New Delhi, August 13
The disability sector is hailing a milestone reached late last month when a sustained campaign with insurance companies resulted in activist Arman Ali getting his expensive German wheelchair insured, most likely the first time in India.
1 million need help
Government Census-2011 says there are 27 million people with disability in India. At least 20% of the people with disabilities have a mobility challenge. An estimated one million need a wheelchair in India.
The development holds a huge promise to transform the lives of persons with disabilities, in need of assistive devices.
WHO’s global statistics reveal that of the nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide who need assistive technologies, about 5 to 15 per cent have access to these, with lack of financing and massive costs acting as deterrents.
Most high quality wheelchairs are overpriced and unaffordable for the majority of people in need.
This led Ali, Executive Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), a 26-year-old organisation working on disability, to launch a campaign for securing wheelchair insurance in India.
His year-long struggle led to SBI General Insurance offering him its all-risk insurance policy on July 21. The policy insures Ali’s wheelchair for Rs 4,26 245 for a year.
“It all started with a tweet we posted on August 18, 2021, demanding insurance coverage for wheelchairs and other assistive devices. We wrote to 22 companies, of which nine responded, and finally we went ahead with SBI in July this year,” Ali says flagging the need for insurance coverage to make wheelchairs affordable.
“Many disabilities are lifelong, and individuals may require ongoing support. Wheelchair insurance provides the assurance that the necessary mobility aid will be available as long as it is required, without the fear of coverage being denied or discontinued abruptly,” Ali says.
With awareness on the subject still low, Ali also says, “Perhaps this first-of-its-kind wheelchair insurance in India will inspire others to opt for the facility.”
In India, the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, recognises 21 disabilities.
Importantly, in the wake of a growing number of people needing wheelchair assistance in future, the WHO recently introduced new wheelchair provision guidelines that aim to support improved access to appropriate wheelchairs, for all those in need. The WHO has estimated 80 million people (or 1 per cent of the world’s population) are likely to require a wheelchair.
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