Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The First World Report on Disability: A Summary of the Main Issues

by Mary Keogh

The first World Report on Disability was released this summer. The report was produced through a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank. A summary of the 300-page report is provided in this blog, highlighting the main issues and recommendations. The WHO/World Bank report presents a number of interesting findings on the prevalence of disability. The WHO’s original estimate for disability within a population was 10 percent, this report now estimates that there are over one billion people with disabilities in the world, accounting for approximately 15 percent of the world’s population. Evidence-based data was used to reach this figure, using a combination of data sets from the World Health Survey and the Global Burden of Disease. This new higher figure is due in part to the incidence of disability among aging populations and the global increase in chronic health conditions which frequently lead to disability.

The report also notes the fact that disability disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, for example it is more common among women, the elderly, and less affluent individuals. Additionally, the report notes that there is a higher prevalence of disability in lower income countries and reaffirms much of what is known from anecdotal evidence about the lived experience of individuals with disabilities. For example, individuals’ with disabilities susceptibility to poverty as a result of having a disability is explored, as are the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in accessing basic services and the reduced health and socioeconomic outcomes of individuals with disabilities compared to those without.

Overcoming these disadvantages experience by individuals with disabilities requires actions across all sectors. In recognition of this, the report has detailed chapters on a range of topics including education, employment. The report recognizes that the recent paradigm shift brought about by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will play a major role in tackling the disadvantage and exclusion faced by individuals with disabilities by bringing about the necessary changes in law and policy to promote the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

To tackle the wide range of issues faced by countries hoping to create an accessible and inclusive society for individuals with disabilities, the World Report provides a number of cross-cutting recommendations. In total, nine crosscutting recommendations are made that apply to the full range of stakeholders involved in creating an inclusive society. Implementing these recommendations requires that action be taken in a number of sectors, including the health sector, transportation, and infrastructure and education. Further, different actors such as local governments, international organizations such as the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and local groups of individuals with disabilities must be involved in the process. The report recognizes that recommendations be tailored to best fit the needs of each nation, and suggests that where resources are limited, international cooperation may be beneficial.

The recommendations are as follows:

1. Enable access to all mainstream policies, systems, and services

It is important to recognize that individuals with disabilities have the same needs as all other citizens. That is the need to be healthy, educated, and able to earn a living. The report recommends that these needs be met within mainstream society, as that is where individuals without disabilities receive these services. Mainstreaming requires a commitment at all levels, and must to be considered across all sectors and built into new and existing legislation, standards, policies, strategies, and plans.

2. Invest in specific programs and services for people with disabilities

The report suggests that in addition to mainstream services, some individuals with disabilities may require access to specific measures, such as rehabilitation, support services or training.

3. Adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action

The report recognizes that while disability should be a part of all development strategies and action plans, it is also recommended that a national disability strategy and plan of action be adopted. A national disability plan would set out the long-term vision for individuals with disabilities in a country.

4. Involve people with disabilities

Throughout the report, there is a continuing theme of the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. It recognizes that individuals with disabilities often have unique insights about their disability and their situation. In formulating and implementing policies, laws, and services, individuals with disabilities should be consulted and actively involved.

5. Improve human resource capacity

The report addresses the need for training to change attitudes and knowledge on disability. It recommends that relevant training on disability, which incorporates human rights principles, be integrated into current curricula and accreditation programs so as to foster a positive approach to disability. These programs could be delivered to individuals working in services accessed by individuals with disabilities as well as mainstream services; for example, education, health care, rehabilitation, social protection, labor, law enforcement, and the media.

6. Provide adequate funding and improve affordability

The report found that public services for individuals with disabilities are often inadequately funded, affecting the availability and quality of such services. It recommends that adequate and sustainable funding of publicly provided services is needed to ensure that they reach all targeted beneficiaries and that quality services are provided. It also explores the idea of contracting out service provision, fostering public-private partnerships – notably with not-for profit organizations – and devolving budgets to individuals with disabilities for consumer-directed care as contributors to better service provision.

7. Increase public awareness and understanding of disability

The report recognizes that there is a need to improve public understanding of disability, confront negative perceptions, and represent disability fairly. It cites a number of means by which this can be accomplished in education and employment. For example, education authorities should ensure that schools are inclusive and have an ethos of valuing diversity. Employers should be encouraged to accept their responsibilities towards staff with disabilities.

8. Improve disability data collection

The report found that there is no universal system for collecting data on disability. It recommends that data be standardized and internationally comparable for benchmarking and monitoring progress on disability policies, and for the implementation of the CRPD nationally and internationally.

9. Strengthen and support research on disability

The report recognizes that research is essential for increasing public understanding about disability issues, informing disability policy and programs, and efficiently allocating resources.

To read the report in detail, please click here

To view the accompanying videos to the report, where people with disabilities tell their own story, please click here .