Disability Rights Movement’s History in India

The history of Disability Rights Movements in India has been a long and exhausting one, with several pros and corns. Read and find out more.

The development and implementation of the Disability Rights Movement (DRM) in India has been over the last of four decades. During the early years of the 1970s, people first started to voice their demands for rights of individuals suffering from impairments of one kind or the other. At that time, however, the movement was way too much in its infancy because the demanding individuals & groups were substantially scattered.

1970s & 1980s

Around this time, persons with disabilities (PwDs) the attitude of the society was so negative as a result they PwDs were regarded as outcasts and treated like dirt. Their concerns & needs were ignored heavily, they were considered worthless. There were many superstitious people who even assumed that PWDs suffered because of the sins they committed in their previous lives. Even the media wasn’t really concerned about the differently abled mass and showed little to zero interest in promoting their rights.

Towards the end of the 80s, people started to focus on PwDs on medical grounds, and tried to reduce their suffering using medical treatments, technical help and medical equipment. This is also only for those individuals who were literate, so called modern, well-off people influenced others and sensitized like these. In 1986, the Indian government established the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). Following year, the Mental Health Act was also implemented.


India witnessed drastic changes in the final decade of the last millennium within its disability sector. In the year 1995, the Parliament enacted the PwDs Acts along with signing of Proclamation of Equality Rights & Full Participation of People with Disabilities in the Asian & Pacific Region. Immediately after that, PwDs were provided with a reservation of 3 percent in government services and educational institutions.


The figures of census 2001 were strongly disputed by the activists of disability for their inaccuracy in depicting the actual number of PwDs. This issue was the outcome of various existing problems in the system, such as inadequate training of enumerators for identification of PwDs. The census of 2011 revealed that more than 26 million people with disabilities in India. To meet the demands of civil society, Union Government introduced a National Policy on Disability in 2006.


The Disability Acts was thoroughly rectified. In fact, in earlier Acts there were only 7 types of disabilities included, but in new Acts all left out disabilities have been counted and in total there are 21 types of disabilities that have been included. There are many more schemes and provisions that have been effectively formulated in addition to mechanisms to work out their implementation.

As of now, there are plenty of Indian organisations for persons with disabilities, both government and non-government, throughout the country that support the rights and causes of PwDs. They have been doing great work to promote equal opportunities for the differently abled and help them lead dignified lives in the modern society.

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