Presumed Liabilities to Gainful Assets: Persons with Disabilities and their Struggles

We know many famous people who were disabled, like, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, who have changed the world through their discoveries, inventions, and theories. But they were determined as well as fortunate to overcome their barriers of disability and achieve something. But many people in this world have many other additional barriers due to which they have to be dependent on other people and are considered as a liability. And at this point, the role of the state comes, to provide them with the extra resources and remove additional barriers. In this article, we will be observing the causes and the approach taken by the International Organizations to handle this problem. We will further observe the provisions in India which are enacted for disabled persons and how far they are implemented. This article also discusses how the government and the people can change these presumed liabilities to gainful assets.


‘Dis’ means a reverse force and ability, the capacity to do something. So, Disability means the incapacity to perform. It is deprivation of power, which can be physical or mental, limiting the actions and senses. According to Convention on the Rights of Person with Disability, persons with disabilities are the ones who have long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments[1]. Disability can be interpreted through various approaches; it can be understood as what an individual thinks, or what the society perceives or what science says about it.

But when we discuss this in general, there are some inevitable consequences of such disabilities. These struggles can be different for different disabilities but unfortunately makes way with every disability. For example, a person suffering from a physical disability may need a wheelchair, ramps at public places whereas mental disability needs an extra amount of care from a qualified person such as a nurse. The other factors can be poverty, expensive treatments, and medical care, and the need for extra resources. These factors can lead to cause insufficiency in basic needs such as food leading to food insecurity.

The Cause

Food insecurity means imbalances in food intake due to lack of resources and money. This problem prevails all over the world but when it is narrowed down to persons with disabilities, the effect is way worse. The major cause is the severe economic hardships for people with disabilities. The first reason is that people with disabilities do not get employed.

According to the United Nations, persons with disabilities are two or three times more likely to be unemployed. Therefore, they do not have a reliable and strong source of income, they depend on their families and if the head is the one with a disability, the struggle of that family is even more. Even after this, if any income is earned, there is a high chance that it may go to necessary medical expenditures like wheelchairs, regular check-ups, etc. These unavoidable expenses may increase the chance of food insecurity.

The other factor is the economic development of the country. If it’s a developing country, the country may lack the resources and power to empower its self to address this issue. They can also lack the appropriate welfare schemes for the country. A developed country has the resources but may lack how the best can be derived from the resources. It can also lack the implementation of the schemes and policies.

International Plan of Action

As mentioned above, food insecurity and a person with a disability is an issue over the world, therefore, here, we discuss certain measures and schemes taken by international organizations and different countries to tackle the problem. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) has addressed and prepared the convention with the anti-discriminatory approach. The main focus is to provide equal opportunity to the disabled persons in every area of society. Under Article 27 it gives the right of opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen. Clause (e) obligates the countries to promote employment opportunity and career advancement, under clause (f) provides the option for self-employment and entrepreneurship. It also states to employ persons with disabilities in the public sector. The Article is made broad enough to include provisions for the right to work for those who acquire a disability during employment.

Further Article 25[2] discusses the health of disabled persons where the state is made responsible for health services. The countries have to provide free or affordable health services and schemes for their treatment and rehabilitation. It prohibits discrimination of any kind in availing opportunities for health or employment. Through these provisions, it can be observed that the provisions of CRPD try to eliminate the roots, as employment will give the persons with disabilities a strong source of income and the health services by states can reduce a huge amount of expenditure, saving them the money for basic need such as food, shelter, and advanced treatments.

Furthermore, the United States of America has many schemes for providing food security to persons with disabilities. It includes SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). SSI provides cash benefits to persons with no or low income for basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter[3]. SNAP stands for Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, it enables the Americans to have afforded a nutritionally adequate diet. This SNAP program is more flexible and approachable to more poor people. 

Supplemental Security Disability Insurance, SSDI, is a kind of insurance that covers the wages of the people who acquires a disability during the lifetime. Medicare and Medicaid are some other approaches that can be seen more objectively i.e. to provide what one is deprived of rather than trying to eradicate the cause of the problem but is successful in lifting millions of people out of poverty, alleviates food insecurity and improves long term health and economic outcomes. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the issue of employment is covered stating that there will be no discrimination of the same based on disability and provides them with equal opportunities in employment.

Provisions in India

The Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 2016 fulfilling the obligation of United National Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability. The Act includes 21 types of Disabilities from mental to physical. The act defines the rights for equality and personal liberty, protection from abuse, violence and cruelty, protecting the right to vote and family planning. It includes additional benefits of reservations for higher education, government jobs. It also aims to change the structure of the educational institutions to make it accessible to the persons with disabilities. It also covers the issue of employment by providing equal opportunity policies, vocational training and self-employment. Section 24 & 25 of the act deals with social security and health respectively, to provide facilities regarding medical care, rehabilitation, etc. The act further empowers or obligates the government to make laws, commissions, schemes and policies to achieve the objectives of the act.

