"Disabled people who are better educated and economically more active will generate higher growth in which everyone will share," said Philip O'Keefe, lead social protection specialist and main author of the World Bank report entitled "People with Disabilities in India: from Commitments to Outcomes".
"Increasing the status and social and economic participation of people with disabilities would have positive effects on everyone, not just disabled people," said O'Keefe. Isabella Guerrero, country director for India, World Bank, appreciated the policy regime put in place by the government for disabled people.
"India has an impressive set of policy commitments to its citizens with disabilities," she said. The report finds that disabilities seriously compromise economic prospect. "People with disabilities have to face multiple deprivations. Households with disabled members are relatively poor on an average, resulting in their lower share in consumption and ownership of assets. Physically challenged children are four to five times less likely to be in school than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes children," the report says.
The report also found that there were substantial differences in socio-economic outcomes, social stigma, and access to services by disability type, with those with mental illness and mental retardation in a particularly poor situation. The report says that while incidence of communicable disease-induced disabilities like polio should fall with economic progress, lifestyle-related handicaps and those due to traffic accidents are likely to rise sharply.
For example, the lowest reported disability rates are in sub-Saharan Africa while the highest are in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The report recommends implementation of additional policy measures like preventive care for both mother and children, identifying people with disabilities as soon as possible after onset, and getting all children with special needs into school.
The report points out that it is neither possible nor desirable for the public sector to "do it all". Instead, partnerships with non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector are critical to achieve effective and lasting results.
The key step in such partnerships is bringing disabled people themselves into the policymaking process along with public and non-governmental institutions.