LibLink… Lynne Featherstone: UK will help tackle the Great Neglect of disability

Lynne Featherstone, in New York for the UN General Assembly, has written for the Huffington Post about what the UK is doing to help those with disabilities in developing countries.

First she outlined why this is necessary:

More than one billion people worldwide live with disability and suffer huge discrimination as a result. They face unequal access to education, employment, healthcare, social support and the justice system. Consequently, they are disproportionately some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world – part of an unseen great neglect.

The internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have done a great deal to address global poverty, but the gap where improving the lives of people with disabilities should have been has hindered progress. Thirteen years after the MDGs were agreed, disability remains the poor relation amongst development goals.

This isn’t good enough. People with a disability face specific day-to-day challenges that the rest of us don’t. They need tailored measures, such as providing school texts in braille. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for them. It is telling that of the 57million children currently out of school in the world today, over a third have a disability.

So what is the UK doing on her watch?

That’s why I’m announcing this week that the Department for International Development will help address this by ensuring that from this day forward, all of the school construction we directly support is designed to allow disability access. This means building schools with easily accessible entry points, wide entry doors, wide aisles, and ramps with railings and handles. It will also ensure water points have easy access levers and that toilets are designed for easy access. In other words, children with disabilities will be able to access all of those schools.

But a new long term development plan is vital:

The UN’s High Level Panel, set up to present the UN Secretary-General with a vision of what the development framework should look like after the MDGs expire, have set out that the post 2015 development agenda should ‘leave no one behind’, regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status. The world’s leaders are now negotiating and considering the Panel’s vision and the UK is determined to do everything possible to ensure the final post-2015 framework sticks with this single overarching goal.

This week’s meeting is a positive sign that the UN is serious about strengthening the rights of disabled people around the world. Drawing international attention to this issue and driving progress will be my key priorities for UNGA. As a global community, we have a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable and if we are to defeat poverty we must tackle the causes as well as the symptoms. In many countries and communities, the barriers people with disabilities face means they have no chance of lifting themselves out of poverty and reaching their full potential.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Richard Dean 25th Sep '13 - 1:30pm

    While this small effort may be welcome, I imagine that many in developing countries may find Lynne’s remarks offensive. Many such countries already recognize the need to cater for disability, and do so in a more comprehensive, and locally more meaningful, way. The answer to “So what is the UK doing on her watch?” seems to be “fixing some of the mistakes we made previously” – widening the doors and providing the toilets that we previously forgot. I suppose its progress, perhaps the best that can be done with a limited budget. But in those developing countries where disability is ignored, the real progress will come from changing minds, not changing hardware.

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