only 2-3 per cent of the disabled in rural and urban India have received any kind of vocational training. The poor utilisation of these interventions may be due to the lack of awareness about the facilities and benefits of the programme which may, in turn, be due to ritualistic implementation by implementers of the programme. Thus not only the quantum of facilities needs to be increased, but the people should also be made aware of their availability.

    India has taken a big leap towards providing equal opportunities for the disabled by adopting the PWD Act 1995. It is a significant step, which attempts to ensure equal opportunities for the people with disabilities and their full participation in nation-building. But the challenge of integrating and including persons with disabilities in the economic mainstream has not been met. While the Disability Act has adopted a scheme of 3 per cent reservation for disabled persons in government and public sector open employment, it has suggested giving incentives to the private employers for promoting employment of the disabled persons. Besides, various facilities have also been provided to persons with disability for self-employment. In spite of these provisions made for employment of disabled persons, a significant proportion among them still have a non-working status. Table 4 presents age-specificdistribution of the disabled non-working for each type of disability (Figure 3). Here it is observed that regardless of age, more than three-fourths of the disabled suffering from mental disability and blindness are in the non-working category. The position with respect to other disability types is somewhat better (Figure 4).

    Concluding Remark

    The above analysis shows the serious condition of the disabled in India. Though there are facilities provided by the government as well as NGOs for the disabled, these are accessible only to a limited proportion of the disabled. There is a need to increase the scale of facilities and its spread.

    Literacy has much more meaning to a disabled person as it lessens her/his plight and opens up opportunities for development. The results show that about half of the disabled in our country, are illiterate. The situation is worse in the case of preschool intervention programme and special schools. The proportion of disabled receiving pre-school intervention and special school is almost negligible especially in the rural areas. The proportion of disabled persons getting vocational training is also very low. Proper publicity about these programmes needs to be initiated so that people are aware about them. The number of the facilities should also be increased.

    The situation of the disabled with respect to their working status is gloomy. The majority of the disabled are nonworking. This calls for effective rehabilitation measures which would facilitate employment. The disability index when seen with per capita NDP clearly shows that the disabled are being bypassed in the process of economic growth.




    [This is an extension of the paper titled, ‘Disability Challenge Continues’ presented by the authors in the national seminar on the results of 58th round of National Sample Survey conducted by the government of India, ministry of statistics and programme implementation at New Delhi in December, 2004.]

    1 NSS 47th round (July- December 1991), Mental

    disability was not covered. 2 PWD Act: People With Disability Act as given

    in‘India Country Profile, March 2003’ prepared

    by the International Labour Organisation.

    Economic and Political Weekly September 23, 2006

    Dear Reader,

    To continue reading, become a subscriber.

    Explore our attractive subscription offers.

    Click here

    Back to Top