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The World Health Organization's Report on Disability

  • Date: 2011/06/13 (Rev. 2019/01/12)
  • Wendy Taormina-Weiss - Disabled World
  • Synopsis : The World Health Organization and The World Bank present a new global estimate concerning the numbers of People with Disabilities in the world.

Main Document

The World Health Organization (WHO) and The World Bank have presented a new global estimate concerning the numbers of People with Disabilities in the world.

"Governments throughout the world can no longer overlook the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied access to health, rehabilitation, support, education and employment, and never get the chance to shine." - Stephen Hawking on the World Report on Disability

The World Health Organization (WHO) and The World Bank have presented a new global estimate concerning the numbers of People with Disabilities in the world. While prior estimates had placed our numbers in the hundreds of millions, the WHO now states that there are around One-Billion People with Disabilities on Planet Earth. The WHO, in conjunction with The World Bank, are urging governments of nations around the world to increase their efforts to enable access to mainstream services, as well as to invest in specialized programs in order to unlock the incredible potentials of People with Disabilities.

Unfortunately, the number of countries with adequate mechanisms in place to respond to the needs of People with Disabilities are few in number. Several issues continue to pervade in countries without appropriate mechanisms to serve the populations of Persons with Disabilities within their nations, to include:

  • Inaccessible transportation
  • Barriers such as discrimination and stigma
  • A lack of adequate health care and rehabilitation services
  • A lack of adequate buildings, information, and communication technologies

Due to these issues, People with Disabilities experience poorer health and higher rates of poverty than non-disabled persons. We experience lower educational achievements, as well as fewer economic opportunities.

Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan states, "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, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society."

Key Findings and Recommendations from the Report

The report by the WHO and the World Bank reveals that People with Disabilities are more than two-times as likely to have health care providers with skills that are inadequate to meet their needs. We are three times as likely to report that we have been denied health care that we need, a fact that is telling where levels of adequate health care services are concerned. Low-income nations find People with Disabilities with a fifty-percent increase in the likelihood they will experience catastrophic health expenditures over non-disabled persons.

Children with Disabilities are less likely to begin school than non-disabled ones; they also have lower rates of remaining in school. The employment rate for People with Disabilities, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) countries, is forty-four percent; a figure that is slightly over half of the rate of seventy-five percent for non-disabled persons.

The WHO's report makes some recommendations in regards to these issues.

One of them is that governments and their specific partners provide People with Disabilities access to all mainstream services. Another is that governments invest in specific programs and services for People with Disabilities who are in need. The report suggest governments adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action.

Additionally, the report suggests governments should work to increase the understanding of the general public about disability. The WHO believes governments should support research and training in the area of public awareness of disability issues as well. It is important to note the report states People with Disabilities ourselves should be consulted and involved with the design and implementation processes of these very efforts.

The report is the first World Report on People with Disabilities

  • It highlights a number of approaches being used by countries around the world to enable People with Disabilities to access infrastructure, services, and jobs. Examples of these approaches include:
  • In Curitiba, Brazil, an integrated public transport system improves access for people with disabilities by adopting universal design and sensitizing drivers and other staff.
  • In Malaysia, the Return to Work program enables people with occupational injury-related disability to return to full-time employment by coordinating rehabilitation services and welfare support.
  • In Mozambique and United Republic of Tanzania, training workshops with information in Braille and sign language ensure that HIV messages reach young people with disabilities.
  • In Uganda, the Sustainable Clubfoot Care Project improves detection and rehabilitation of children with clubfoot by raising public awareness that clubfoot is correctable, improving the provision of foot orthotics, training primary health personnel, and subsidizing transport costs.
  • In Viet Nam, children with disabilities are able to learn in mainstream schools by revising policies, making buildings accessible, providing specialized support for individual students, and training administrators, teachers and parents.

Almost one-hundred and fifty countries and regional organizations have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), while one-hundred have ratified it. Ratification is a commitment to the removal of barriers so People with Disabilities can participate fully in their own societies. The World Report on Disability was developed with contributions from greater than three-hundred and eighty experts and will be a key resource for countries in the implementation of the CRPD.

People with disabilities experience generally poorer health. We have lower educational achievements, find ourselves with fewer economic opportunities, and also experience higher rates of poverty than non-disabled persons. The reasons for this include a lack of services that are available to us, as well as a number of obstacles we face each day in our lives. The World Report provides governments with the best available evidence about what works where overcoming barriers to health care, rehabilitation, employment, education, and support services are concerned. It gives governments evidence they can use to create the environments that will enable People with Disabilities to flourish in society. The report concludes with a concrete set of recommended actions for governments and their partners to use.

The World Report on Disability will make a significant contribution to implementation of the CRPD.

The report is at the intersection of human rights, public health and development. It is set to become a necessary resource for service providers, policy-makers, advocates, professionals, People with Disabilities, our family members and friends.

There are in excess of one-billion people with disabilities in the world today. Nearly two-hundred million of us experience great difficulties in functioning. The years ahead bring even more concern because the prevalence is rising. The reason for the rise in prevalence is due to populations which are aging, as well as the higher risk of disability in people who are older. Another reason involves the increase in chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health disabilities, and cancer.

Robert B. Zoellick, President of The World Bank Group stated, "Addressing the health, education, employment, and other development needs of people living with disabilities is fundamental to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. 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."

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