Addressing the Link Between Disability and Poverty in India


LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — In India, disabilities and poverty exist in such a way that the first compounds the second. Recognizing this, several notable organizations are working to address this intersection of disability and poverty. Organizations and charities like The Indiability Foundation focus on youths with disabilities and the cultural attitudes that limit them. Others, like the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, or NIEPID, work with the government to provide direct resources to citizens with mental disabilities. These two organizations try to alleviate the social and economic issues that perpetuate poverty among Indians with disabilities.

Disability and Poverty in India

India is a major nation in the world. The total number of extremely impoverished Indians is around 6% of India’s population, or about 84 million, as of 2021. India’s census data in 2011 reported there was a 22% increase in people with disabilities in the country from 2001 to 2011. Additionally, there were more people with disabilities in rural regions than urban ones.

Researcher Ambati Nageswara Rao stated in 2009 that “[n]o poverty program can be effective if it ignores its [impoverished]minority and no disability program will be successful if it ignores the conditions faced by most disabled people.” Disability advocacy groups working in India know the importance of addressing the intersection of disability and poverty in India because of the significant and important connection between the two.

The Indiability Foundation

The Indiability Foundation is an advocacy group connected to a boarding school for “disabled and able-bodied students.” It works to improve situations for youths with disabilities. In 2005, the organization, working with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, created the Indian Mixed Ability Group Events (IMAGE). IMAGE has evolved from its early days to now holding workshops, lessons and group events for rural communities with disabled members. The programs place children with disabilities in leadership roles and encourage free-flowing, educational dialogue with all groups. The group focuses on cultural education that removes the stigma Indians with disabilities face. It also further integrates those with disabilities into the general community.

The Indiability Foundation’s work also extends to creating infrastructure, like installing toilets for disabled people. The foundation holds employability workshops where disabled members of the community learn employment skills. Other organizations work directly with the government to enhance the country’s capacity to address the needs of people with disabilities.


The National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities is an autonomous group that works with India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to advocate for and implement schemes that address issues facing India’s disabled population. The institute started a scheme that created railway concessions, such as reduced rates in railway cars with air conditioning. More recently, NIEPIED developed a scheme to help disabled people pay for and install disability aids.

The ADIP is an organization that formed based on the understanding that many impoverished people with disabilities need assistance to buy disability aids. Two tiers of income divide the scheme’s funding: those making less than 15,000 rupees and those making 15,001-20,000 rupees per month. The first income group has 100% of the cost for aids covered; the other group receives 50% cost coverage.

The Intersection of Disability and Poverty in India

The impoverished and disabled population of India struggles because of multiple factors, including numerous social stigmas. The rural disabled population tends to lack the necessary infrastructure to travel to work. It also lacks access to necessary things like expensive disability aids. However, numerous organizations like the NEIPID and The Indiability Foundation began around the principles of addressing these issues.

Some of the organizations work with communities to foster a new attitude toward community members who are disabled. Other groups work with the Indian government to implement new policies that help pay for disability aids and create infrastructure for individuals with disabilities. In addition to this work, individuals with disabilities are using their personal experiences to help others like them. In the Indian city of Mumbai, Madhu Singh is a wheelchair user who leads peer counseling for other disabled people who wish to learn how to live independently.

The work of individuals like Madhu Singh and organizations such as The Indiability Foundation and NIEPID are helping to show the connection between disability and poverty in India. Hopefully, this work will address those connections while minimizing the negative impacts.

Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Unsplash


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