It is estimated that more than a billion people live with some form of disability, approximately, 15% of the world’s population. In developing economies, such as India, it remains an acute problem. As per the data from Census 2001 of India, the following are relevant points from the disability statistics:

  • 2.1% of the population, i.e. 21 million, is the estimated size of disabled population.
  • Of the five disability categories, seeing disability and locomotor disability are the top two categories, with 49% and 28% of the disabled population falling under these categories, respectively.
  • More than 50% of the disabled population are under age 30, and 25% above 50.
  • 60% (rural) and 25% (urban) households reporting disability of one or more members had monthly per capita consumption expenditure of INR 300/-.

Ramifications of the aforementioned statistics and similar surveys are:

  1. Availability, accessibility, and affordability are key aspects of any technological solutions to cater to the challenges existing in healthcare and support for the disabled.
  2. Healthcare and education to the disabled children will help in improving the health and socio-economic indicators of the individuals throughout their lives. Studies have shown that education plays a key factor in reducing the incidence of psychiatric disorders amongst disabled children, who otherwise fall in the high-risk category.
  3. Today’s disabled youth are tomorrow’s disabled senior citizens – the challenges they face are unique. It has been found that individuals with disabilities experience a high rate of medical, functional, and psychosocial complications and/or changes about 20-25 years sooner compared to aging individuals without disabilities.
  4. Another section of the population that have special needs are the aging population, who have age-related disabilities. This class experience age-related disabilities, which is different from aging with disabilities. In this class of disabled, the visual and locomotor disabilities have been shown to lower the quality of life, which in turn leads to mental disabilities, of which geriatric depression remains understudied. A population study in a rural district in South India has shown that visual disability was the most important cause of preventable disability (56%) among elderly, above 60 years, with only a third of the visually disabled population using assistive devices.
  5. There is significant relevance of issues pertaining to both malnutrition and disability. There are studies indicating children with disabilities being vulnerable to malnutrition, as well as malnourished children being susceptible to disabilities and development delays. This is highly relevant to the current scenario in India, considering World Bank estimates India to be the home to largest number of children suffering from malnutrition. Similarly, there are studies indicating malnourishment as a primary issue or a secondary outcome to age-related disabilities in the elderly.

Nature of projects in this programme

Projects related to disability that are of relevance to EHRC include research in the area of visual and locomotor disabilities leading to positive outcomes in the dimensions of data, devices, delivery of services, which cater to the paediatric and geriatric population. The nature of the outcomes may be or pertaining to technology and/or capacity building (e.g. education). The objectives of research are to enable solutions addressing availability, accessibility and affordability.

Research leading to the following, but not limited to, are of interest:

  • tools & devices
  • platforms,
  • algorithms & systems involving data: from data acquisition, storage, to processing;
  • medical records
  • accessibility related issues

Current projects @EHRC — with a focus on technological aids and policy frameworks for improving quality of living:

  • Use of IoT
  • low-cost sensors
  • 3D printing