Scale of Disability in Iran
There are no official up-to-date statistics on how many of Iran’s 80 million people have disabilities. Based on 2015 data from the three government agencies providing services to people with disabilities, more than 1.87 million (4.2 percent of the population) were registered as having disabilities. The 2011 national census found that just 1.35 percent of the population has a disability, but experts, including officials from the State Welfare Organization, questioned the accuracy of the data.
The actual number of people with disabilities in Iran is likely much higher. Some public officials have acknowledged that the number of persons with disabilities in Iran is likely between 11 and 14 percent. According to the World Health Organization and the World Bank, 15 percent of the world’s population lives with a disability.
The discrepancy between official data and actual numbers may often be linked to stigma and bureaucratic hurdles. Stigma is especially strong in rural areas, according to those interviewed, particularly for people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities and girls with disabilities. Some families hide family members with disabilities at home and prohibit them from participating in social activities or education. In 2015, the director of Iran’s Special Education Organization stated that while there are roughly 110,000 children with disabilities attending primary and secondary education in Iran, there are likely two to three times more children with disabilities, given that many families hide their children at home.
Far fewer women and girls with disabilities are registered with state agencies than men and boys. According to the SWO, only 35 percent of registered persons with disabilities are female. The entrenched stigma about females with disabilities, as well as broader restrictions on independence for women and girls in Iran, likely contributes to this.
Low registration rates are also prevalent for persons with psychosocial disabilities. According to a 2011 Ministry of Health study, 23.6 percent of 15 to 64-year-olds in Iran (12.5 million people) had some form of mental health condition. In order to qualify as having a psychosocial disability and to register with SWO, a person must be diagnosed as “having chronic mental disease.” In 2017, only 8 percent of persons with disabilities registered with the SWO were considered to have mental health conditions.
In many of the provinces and cities where we were able to access information, there was a considerable difference between the number of persons the Organization of Persons with Disabilities (DPOs) and advocates identified as having disabilities and the number of those registered and supported by the SWO’s offices. For example, in Piranshahr, a town in northwest Iran with a population of around 130,000, disability advocates have identified 640 persons with disabilities with high support needs who are not registered or supported by any government agency.
Domestic law mandates the Iran Statistics Center to collect data on the number of persons with disabilities in every census and to disaggregate the data on the type of disability.Yet, there is no government system in place to collect and make public data about persons with disabilities in Iran, or the barriers they face exercising their rights. Furthermore, existing data is not disaggregated based on age, sex, gender, ethnic, religious, or linguistic background, migrant, asylum seeking or refugee status. Following the 2011 census’s low reporting of persons with disabilities, rather than strengthening their data collection system, the Iran Statistics Center removed all questions on disability in the 2016 census.During its March 2017 review under the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which monitors states’ compliance with the CRPD, Iranian officials provided updated statistics on the number of persons with disabilities registered, but the Committee concluded that this data did not meet the CRPD’s requirements for data that states are required to collect, disaggregate, and openly publish.