Living A Life With Dignity – A Fundamental Right For All

October 2, 2022 | Aakanksha Pramanik

The term intellectual disability is applied to people with limitations in cognitive functioning and skills including communication, social and self care skills. These limitations become apparent before the age of 18 years and in most of the cases it is life-long. As a quick reminder, intellectual ability comprises both intellectual and adaptive functioning. Intellectual functioning refers to abilities such as learning, problem solving and judgement while adaptive functioning refers to abilities to carry out activities of daily life such as communication and independent living.

What does right to live a life of dignity mean?

Dignity in life is a concept that the people of India hold in high esteem. The right to dignity is enshrined in the Constitution of India. Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right of persons to live a life with liberty and human dignity. The word ‘dignity’ also appears in the Preamble to the Constitution of India, widely regarded as being the soul of the document:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN
SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this 26th day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT

Human ‘dignity’ includes all aspects of life which make it meaningful, complete and worth living. The term ‘life’ is interpreted as being something more than mere human existence. Living a life of dignity means having access to basic needs of human life such as nutrition, health care, education, income
and security. But a dignified life equally means having the opportunity to fulfil one’s potential by living a life worthy of honour, respect and equal status.

Do people with intellectual disability lead a dignified life?

Francis Galton in England in the late Victorian period spearheaded the eugenic movement which speculated that if you got rid of the misfits, you could breed a pure, advantaged race. This was mirrored by American campaigns to sterilize disabled people supported by a 1927 US Supreme Court decision. And in Germany, Hitler began to gas disabled people, driven by the sure belief that they were ‘polluting the population’ and that no one would miss them.

While the situation for persons with disability has been changing, people with intellectual disability continue to be deprived of a life with dignity. They face a numerous issues in their day to day lives including a lack of access to basic facilities and employment opportunities, discrimination, stigma, loneliness, social exclusion and poverty.

  • Lack of access to basic facilities such as health care and education. The healthcare sector has failed to adequately address concerns related to intellectual disability. Most if not all products and services remain inaccessible and unaffordable, which is compounded by lack of awarenessand education. Despite there being special schools for children with disabilities, quality education is a farfetched luxury. Mainstream schools have failed to be inclusive and disability friendly. There is not only the problem of accessibility, but also lack of trained teachers/ personnel and proper educational materials. These issues exist at all levels of the educational hierarchy.
  • Lack of employment opportunities: The census of NSSO, 2011 recorded that 2.13% of population of India is suffering with intellectual disability and 94% of them are unemployed. Not only are there not enough vocational training institutes, but they also remain inaccessible. Unemployability is closely related to educational access which is fundamental to gaining employment. Even if employed, people with intellectual disability suffer from issues such as lower wages, discrimination, harassment and an overall discontent and disconnect from the work culture and life.
  • Discrimination at workplace for people with intellectual disability is unfortunately, very common even though every human being has the fundamental right not to be discriminated against. At the job, this discrimination could play out at various instances such as recruitment, training, job assignments, promotions, pay benefits and in fact, all other employment related activities.
  • Discrimination in day to day life refers to the social exclusion faced by people with intellectual disability in their daily interactions and living. They are considered to be incomplete humans or childlike. Not only do they suffer rejection but they are also stigmatized by the society. Very often this leads to mental health issues not only among persons with intellectual disability, but also their families and caregivers.
  • Stigma is the disapproval of a particular person based on social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from the other members of the society. Stigma can play out in a number of ways including social avoidance, stereotyping and name calling, all of which have an adverse impact on the self-worth and self-image of the person with intellectual disability, their families and caregivers, and other with whom they may have relationships.
  • Poverty: These factors put together more often than not result in a low economic status of the person with intellectual disability and their families. Moreover, they do not have any financial support from the government to live a better life. Sometimes, they do not even have access to adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter.


Leading a life with dignity is a basic need of every human being and also a basic fundamental right of
a citizen. People with challenges are forced to live an undignified life, sometimes even the most
basic needs of their life are left unfulfilled.

About the author: The author of this article is Ms. Aakanksha Pramanik who is pursuing her BBA LLB
(Hons.) from prestige institute department of law. She has been an intern at the Amrit Foundation of


  1. https://psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
  2. https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/mental-
  3. https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/article-21-of-the-constitution-of-india-right-to-life-and-