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India ‘least inclusive’ among Asian nations: Disability survey

D.N.I.S. News Network Despite a very impressive record in framing legal protections for people with disabilities, Asian countries lack in educational and employment opportunities for them, says International Disability Rights Monitor Regional Report. published by International Disability Network.

According to the Report, in India, 74 per cent of people with disabilities are unemployed. In the Philippines, 20 per cent of children with disabilities have never attended school despite a law requiring education for them. In Thailand, less than 1 per cent of buildings are accessibleand similar access problems exist in Cambodia, India and Vietnam.

These are some of the findings in a report released 10 August 2005, by a coalition of disability groups that concluded that people with disabilities in Asia face exclusion on a daily basis although most countries have laws and policies designed to protect them.

"Implementation is lousy," said Venus Ilagan of the Philippines who chairs Disabled Peoples' International (D.P.I.), which is active in 135 countries. "We want laws that are backed by resources and ... the kind of political will needed to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities," she was quoted as saying in the media.

The 181-page International Disability Rights Monitor Regional Report of Asia -- focusing on seven countries Cambodia, China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam -- was released during a two-week meeting of a United Nations Committee drawing up a treaty to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

There are an estimated 600 million people in the world with disabilities, and 80 per cent of those -- or about 480 million -- are estimated to live in Asia," said Dr. William Kennedy Smith, Chairman of the Chicago-based Center for International Rehabilitation. "This is an extremely important part of the world.

The report, compiled by disabled researchers, said no country provided adequate basic protections for disabled people in every category it studied legal protections, education and employment, accessibility, health services and housing, communication, and support for a treaty to protect the disabled.

The survey ranked China and Japan as the "most inclusive" countries in dealing with the disabled, the Philippines and Thailand as "moderately inclusive" and Cambodia and India as "least inclusive." Vietnam was not ranked because of the lack of independent verification of the information.

Although China has been faced with ongoing accusations of human rights abuses, especially in the realms of political and civil rights, it has enacted a range of progressive policies supporting disability rights," the report said.

Among the best practices adopted by China is the distribution of 10 million copies of its disability legislation in a variety of formats. In many countries, the effectiveness of protections is limited by lack of awareness so this mass distribution is an important practice," it said.

Ilagan said, "One glaring thing which we have seen in the report is the absence of data." Except for Japan, and to some extent China, she said, all the countries depend on the World Health Organization estimate that 10 per cent of the population has some kind of disability. But she said if malnutrition, war, conflict and other factors are taken into account, it could even be higher.

How can we expect Governments to plan good programmes if they don't exactly know how many persons with disabilities there are, and what are the types of their disabilities?" Ilagan quipped.

The report said the areas of accessibility; education and employment show the greatest disparity between rights and reality.

In Vietnam, only 34 per cent of people with disabilities are literate, compared to over 90 percent of the general population, it said, and in China the enrolment of children with disabilities was 77 per cent compared to over 90 per cent of youngsters without disabilities. At the lower end of the scale, 46 per cent of disabled children in India and 48% of disabled Vietnamese are enrolled in schools, according to the report.

As for employment, despite laws promoting the right to jobs for disabled people, the report said, "economic inactivity among people with disabilities remains high.

In the Philippines, 40 per cent of persons with disabilities are unemployed, in Vietnam 70 per cent and in Thailand 80 per cent, it said.

The regional report is the second produced by Disabled Peoples' International and the Center for International Rehabilitation, which operates in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University and helps the disabled in some of the world's poorest countries. The first focused on the Americas and the next two will focus on Europe and the Middle East.

In India, 74 per cent of people with disabilities and 94 per cent of those with mental retardation had no job. In Thailand, 80 per cent were unemployed, while in Vietnam the figure was 70 per cent, and in the Philippines it was 40 percent, according to the survey.

While at least some legal protections for the disabled were widely available in all of the countries covered by the survey, none provided adequate basic protections across the board, the survey said.