Last week I heard that Lawrence, a young boy I met a while ago in Kenya, had passed his exams and scored in the top 25 per cent of children in the country. What is exceptional is that Lawrence is blind. Unlike so many other children with disabilities across the world, Lawrence was able to attend school because of his government's commitment to making sure all children with disabilities have an education. Many children with disabilities around the World are denied this right and excluded simply because they have a disability. Imagine that. Being told, as a six year old child, "you can never go to school".
Today is an enormously exciting day for me and for those of us who work with people with disabilities like Lawrence. That's because the International Development Committee has published its eagerly-awaited report on disability and international development. If the promise of the report is fulfilled the UK would have a transformative impact on the lives of more than one billion people like Lawrence and his family who are affected by disability and the barriers created by society, every day.
The report echoes the main call in Sightsavers' Put Us in the Picture campaign that DFID should develop and implement "a disability strategy with clear targets and timescales". A strategy, to me, provides the backbone to a genuine commitment to inclusion of people with disabilities. It would inform, guide and prioritise all the more detailed actions DFID can take, to ensure people with disabilities are included in all development programmes. These should include having a voice in setting development priorities and benefitting from well-designed specific interventions that empower them to participate fully in society and allow them to access services.
The fact that the Committee chose to look into this subject in such detail is in itself a landmark decision. They have brought together the voices and expertise of people with disabilities, NGOs and governments from around the World to produce a thorough report that sets out in detail what DFID should do to embed disability across all of its work.
The Prime Minister has already spoken in favour of a global development framework specifically designed to 'leave no-one behind'. This report provides the opportunity for the government to live up to that vision. However ground-breaking this report is - and it is! - it will only change things for the world's one billion people with a disability if the Government takes up its recommendations.
Over the next few months DFID will have to consider how it responds to the challenge it has been set by the Committee. We would urge DFID to ensure that it rises to the occasion and accepts the Committees' calls. If it does, DFID will follow the report's call to lead by example, influence national and international partners to do the same, and take a leadership role in driving the global development agenda to include people with disabilities. DFID staff and Ministers can already be proud of the steps taken to create lasting change for people with disabilities. This is a chance for that change to be truly transformational and for stories like Lawrence's to be the norm, not the exception.