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Volunteerism and Disability Inclusion


On December 3rd, the world observes the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities,’ recognizing the unique challenges faced by those with disabilities and advocating for their rights and well-being. Following closely on December 5th, ‘International Volunteers Day’ pays tribute to global volunteers who selflessly contribute their time and effort to make a positive impact in their communities.


GS2- Social Justice

  • Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes;
  • Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Mains Question:

The advocacy of activists has made a dent in societal attitude towards people with disabilities but still a lot needs to be done. Discuss. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Background: About Disability:

Disability arises from the interplay between individuals with impairments and the hindrances posed by attitudinal and environmental barriers, limiting their complete and effective engagement in society on an equal footing with others.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Approximately 1.3 billion people encounter significant disabilities, constituting 16% of the global population or 1 in 6 individuals.
  • Some individuals with disabilities experience a lifespan up to 20 years shorter than those without disabilities.
  • Persons with disabilities have a twofold increased risk of developing conditions such as depression, asthma, diabetes, stroke, obesity, or poor oral health.
  • Persons with disabilities confront numerous health disparities.
  • Accessing transportation is 15 times more challenging for persons with disabilities due to issues of inaccessibility and unaffordability compared to those without disabilities.
  • Health inequities result from unjust conditions faced by persons with disabilities, encompassing stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and obstacles encountered within the health system itself.

International Day of Disabled Persons (IDPD):

  • In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly declared the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDPD) through resolution 47/3.
  • This day aims to raise awareness of disability issues, advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities, and ensure dignity for the differently-abled.
  • The theme for this year’s IDPD is “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with, and by persons with disabilities,” focusing on deepening understanding, gaining support for their rights and dignity, and highlighting the benefits of their inclusion in all aspects of life.

International Volunteers Day (IVD):

  • Similarly, International Volunteers Day (IVD) on December 5th annually acknowledges the invaluable contributions of volunteers worldwide.
  • Established by the UN General Assembly in 1985, IVD honors those who dedicate their time and skills to address societal challenges and make a difference in the lives of others.
  • With over a billion volunteers globally, the day emphasizes the transformative impact of collective efforts on social, economic, and environmental progress.

Efforts by India to Promote Disability Inclusion:

2016 Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act:

  • India, driven by the 2016 Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act championed by activist Javed Abidi, has made significant progress in acknowledging and promoting inclusivity.
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 defines disability within an evolving and dynamic context.
  • It broadens the categories of disabilities from 7 to 21, encompassing mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities (including deaf blindness), acid attack victims, and Parkinson’s disease—categories that were previously overlooked. Moreover, the government has the authority to designate any other specified disability category.
  • The Act enhances the reservation quota for individuals with disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutions.
  • Every child aged between 6 and 18 years with a benchmark disability is entitled to free education, and government-funded as well as recognized educational institutions must offer inclusive education.
  • Special emphasis is placed on ensuring accessibility in public buildings within a stipulated timeframe, aligning with the objectives of the Accessible India Campaign.
  • The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and State Commissioners serve as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies, overseeing the Act’s implementation.
  • To provide financial assistance to individuals with disabilities, separate National and State Funds are established.
  • Despite advancements, challenges persist, including attitudinal barriers and inadequate infrastructure.
  • A survey conducted by the Disability Rights India Foundation (DRIF) in 2018 assessing the enforcement of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act in 24 States indicates that over 50% of them have not yet officially adopted the State rules.
  •  Among the states that have notified the rules are Bihar, Chandigarh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, with only ten states having done so.
  • Leveraging a robust tradition of volunteerism, ranging from grassroots initiatives to established NGOs, India harnesses the transformative potential of volunteers to break stereotypes, provide support, and foster inclusivity.

‘Accessible India’ campaign:

  • The ‘Accessible India’ campaign initiated by the Government of India aims to enhance accessibility in public spaces, transportation, and information for persons with disabilities.
  • It serves as the flagship nationwide initiative of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), operating under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • Launched on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2015, the primary objective of the campaign is to create a barrier-free and supportive environment for individuals with disabilities (Divyangjans) across the entire country.
  • Volunteers play a crucial role in driving this initiative, actively participating in awareness campaigns, accessibility audits, and advocacy efforts. Their involvement in the Clean River (Ganga and Yamuna) campaign is also noteworthy.

Contribution of Individual Figures:

  • Notable figures like Hellen Keller, an American author and activist, have played instrumental roles in changing perspectives about disability. Keller not only overcame her challenges but also tirelessly advocated for the rights of people with disabilities.
  • The journey towards inclusivity has been guided by the wisdom and advocacy of thinkers and activists who have tirelessly worked to dismantle barriers and challenge societal attitudes.
  • Figures like the late Stephen Hawking, a renowned theoretical physicist diagnosed with ALS, and great individuals like Beethoven, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sudha Chandran, among others, demonstrate unparalleled dedication to their art despite physical obstacles.

Success Stories in the Sports Domain:

  • In the realm of sports, the Paralympic Games showcase extraordinary feats by athletes with disabilities, exemplifying resilience and athletic prowess.
  • Icons like Deepa Malik, paralyzed from the waist down, embody an indomitable spirit.
  • India’s outstanding performance in the 2023 Asian Para Games, with 111 medals, including 29 gold, 31 silver, and 51 bronze, underscores the achievements of these remarkable sportspersons.
  • Arunima Sinha’s determination in scaling Mount Everest with her prosthetic leg is also unforgettable.


Volunteerism serves as a catalyst for social change by fostering inclusivity and challenging societal norms. The commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities signals a global push for inclusivity, emphasizing the need for a shift in attitude to create a more equitable world.

March 2024