Disability Discourse in South Asia and Global Disability Governance

Hari KC


Disability studies, although an emerging discipline, has already advanced in the Global North compared to the Global South in that the discourse around disability has shifted its focus from mere survival debates of the persons with disabilities to subtler and more nuanced forms and manifestations of disability existence. Even at the policy level, the “medical model” of disability has been substituted by different versions of the “social model.” The main idea of the “social model” of disability is that human beings are extremely diverse in terms of mental and bodily faculties, functions and structures, and disability indeed results from the “disabling” infrastructures and environment that society has created without taking this human diversity into account. Some versions of the “social model” go so far as to glorify the bodily and mental disabilities, deeming them merely as manifestations of human variation or diversity that offers a unique experience to be valued and celebrated (Roush & Sharby, 2011). Disability in any form is merely a variation of humanity, but the disadvantages this diversity creates are the lived-realities that should not and cannot be left unattended. What I find even more problematic is the idea of glorifying and romanticizing disability. Such a glorified notion of disability, I argue, becomes yet another means to oppressing the persons with disabilities. The “medical model” that some disability studies scholars in the Global North have discarded can prove still relevant to the Global South, and particularly to South Asia. If disability activists and civil society organizations relish only in the rhetoric of disability as a “human rights” issue, and not pay ample attention to the physical and mental realities of the persons with disabilities, the “rights-based” discourse could ultimately be counterproductive. 


Disability Discourse, People with Disabilities in Nepal, South Asia, Disability Governance, Medical and Social Models of Disability

Full Text:



Asch, Adrienne. “Critical Race Theory, Feminism, and Disability.” Bonnie G. Smith & Beth

Huchinson, eds. Gendering Disability. Rutgers University, 2004, 9- 44.

Brolan, C. (2016). A Word of Caution: Human Rights, Disability, and

Implementation of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Laws, 5(2), 22.

Buckingham, Jane. “Writing Histories of Disability in India: Strategies of Inclusion.” Disability

and Society. Vol. 26, No. 4, June 2011, 419-431.

Chaudhry, V., Mattaini, Mark A., Fujiura, Glenn, Gill, Carol, Gleeson, James, & McKean, Lise.

(2012). Disability and Participatory Development in South India: Perils of Neoliberal Governance.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities and Optional Protocol. United Nations

Enable. http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=12&pid=150.

Das, Shilpa. “Hope for the Invisible Women in India: Disability, Gender and the Concepts of

Karma and Shakti in the Indian Weltanschauung.” Eds. Janet Horrigan & Ed Wiltse, Hope Against Hope: Philosophies, Cultures and Politics of Possibility and Doubt. Amsterdam; New York: Rodopi, 2010.

Disability and the Millennium Development Goals, A Review of the MDG Process and

Strategies for Inclusion of Disability Issues in Millennium Development Goal Efforts. United Nations Publication Sales No. E.11.IV.10. United Nations, 2011.

Disability in the South-East Asia Region, 2013. World Health Organization. Disability Injury

Prevention and Rehabilitation Unit Department of Sustainable Development & Healthy Environments (SDE) World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia, World Health House, Indraprastha Estate, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, New Delhi – 110002, India.

“Disabled kids in sorry state.” The Himalayan.


Doniger, Wendy & Brian K. Smith, Trans. The Laws of Manu. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1991.

Flynn, Eilionoir. 2011. From Rhetoric to Action: Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights

of Persons with Disabilities. London: Cambridge University Press.

Eide, Arne H., Shailes Neupane, Karl‐Gerhard Hem. Living conditions among people with

disability in Nepal. SINTEF Technology and Society, Department of Health Research 2016. Trondheim, Norway.

Ghai, Anita. Disability and the Millennium Development Goals. Journal

of Health Management, 11(2), 279-295.

Ghai, Anita. “Disability in the Indian Context: Post-Colonial Perspectives.” Eds. Mairian Corker

& Tom Shakespeare, Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. London; New York: Continuum, 2002.

Gurung, Indra Maya. “Interview with Sajha Sawal.” BBC World Service Trust. January 11,


Haegele, J., & Hodge, S. (2016). Disability Discourse: Overview and Critiques of the Medical

and Social Models. Quest, 68(2), 193-206.

