15/11/2013 09:46 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

Disability: Emerging From the Shadows?

This week, the UK's International Development Select Committee announced a new inquiry into disability and development. What will be its impact?

In 2008, Parliament released a report on the UK's international development support for maternal health. At the time maternal health was a real Cinderella issue - the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) with little progress and even fewer resources.

Five years' on, maternal health is a UK Government priority, has massive investment, and we are seeing a huge reduction in the number of women and children dying in childbirth globally.

Choose the right issue at the right time, and a Parliamentary inquiry really can change the debate - and more importantly, change lives.

This is why I'm delighted by the announcement of a Parliamentary inquiry into disability and development. This is a chance for the voices of people with disabilities from around the world to be heard in UK Parliament, and to affect the spending decisions made by one of the world's leading aid donors.

People with disabilities have been let down by the international community, they are often ignored and are some of the most marginalised people in the communities where Sightsavers works. Even where progress is made, because of stigma and discrimination, people with disabilities often miss out.

This is clearly the right issue to focus on. And this is also the right time - in the last few months we have seen a UK development Minister declare that disability is the "great neglect", the discussions about a framework to replace the MDGs are talking about leaving no one behind, and there is growing awareness that we will not eliminate global poverty without actively including people with disabilities and other marginalised groups.

So what's needed? For a start, we need to know more about the problem. Take this UK government response to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request, for example. The Department for International Development (DFID) explain that they do not measure how much aid is spent on supporting people with disabilities.

That isn't acceptable. Any more than it would be to not measure how much aid is spent on supporting other marginalised groups, such as women, older people or children.

Or take this literature review of disability inclusive humanitarian relief that Sightsavers recently carried out, where we found just six sources presenting evidence of inclusive practice.

We know from our work and our experience that little is being done by the international community to support over 1 billion people with disabilities in the world.

Their voices are not being heard and they are much more likely to be, and stay, in poverty.

Frustratingly, because so little is being done, we don't have the global data to prove the impact that this lack of attention is having on people with disabilities.

Let's hope that this inquiry can help people with disabilities to move out of the shadows into the mainstream of international development programmes. They deserve no better, or worse, than anyone else.