The International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Dec 1, 2017

Blog written by Hannah Walters, Feed the Minds’ Programme Manager, for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2017.

For people living in marginalised and poor communities life is tough; from having to source enough food to being able to pay for school fees and medical care. But, imagine what it would be like to live in poverty if you were also living with a disability? Not only is there often a stigma in rural communities about disabilities, but conditions such as blindness, deafness, epilepsy or other physical disabilities cause limitations to people’s ability to have a secure livelihood. Given that in many rural communities in the Global South people rely on subsistence farming for food, or jobs that require physical labour for their incomes, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to being trapped in a cycle of poverty and discrimination.

The statistics for people with disabilities in the Global South are staggering. Out of the 7 billion people in the world, over 1 billion have some form of disability, of which 80% live in a developing country. 50% of people with disabilities cannot even afford health care. It is no surprise that people with disabilities are known as “the world’s largest minority”.

According to the UN: “Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.”

This is why today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we want to raise awareness and also make a pledge to continually improve our policies and practices for the inclusion of people with disabilities in our practical adult education projects.

Pictured: some of the participants from our project in Uganda with local partner VAD.
Pictured: some of the participants from our project in Uganda with local partner VAD.

Our projects focus on supporting some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the world, including people with disabilities, who are often considered ‘too hard to reach’. For example, with our local partner VAD in Uganda, we worked with local community leaders to identify the number of persons with disabilities living in the project area who hadn’t registered for our vocational training. This is because after realising the numbers of persons with disabilities signing up for the project was low, VAD discovered that the majority weren’t putting themselves forward due to lack of confidence, lack of support from family members, or because they assumed they would be excluded. In response, VAD proactively reached out to them and their families to encourage participation.

Other ways we currently ensure people with disabilities access our projects are:

  • Persons with disabilities are likely to have suffered from a lack of access to education and therefore have on average lower literacy levels; through literacy awareness our projects are accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Transport and access issues are often a significant barrier limiting the participation of persons with disabilities in life-changing projects; we do all we can to ensure they are included in programming, for example through outreach and selection of accessible sites for activities.
  • By sensitising communities on human rights, we help to reduce discrimination. For example, in South Sudan we worked with our local partner, SEM, on a programmatic guide called ‘Education and rights: a toolkit for facilitators’, which included a section on the rights of persons with disabilities. SEM now supports persons with disabilities to access training and services through field worker outreach and builds the capacity of literacy facilitators to include learners with visual and hearing impairments.

The theme for this year’s International Day for Persons with Disabilities is ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all’, a theme that resonates with our values and commitment to the 2030 Agenda to ‘leave no one behind’. Please help us raise awareness by sharing this blog. To read more about this day, and the information and statistics mentioned above, visit the UN’s website here.