Health & Medicine Week (2016): 4130. Web.

Hiranandani, Vanmala and Deepa Sonpal. “Disability, Economic Globalization and

Privatization: A Case Study of India.” Disability Studies Quarterly. Vol 30, No 3/4 (2010). http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1272/1302.

Humpage, L. (2007). Models of Disability, Work and Welfare in Australia. Social Policy &

Administration, 41(3), 215-231.

Hussain, Y. (2005). South Asian disabled women: Negotiating identities. Sociological

Review, 53(3), 522-538.

ILO. Constitution of Nepal, 2015 (English translation).


Jaeger, Paul T and Cynthia Ann Bowman. 2005. Understanding Disability: Inclusion,

Access, Diversity, and Civil Rights. London: Praeger.

Kayess, Rosemary and Phillip French. “Out of Darkness into Light? Introducing the Convention

on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” Human Rights Law Review 8:1(2008), 1-34.

Kecskes, Sophia. Addressing Nepal’s Hidden Health Challenge: Depression. Yale

Global Health Review, April 2015.

Kim, Mi Yeon. “Women with Disabilities: The Convention Through the Prism of Gender.” Eds,

Maya Sabatello and Marianne Schulze. Human Rights and Disability Advocacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lamichhane, Kamal (2013). Disability and barriers to education: Evidence from Nepal.

Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 15(4), 311-324.

Lamichhane, Kamal. (2012). Employment Situation and Life Changes for People with

Disabilities: Evidence from Nepal. Disability & Society, 27(4), 471-485.

Lamichhane, Kamal. “All you need is law.” The Kathmandu Post. September 07, 2011.


Lamichhane, Kamal. “Interview with ‘Fireside’” Kantipur Television, Kathmandu, Nepal, July

, 2012.

Lamichhane, K., Ballabha, D., & Kartika, D. (2014). Analysis of Poverty between People with

and without Disabilities in Nepal. IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc, IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc, 2014.

Lamichhane, K., & Okubo, T. (2014). The Nexus between Disability, Education, and

Employment: Evidence from Nepal. Oxford Development Studies, 42(3), 439-453.

Lamichhane, & Sawada. (2013). Disability and returns to education in a developing country.

Economics of Education Review, 37, 85-94.

Lamichhane, K. (2015). Disability, education and employment in developing countries : From

charity to investment. Delhi, India: Cambridge University Press.

Lamichhane, K. (2015). Social inclusion of Persons with disabilities: A case from Nepal's decade

long civil war. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 17(4), 287-299.

Mainstreaming disability in the new development paradigm: Evaluation of Norwegian support to

promote the rights of persons with disabilities: Nepal country report. NORAD. February 2012.

Manandhar, K., Risal, A., Linde, M., & Steiner, T. (2015). The burden of headache disorders in

Nepal: Estimates from a population-based survey. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 17(1), 1-10.

Marks, D. (1999). Dimensions of oppression: Theorising the embodied subject. Disability and

Society, 14(5), 611-626.

Megret, Frédéric. The Disabilities Convention: Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities or

Disability Rights? Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May, 2008), pp. 494-516. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Meekosha, Helen and Karen Soldatic. “Human Rights and the Global South: the case of

disability.” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 8, 2011, pp 1383–1398.

Mitra, Sophie. (2006). The capability approach and disability. Journal of Disability Policy

Studies, 16(4), 236.

Mitra, Sophie, Aleksandra Posarac and Brandon Vick. Disability and Poverty in Developing

Countries: A Multidimensional Study. World Development, Vol. 41, pp. 1–18, 2013_ 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Mol, T., Brakel, W., & Schreurs, M. (2014). Children with Disability in Nepal: New Hope

Through CBR? Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 25(1), 5.

Nepal Disabled Women Association (NDWA). Report on strengthening the protection of human

rights of women and girls with disabilities. April 17, 2013.

Oliver, Michael and Colin Barnes. 2012. The New Politics of Disablement. New York: Palgrave


Palmer, M., & Harley, D. (2012). Models and measurement in disability: An international

review. Health Policy and Planning, 27(5), 357-364.

Panthi, Meen Raj. The Disability Situation in Nepal. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.