When we analyse the National Food Security Act, 2013 the objective is simple, to provide meals, nourishment and food security to the who are in need. Under section 2, sub-section (13), the person of disability is mentioned. The person is eligible to avail food grains if they are under the priority households under section 10, which states that person under Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Targeted Public Distribution Scheme. The act discussed about the Reforms in Targeted Public Distribution System, women empowerment, State Food Commissions, obligating centre to ensure food security in other states.

The National Food Security Act can be thought as a comprehensive act including provisions for the guidelines for the government as to how to work, what policies and schemes are to be made, administration of food grains. But a major gap in this act is not addressing this issue for persons with disability. There are no provisions for the persons with disability to acquire food security. The priority household is narrow in approach as it mostly addressed the people in poverty. The criteria for classifications in the Antyodaya Anna Yojana is Poverty Line, Children and women[4].

These classifications are indeed significant for food security but people with disabilities are also at the same or may be even below the status in the matters for need of food security. Therefore, there is a crucial want to specially classify the provisions as well as schemes for persons with disability for food security.

The Delhi High Court of India has addressed this issue when a PIL was filed to seek directions to include persons with disabilities to avail benefits of schemes and policies under National Food Security Act. The major ground of the plea was that the persons with disabilities are abandoned and no special provisions or classifications are done in the name of persons with disabilities. The arguments of the petitioners were backed up by section 37 (b) of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, that enables 5% reservation in poverty alleviation and developmental schemes. The petitioner sought directions for the central government to consider persons with disability to make them eligible for Antyodaya Anna Yojana under National Food Security Act and to avail the benefits for the same.


Through the above discussion, it can be concluded that the approach of laws of India in addressing the problems suffered by persons with disabilities is subjective more than objective. It consists more of provisions of as to the organization and introduction of the schemes and policies, the role, obligations, and functions of the government rather than directly creating provisions for providing food to the needy. The schemes and policies are indirectly approached and implemented.

The fact that India is a developing country also affects the implementation of laws and schemes, the distribution of food to persons with disabilities needs a large amount of money, advanced technology to conduct frequent surveys. The provisions of reservations in education and employment are difficult to avail of in India as persons with disabilities are regarded as a liability from the initial stage and are eventually demotivated. Therefore, to initiate the source of income for a person with a disability is not as easy as for a normal person.

Furthermore, the good health facilities in India are not accessible even for the poor, how it can be accessible for persons with disabilities. Therefore, we indeed need a law for the health care facilities, but we also need some schemes and policies to directly provide persons with disabilities insurance for their treatment, medicines, and rehabilitation. There should also be provisions for the persons who acquire a disability during a lifetime.

In conclusion, India is going towards the right direction to handle this issue which can be seen through the PIL. The Government should itself take the steps to alleviate the standard of persons with disabilities and to include them in schemes and policies which are necessary for them. Only mentioning them in the Legislative Act is never enough.

The Government also must spread awareness for the disabilities and the rights and policies for persons of disabilities so that the citizens as well as the persons suffering and in need also know their rights and entitlements. Further, we as people have to change our mind-set and consider them equal in every aspect of society, education, employment, and opportunity so that they do not feel disadvantaged and are motivated to do work which will benefit the individual, family and the economy of the country and therefore becoming to Presumed Liabilties to Gainful Assets.


Q.1 Can a person of slight/partial disability be eligible under Persons with Disability Act, 2016?

A.1 The persons with disabilities are issued a special certificate mentioning their disability and the extent of disability. If the disability extends to that particular percentage, that person can avail benefits of the schemes and policies of Government. People with less disability may get less benefits. The certificates are issued to those who fulfils the criteria as below:

  • Person with min. 35% mental disability
  • Person with min. 40% of orthopaedic disability.
  • Person with 90% visual disability.
  • Deaf people having percentage between 90db & 100db.

Q.2 Is Depression considered as disability?

A.2 Medical or severe depression can be considered as disability as depression can impair the actions and emotions of people. Depression can also include anxiety, chronic sleep impairment, panic attacks, mild memory loss. Therefore, medical depression can be considered as mental disability.

Q.3 How are the schemes for persons with disability funded?

A.2 Under the Persons with Disability Act, 2013 the state government is obliged to constitute a State Food Commission made for the purpose of monitoring and implementing the schemes under the Act. The Central Government provides onetime financial assistance for the State Food Commissions. Furthermore, if any state does not have enough productivity of the food grains, the Central Government also assists and help the States.

Q.4 How does Food Security affect the country?

A.4 Food Security alleviates the poor and other needy. It reduces malnourishment and hunger that increases the economic growth and has a positive impact in the country and globally. This also benefits the coming as well as the present generation, as they will be healthier and more fit.


  • United Nations Human Rights Commission Officer


  • U.S Department of Agriculture, Food & Nutrition.


  • National Food Security Act, 2013


  • Persons with Disability Act, 2016


[1] Article 1, CRPD

[2] UNCRPD, United Nation Human Rights.

[3] Food and Nutrition Service, U.S Department of Agriculture.

[4] Section 4 & 5, National Food Security Act, 2013

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