Disability: A long neglected issue

A GREAT BRITISH VIEW - Daniel Pruce - The Philippine Star

Next week, on 24 July, the United Kingdom will be hosting the Global Disability Summit.

I’m proud that, with the Government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance (IDA), we will be taking the lead in uniting the global effort for greater inclusion of some of the world’s poorest and most neglected people.

Disability inclusion is a long neglected and under-prioritised issue in international development. An estimated one billion people are living with some form of disability in developing countries, yet funding is limited and it is rarely included in national or international, UN, bilateral or civil society development initiatives.

People with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries are poorer than their non-disabled peers in terms of access to education, healthcare, employment, income, justice, social support and civic involvement and are more likely to experience multiple deprivations.

The Summit will tackle stigma and discrimination. It will deliver greater inclusion in education. It will help identify routes to economic empowerment such as anti-discrimination laws, training schemes and universal design. And it will harness technology and innovation eg through expanded access of assistive devices and also improved access to cross the ‘digital divide’ through new technologies. The Summit will consider conflict and humanitarian settings where people with disabilities face additional obstacles due to existing vulnerabilities and also tackle gender issues faced by women and girls with disabilities, including violence and access to family planning.

We will call for renewed focus and attention on implementation of existing policies that uphold the rights of persons with disabilities. The Summit will deliver on many of the promises made in the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and in the 2030 Global Goals.

Carmen Zubiaga, executive director of the National Council for Disability Affairs, will attend the Summit on behalf of the Philippines. We met earlier this week to discuss the national and global challenges faced by people with disabilities. I was delighted to learn about Carmen’s work with local government units to achieve real and lasting change at community level. Under her leadership the NCDA is active with a broad range of public and private sector stakeholders here in the Philippines and internationally. Carmen will be joined in London by Ryan Gersava, the founder of Virtualahan, a social enterprise that empowers people with disabilities through digital work. I am sure both will make an enormous contribution to the Summit.

I discovered a few years ago that I have epilepsy. I’m conscious that I was lucky enough to have access to high quality healthcare. And I still benefit from ongoing support from the UK’s National Health Service. Through that I have been able to find medication which controls my condition and receive advice on other steps I can take to reduce the risk of seizures. I was lucky to have an understanding employer which fulfilled its obligations under UK law to provide practical adjustments in the office to enable me to continue to work.

All of this helped me to get on with my life and my career. But so many people across the world do not have access to the support that I had. The Global Summit on Disability is about changing that.

By working together, those taking part on 24 July will achieve lasting change for people with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries, and contribute to a healthier, fairer and more prosperous future for all.

(Daniel Pruce is the British Ambassador to the Philippines. Twitter @DanielPruce)



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