How many persons with disabilities are there in Bangladesh?

Between 9% to 16% of people in Bangladesh have disabilities. These numbers come from three surveys that use up-to-date methods and have shown how they got their results. However, the answer to this question depends on who you ask. In the table below I show results of surveys showing between 1% to 32% of the population as having a disability.

Why is there such a range of answers?
Disability is difficult to measure. There isn’t any standard definition. Depending on the way you do the survey you will get very different results. If you do a survey asking if there is anyone “disabled” you will get answers like the 1.4% found in the 2011 Census. This is because people are reluctant to call themselves or a family member “disabled”, and because they probably understand disability to be limited to only certain types of severe conditions.

However, if you ask people about the difficulties they have with day-to-day activities you will get more a fuller picture. Questions on functional limitations do this, asking something like “do you have any difficulty walking or climbing stairs?” allows different responses based on the level of difficulty. It also avoids any stigma or misunderstanding associated with the word “disability”. The surveys that ask this type of question get much higher numbers for disability: the Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2010 survey and the World Health Survey give 9.1% and 16.2% respectively.

Different surveys on disability

Survey Organisation Date % Definition of Disability
Household and Population Census Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2011 1.4 “Disability” and six possible types
Rapid Assessment of Disability Nossal Institute for Global Health, Centre for Eye Research Australia
2010 8.9% Self-Assessment of functionality. Prevalence of 8.9% found after adjustment to population.
See more: BMC Public Health 2014
Household Income and Expenditure Survey Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics 2010 9.1 Functional Limitations (Washington Group Questions)
See more: the HIES Report and analysis of disability and inequality.
Prevalence of disability in Manikganj district CIPRB with support from WHO 2009 4.7 Measurement of impairments, activity limitation and restriction of participation.
See more: BMJ Open 2016. Useful breakdowns by gender, age, etc, in the article.
Monitoring the Situation of Women and Children: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF 2006 17.5 among children aged 2-9 Functional difficulties or delays in development.
See more: key findings and disability broken down by type and location.
Disability in Bangladesh: A Study in Prevalence Handicap International and NFOWD 2005 5.6 Unclear
World Health Survey World Health Organisation 2003 16.2
Functional Limitations. Among people 18-65 years old. Prevalence differs according to indicators used for analysis.
16.2% is quoted in a discussion paper.
31.9% is quoted in the World Report on Disability.
I prefer the 16.2% result because the method for getting it is clearly explained.

Other interesting data

The Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey 2003 is a large survey with details on the injuries that lead to permanent disabilities among children of different age-groups.