The World Health Organization (WHO) –-the UN’s international public health agency– and the World Bank –-the international financial institution whose official goal is the reduction of poverty-– have recently estimated that more than one billion people with disabilities are not receiving adequate access to mainstream services or specialized programs, with between 110-190 million of these people encountering significant difficulties. The organizations’ plea is for governments to increase efforts to improve their response to the needs of those with a disability. Few countries have even an ‘adequate’ mechanism in place.
Director-General for WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, says, “Disability is part of the human condition… Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life. We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities.”
Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, adds, “We need to help people with disabilities to gain equitable access to opportunities to participate and contribute to their communities. They have much to offer if given a fair chance to do so.”
To that, the authors of this first-ever “World Report On Disability” are hoping to raise awareness and inspire action. The WHO and the World Bank recommend that governments and their development partners provide their citizens who have disabilities:
- Access to all mainstream services;
- An investment in specific disability programs and services;
- A national disability plan of action strategy;
- An increase in public awareness and understanding;
- Support for further research and training;
- An open forum for discussion, design and implementation of these efforts.
The report positively cites many countries’ disabilities programs efforts thus far, including Uganda’s Sustainable Clubfoot Care Project, which improves detection and rehabilitation of children with clubfoot by raising public awareness that clubfoot is correctable, improves the provision of foot orthotics, trains primary health personnel, and subsidizes transport costs, and Vietnam’s pursuit to make its buildings handicap accessible, allowing children with disabilities to learn in mainstream schools, and to provide specialized support for individual students, with training for administrators, teachers and parents. Nearly 150 countries and regional organizations have signed on, committing themselves to removing barriers so that people with disabilities may participate fully in their societies.
“We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation for people with disabilities, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock their vast potential,” said renowned theoretical physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, welcoming this report. “It is my hope this century will mark a turning point for inclusion of people with disabilities in the lives of their societies.”
How do you feel your local community, state and country can improve accessibility?