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Disability rights

Posted on 30/01/2020
By Commonwealth Foundation

One billion people, or 15% of the global population are living with disabilities, and prevalence is higher in developing countries. The evidence shows that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) throughout the world are more likely to experience poverty.

The issues facing PWDs are similar across countries and range from difficulty accessing physical environments and transportation; prejudice and stigma in society; restricted access to employment and services; non-adapted means of communication; and non-availability of assistive devices and technologies.

‘Bangladesh is gathering information on PWDs by systematically drawing data from applications for disability cards.’

Despite a flurry of international and national commitments to address the needs of PWDs in recent decades—tangible progress has been slow. This is why our grants partners have been working with governments to turn commitment into action.

In Kenya, our partners have been organising and coordinating advocacy at the community and county levels for better laws, policies, and essential services. This activity has led to the formation of a national Disability Advocacy Coalition, which, among other achievements, has ensured the passage of a disability rights bill in Machakos County.

In India, our partners have been gathering robust data on women with disabilities from a range of primary and secondary sources to support newly appointed state Disability Commissioners. This data has already formed the basis for an alternative report to the United Nations, which looks at how India has met its obligations to women with disabilities under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In Bangladesh, our partners have formed groups of PWDs to engage with local authorities and strengthened processes and capacities within disabled person’s organisations so they can advocate to local and national government.

‘In relation to all three countries, it is likely that each has something to learn from the other.’

As Persons with Disabilities tend to face similar hurdles worldwide, many threads draw these projects together. Take data: reliable data is crucial in the planning and optimum delivery of services, and is particularly important for delivering social welfare payments. The Government of Bangladesh is gathering information on PWDs by systematically drawing data from applications for disability cards. Civil society organisations have been working to fill the data gap in India, while Kenya has no systematic approach to data collection on disabilities. In relation to all three countries, it is likely that each has something to learn from the other.

Given the considerable scope for cross-border learning, the Foundation is hosting a learning exchange in Bangalore, India, next week, to enable project leads from the three countries—and others from Ghana, Guyana, and Jamaica—to come together and share strategies for advancing disability rights.

The discussion will focus on how to improve government accountability to PWDs by leveraging existing laws, policies, and international frameworks.

The Disability Learning Exchange will take place from 3-5 February 2020. You can join the conversation online using #CWLearningExchange.