Get-hooked October 30, 2020
Make Asha Patwal count, include deafblind people in Census 2021 urge experts
Last week we celebrated the achievements of deafblind student Asha Patwal when she was declared one of the winners of the UN World Data Forum video contest. Now experts from the disability community are urging authorities in India to act on Asha’s message and include deafblind people in the upcoming Census.
“I am invisible due to my disability. Include us in the Census and give us the opportunity to inspire others”
These words of deafblind student Asha Patwal have found resonance around the world. This Dehradun student is among the three winners of a video contest held by the United Nations World Data Forum (UNWDF) held earlier this year. In her one-minute video Asha makes a compelling case for ensuring that people with deafblindness are not left behind in the census.
On Thursday at a virtual press meet organised by Sense International (India) experts emphasised upon the need to ensure that Asha’s message is translated into action.
“All of us count in one way or the ither, either for our skill or social standing or for other reasons”, said Akhil Paul, Director, Sense International (India). “Although deafblind people have been recognised in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, they have not been included in the Census”.
Need for deafblind inclusion
The impact of this exclusion is felt by the community in every aspect of life. The Covid pandemic has highlighted that, pointed out Rajive Raturi, Human Rights Law Network.
“There is a need to identify and number people with deafblindness because the right numbers help frame policies accordingly. There are a huge number of persons with disabilities who are not counted or certified which means they fall outside the social net. This was most evident during the Covid pandemic where due to lack of data people with disabilities struggled to access their pension and other relief.”
Asha, who was also present at the virtual press meet, hoped this gap would be addressed in the upcoming Census.
The UN Convention says leave no one behind but we are always left behind. At the UN data forum, I informed them that since deafblind people cannot hear and speak, they remain invisible in society. Data is important to plan our future. The government is planning the next Census, but we don’t know whether we will be included. We must ensure we are not left behind yet again. – Asha Patwal, Winner, UN World Data Forum contest
Shruti Lata Singh, Advocacy Officer, Sense International (India), said the lack of sensitisation about the needs of deafblind people has led to extreme marginalisation. “The needs of the deafblind are very different and the government must plan separately for them when they look at the needs of the disabled people. We depend on tactile inputs and this pandemic has isolated us further. We need extra a support but there is no plan for that. Everyone wants their own identity and we can only get this when official data includes. We want to become visible and are at risk of being left behind”.
Lack of sensitisation about the deafblind
Not a single official from the Census department was present at the virtual press meet although they had been invited. Experts are hoping that the recommendations made regarding the inclusion of people with disabilities in Census 2021 will be considered.
One of the key recommendations is that deafblindness be included in Census 2021. This will recognise the specific needs of people with deafblindness which is a combination of both hearing and vision impairments. This is needed as a separate category as it is not appropriately covered under the category Multiple Disabilities/Impairment.
This is needed given the large population of children with deafblindness in India.
“Our apprehension is that if we continue to cover deafblind under the multiple impairment category, then there will be no data enumerated on the number of deafblind people in the country. And hence there would be no services responding to the unique needs of deafblind people in the country”, says Sense International (India).
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