Persons with disabilities (PWD) make up 13.4 % 1 of the total population of Pakistan, accounting for approximately 28 million people. Out of this staggering number the number of children who suffer from disabilities is disproportionally larger. According to the Punjab Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 17.9 percent of all children between the ages of 5 to 17 in the province have one or more functional disabilities – which is measured as a functional difficulty in a range of domains including hearing, vision, communication/comprehension, learning, mobility, and emotions.

These disabilities in children are a concerning occurrence in and off themselves; apart from functional difficulties in performing everyday tasks the stigma attached to being disabled is often a cruel cudgel that is used to socially beat down disabled children. When we couple with this the fact that children with disabilities are ten times less likely to attend school than those without, and even if they attend school, they are most likely to drop out earlier compared to their peers who do not suffer from the same challenges, a very disturbing picture starts to emerge. The disadvantage that these children suffer is amplified as they go through life, culminating in a situation where their lack of education becomes a bigger impediment than their disability.

Therefore it is quite encouraging to see that this oft overlooked group is being kept in mind by the policymakers of Punjab, the largest province and one where the problem is most pronounced.

Special Education Policy of the Government of Punjab (2019) intends to categorize disabilities into four groups: Mild – Moderate – Severe – Profound. It then will use these categories to implement change in public policy towards PWDs. If the government diligently sees this initiative through an estimated 27% of PWDs will be incorporated in mainstream public schools.

It is hoped that this commendable initiative is carried forward in other provinces as well and that private schools can also be incentivized to increase the percentage of PWDs in their student bodies.