Parekh, Pushpa Naidu. 2007. “Gender, Disability and Postcolonial Nexus.” Wagadu, Vol. 4.

Paudel, Dariang, Keeling, & Mehata. (2016). Addressing the needs of people with disability in

Nepal: The urgent need. Disability and Health Journal, 9(2), 186-188.

Puri, M., Misra, G., & Hawkes, S. (2015). Hidden voices: Prevalence and risk factors for

violence against women with disabilities in Nepal. 15, 261.

Rimmerman, Arie. 2013. Social Inclusion of Persons with disabilities: National and

International Perspectives. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Roush, Susan E., & Sharby, Nancy. (2011). Disability reconsidered: The paradox of physical

therapy.(Advances in Disability Research)(Report). Physical Therapy, 91(12), 1715.

Saleeby, P., & Yadama, Gautam. (2005). Exploring Disability and Poverty in

Nepal: An Application of the Capability Approach.

Sherry, Mark. 2008. Disability and Diversity: A Sociological Perspective. New York: Nova

Science Publishers.

Simkhada, P., Regmi, P., Pant, P., Van Teijlingen, E., & Sathain, B. (2015). Stipulating Citizen’s

Fundamental Right to Healthcare: Inference from the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nepal 2015. Nepal Journal of Epidemiology, 5(4), 516-517.

Shrestha, S., & Weber, G. (2002). The situation of older people with intellectual disability in

Nepal: A pilot study. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 27(4), 242-254.

Simkhada, P., Shyangdan, D., Van Teijlingen, E., Kadel, S., Stephen, J., & Gurung, T. (2013).

Women's knowledge of and attitude towards disability in rural Nepal. Disability and Rehabilitation, 35(7), 606-13.

Singal, N., Muthukrishna, N., & Maudslay, L. (n.d.). Inclusive education in Nepal: Assumptions

and reality. Childhood, 21(3), 418-424.

SK, Joshi. Disability in Nepal. Kathmandu University Medical Journal (2004) Vol. 2, No. 1 pp


Slaughter, A. (2004). A new world order / Anne-Marie Slaughter. Princeton,

N.J.; Oxford: Princeton University Press.

State of Civil Society, 2013: Creating an enabling environment. CIVICUS: World Alliance for

Citizen Participation.

Stein, Michael Ashley and Penelope J.S. Stein. 2007. “Beyond Disability Civil Rights.” Harvard

Law School. http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/gladnetcollect.

Subedi, Anjali. Women with disabilities helpless against sexual advances. Republica.2013/12/04.

Subedi, J, Brown, J, Basnyat, K, Subedi, S, & Tausig, M. (2010). Measuring disability

in developing context: the case of Nepal. Gerontologist, 50, 388.

Thapa, S., & Hauff, B. (2012). Perceived needs, self-reported health and disability among

displaced persons during an armed conflict in Nepal. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 47(4), 589-595.

Toboso, Mario. Rethinking disability in Amartya Sen's approach: ICT and equality of

opportunity. Ethics and Information Technology, Volume: 13 Issue: 2   Pages: 107-118   Published: JUN 2011.

Tol, W., Komproe, I., Thapa, S., Jordans, M., & Sharma, B. (2007). Disability associated with

psychiatric symptoms among torture survivors in rural Nepal. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(6), 463-469.

Toledo, Pamela Molina. “At the United Nations… ‘The South Also Exists.” Eds, Maya Sabatello

and Marianne Schulze. Human Rights and Disability Advocacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wendell, Susan. “Who is Disabled? Defining Disability.” The Rejected Body: Feminist

Philosophical Reflections on Disability, Pp. 11-33, Rutledge, 1996.


. States News Service, p. States News Service, June 13, 2016.

World Bank and Disability in South Asia: A Portfolio Review. October 2003.

World Report on Disability. World Health Organization and World Bank. 2011.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15353/cjds.v5i4.314


  • There are currently no refbacks.


The Canadian Journal of Disability Studies is Published by the Canadian Disability Studies Association-Association Canadienne des Études sur l'Incapacité, and is hosted and supported by the University of Waterloo.

ISSN 1929-9192 Canadian Journal of Disability Studies (Online)