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Awareness critical for true count of people with disabilities

Staff Reporter

Activists hope this census will be more accurate than 2001


Data of Commissioner of Disabilities shows there are 30 lakh persons with disabilities in State

Activists are happy that disability has been given more importance in present census


BANGALORE: In the 2001 census, it was estimated that 1.7 per cent of the population in Karnataka was affected by some form of disability. This, when neighbouring States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu recorded 2.6 and 2.7 per cent.

However, it was a moot point whether this meant that Karnataka had fewer persons with disabilities than other States. Disability rights activists, who gathered here on Tuesday to discuss strategies to sensitise people and enumerators who will participate in the ensuing census, pointed out that the statistics reflect on the poor awareness level in the State. According to data provided by the Commissioner of Disabilities, there are around 30 lakh persons with disabilities in the State.

“How does this figure compare to the census numbers? Obviously, the last census was not done thoroughly. We need to create awareness, both among enumerators and people, to make them realise that getting counted is important. Policies and allocations are based on these numbers,” said Javed Abidi, national coordinator of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP). Several non-governmental organisations and stakeholders from the Government, including Disabilities Commissioner Rajanna K.V. participated.

Positive changes

Even as activists celebrated that in the present census disability has been given more importance, they were worried that without proper sensitisation the situation may not improve. This time the questions related to disability are clearly distinguishable — between mental illness and mental retardation — something that the 2001 census questionnaire had overlooked. The questionnaire also makes provision for “other disabilities” and “multiple disabilities”. This allows for people with disabilities such as autism, dyslexia, thalassemia or cerebral palsy, among others, to be counted.

“These changes are fantastic. But given the stigma that is attached to disability in society and low awareness level in rural areas, non-governmental agencies, government bodies and the media have to work doubly hard to ensure that this census arrives upon an accurate representation,” Mr. Abidi said.

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