Besides training census enumerators to ask well-worded, scientific questions on disability, it is equally important to sensitise the community to respond well, in order to obtain authentic figures, Javed Abidi, director, National Centre for the Promotion of Employment of Disabled People, said here on Saturday.

He was addressing a gathering of community workers, disability activists and representatives from various NGOs from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in a South Zone Consultation programme, organised by Vidya Sagar, an NGO that works with spastic children. As many as 150 persons participated in the programme that comprised discussions on involving people with disability in policy-making, adequate allocation of funds and execution and acknowledgment of the rights of people with disability. The focus, however, was on strategies to spread awareness in the community to ensure that people with disability get counted in Census 2011 scheduled to begin next month.

“Since even one enumerator's irresponsible questioning might affect the results, they are being sensitised through frequent workshops on disability,” said S.Gopalakrishnan, Director, Census Operations, Tamil Nadu. The whole exercise must have credibility because people with disability have to pay a bigger price for every undercounting, he added.

Recounting the history of census, Mr. Abidi said that though people with disability were always counted in the census programmes carried out during British rule, they have been considered an ‘invisible minority' by independent India. This year, for the first time, questions pertaining to mental illness and multiple disabilities are part of the census, he said. The question on disability has also moved up to the ninth place, from 15th where it stood in the 2001 census, he added.

“The challenge is to reach out to those invisible millions, and ensure that every single person with disability is counted,” Mr. Abidi said. True figures will facilitate proper allocation of resources to people with disability, paving the way for their holistic development through various benefits, education and employment, he added.

Constant awareness campaigns and concerted efforts by supporters of the disability movement will help in taking the message across places, especially to villages, said Rajul Padmanabhan, director, Vidya Sagar.

Mr. Abidi also stressed on the need for a national comprehensive law on disability that covers the rights of all people with disability, including developmental and intellectual disabilities. “Implementation and rehabilitation mechanisms have to be included too to alleviate the discrimination that people with disability face,” he added.

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