Today is International Day for Persons with Disabilities and an opportunity for us to reflect on why for so long disabled people have been excluded from the international development debate.
When the Millennium Development Goals were announced by world leaders at the United Nations in December 1999, there was no mention of disability in either the actual goals, or the supporting regulations. Disabled people were simply left out of the equation. Measurement of success of the goals and the work going into delivering them did not take into account disabled people and they did not earn a place in the surrounding statistics or evaluation. Could it be that by focusing on the easiest to reach groups in efforts to achieve targets, it now seems likely that the MDGs have diverted resources away from some of the poorest and most needy groups which include people with disabilities?
It is now time for the international community to stand up and make sure that people with disabilities are counted. Disabled people and the deafblind people that Sense International supports are some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world. If we are not measuring their levels of poverty, inequality and social mobility then how can we truly be measuring development? We need to redress the inequality and social exclusion facing disabled people.
Globally, one in every four households has a disabled member which means that two billion people are affected by disability on a daily basis. This has a direct impact on their social and economic status. The prevalence of disability is growing due to populations ageing and the global increase in chronic health conditions and the spread of disease. A strong cycle of chronic poverty and disability exist and indeed disabled people often experience poverty more acutely due to their complex needs.
In some of the poorest countries in the world the mortality rate for children with a disability can be as high as 60-80% even where the under five mortality rate has been reduced to less than 20%. This illustrates why we should be measuring development by those that need help the most and not those that need it the least.
The inclusion of disability in development is of benefit to everyone, not just disabled people. Highly unequal societies tend to progress more slowly; economic progress is less sustainable and this also reduces the impact of poverty reduction. For example, making health clinics accessible to people with sensory impairments such as those who are deafblind has the added advantage of benefiting older people or those with low levels of literacy thus benefiting whole communities health and wellbeing.
Sense International has been campaigning both in the UK and in the countries we operate in to make sure that disability isn't forgotten in development again. In the post-2015 agenda it is essential that disability is included at every level in development. This is why we want to see disability included in the regulations of the new framework, so that it is how success is measured and how we determine how well we are performing across the globe. This will ensure that disabled people are included at all levels of international development and will result in a more equal society across the globe.