‘Disabled are confined to home because there are no facilities for them'

“Stand up and be counted” is the clarion call for the disabled by various disability rights organisations to have themselves enumerated in the final round of the 2011 Census now under way across the country.

While the enumerators have, this time round, been intensely trained and sensitised on dealing with the issue of disability during the count, various non-government organisations have also chipped in by asking their members not to hide any details as they would help in planning for the future.

Svayam founder Sminu Jindal, herself a wheelchair user after an accident at the age of seven, said children, adults and the elderly with disabilities should ensure they answer question No. 9.

“By hiding them [the disabled] you deny them the right to be a citizen and deny the government an opportunity to plan for their empowerment. Let them reap the benefits this democracy has to offer. Ensure that no one gets left out in this head count. Only an inclusive Census can ensure an inclusive India,” she said.

Ms. Jindal lamented that a majority of the people with disabilities remain confined within the four walls of their home not because they are not capable of participating or contributing to the society, but due to lack of facilities.

Most public facilities — transportation, water and sanitation, health services, educational institutions, workplaces, markets, religious places and theatres — are inaccessible or difficult to get around for persons with disabilities.

Stating the reasons for this as lack of authentic data on the number of people with disabilities in the country and their not being counted, she said now that the Census is taking them into consideration it is time to stand up and be counted.

Samarthyam executive director Anjlee Agarwal said that for any kind of planning and allocation of funds, it is necessary for the government to know the number of disabled there are.

“The earlier Census had not covered the issue of disability properly. It also did not reach out to the grassroots in the way it should have and there was no awareness in families then that disclosing the details of the disabled would help.”

Noting that often parents hide the disabled in the family, she said: “It is due to the social stigma attached. Parents feel they will find it difficult to get their children, especially daughters, married off if they disclose any disability in the household.”

“But this time, the government agencies are putting up hoardings to inform the people. Several NGOs are also involved in the preparation of television clips and radio messages so that the word reaches out. We are also spreading awareness among the members by word of mouth. And most importantly, the Census staff has been sensitised and people are questioned about disability issues in a manner that does not hurt their sensibilities. The use of crude words for the disabled has been done away with completely,” Ms. Agarwal said.

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