About 45 per cent of all persons with disabilities (PWD) in India are illiterate, according to the India Social Development Report (SDR) 2016, whose theme this year is ‘Disabilities Rights Perspectives’.
While 38 per cent of all male PWDs were illiterate, the illiteracy rate was 55 per cent for female PWDs. Interestingly, even in Kerala, a State long associated with near-total literacy, 33.1 per cent of the PWDs were illiterate. India’s literacy rate is 74 per cent.
The report also found for that “each category of disability, a greater proportion of women in that category are illiterate than men, with 76 per cent of women with multiple disabilities being illiterate.” It estimated that of the 75 million children of primary school age who are out of school, “one-third are children with disabilities.” It called upon the State governments to ensure availability of minimum support such as accommodation, assistive devices and transport for the disabled children to complete their schooling.
The report drew on data from a number of sources, including the census, the National Sample Survey (NSS), data-sets of the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), besides the new data from fresh empirical studies.
The report put the number of PWDs in India at 26.8 million, or 2.2 per cent of the population, noting that this might be an underestimate. The World Bank had put the number at 4-8 per cent of the population.
Men formed 56 per cent of the PWDs, and 70 per cent of the disabled population was rural.
Movement disability accounted for the largest number of PWDs, followed by hearing disability and visual impairment. The report noted that the high incidence of polio in India may be responsible for the high proportion of movement disability.