– The National Council on Disability today released the following statement on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2011:
NCD observes the 19th International Day of Disabled Persons, first recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1992. The theme of this year’s observance is “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.”
Why is meaningful involvement by persons with disabilities in international development important? The United States invests billions of taxpayer dollars into foreign assistance programs that foster international diplomacy and development annually, aimed at improving the quality of life for people around the world. These programs develop economies, promote democracy and governance, provide humanitarian assistance, build new infrastructure, and advance and protect human rights. Given that 15 percent of the world population is made up of people with disabilities, and growing, the United States cannot effectively accomplish the goals of foreign assistance programs unless it ensures programs are accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities.
Conservative estimates by the World Health Organization suggest more than one billion people, an estimated 15 percent of the world’s population, have a disability. 80 percent of these individuals live in developing nations. Although people with disabilities make up a large segment of the global population, they continue to face worldwide discrimination and segregation at alarming levels. Moreover, numbers are likely gravely underestimated because people with disabilities are typically shunned, hidden from public view by their families, and commonly excluded from community activities.
Exclusion from the built environment prevents use of necessary services and resources that non-disabled populations take for granted. These barriers have a negative, spiraling effect. Physical barriers also keep people with disabilities from using voting centers, polling places, courthouses, administrative agencies, schools, and embassies.
Those who aren’t hidden by families or communities of origin are often left to languish in institutions – further removing them from civic and social engagement. Conflict and poverty continue to increase the incidence rates of disability in less developed and industrialized economies alike. Already significant numbers are rising due to a variety of factors including aging, poverty, armed conflict, as well as improved data collection.
Overseas economic development will not be successful unless people with disabilities are included. If development is not inclusive, the significant numbers of people with disabilities in developing countries will hinder the very economic growth the U.S. seeks to facilitate. NCD recommends both micro-level solutions to spark income generation in coordination with large scale interventions to create the kinds of legal and regulatory structures to better serve and benefit from the contributions of people with disabilities.
As the world observes the 19th International Day of Persons with Disabilities, NCD welcomes the opportunity to focus greater attention to workable solutions to concerns faced by people with disabilities, their families and the diverse communities people live in around the globe.
About NCD: Founded in 1978, the National Council on Disability is a small, independent federal agency comprised of 15 Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Council Members and a small staff, who advise the President, Congress and other Federal agencies on disability policy, programs and services.