As stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all people with disabilities must be able to “enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others.” But for many people with disabilities living in developing countries, and particularly for women and girls, this is far from the case.
Disability more than doubles a child’s chances of being out of school, and girls with disabilities are disproportionately affected by this. When schools are inclusive – with resources like braille materials, sign language teachers, accessible toilets and trained support staff – it means children with disabilities can attend and learn with their peers.
People with disabilities in developing countries often struggle to find jobs and support themselves and their families. And this negatively impacts everyone: by excluding people with disabilities from the labour market, countries can lose as much as 7% of their national GDP. But when opportunities to work and manage money are available, the difference can be incredible.
Being able to access health care is a basic human right. But for all people to benefit, hospitals and health services need to be disability-inclusive – that means accessible buildings, staff who don’t discriminate, and equipment, information and treatment appropriate for the people who need them.
In many developing countries the voices of people with disabilities are not heard in the decisions that affect their lives. People with disabilities experience barriers to political processes including inaccessible information and voting materials, lack of ID documentation and verbal abuse – and few people with disabilities are supported to stand for political positions. Inclusion can allow all people to exercise their right to participate in political processes.
Women with disabilities often face discrimination on the grounds of both gender and disability, and violence against women with disabilities “remains at shockingly high rates”. Empowerment and education on rights can help change this.
An end to discrimination and stigma
In many countries, attitudes towards disability are overwhelmingly negative and based on fear and superstition. Inclusive schools and employment programmes have a huge impact on communities: as people see with their own eyes that disability is no barrier to learning or working, their attitudes are transformed.