Putting people with disabilities at the heart of development


From September 25 to 27, 2015, representatives from nations around the globe met at the United Nations in New York to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for the period 2015-2030. This marks a decisive turning point in the lives of people with disabilities worldwide. They will now be taken into account in development policies from which they have long been excluded. Handicap International’s awareness and advocacy actions have helped bring about this considerable advance.

In 2000, the UN set out a 15 year global development framework. Called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this program has brought about a considerable reduction in global poverty and hunger: the under-5 child death rate has been cut by more than half since 1990; the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 1.8 billion to 800 million between 1999 and 2015; since 1990, there has been a 45% drop in the global maternal mortality rate.[1]

But the MDGs made one glaring omission. They completely ignored the needs of people with disabilities—excluding 15% of the global population from development policies! This was blatantly unfair, especially since 80% of people with disabilities live in poverty.

Leaving no one behind

This anomaly has now been addressed. With the deadline set to achieve the MDGs expiring this year, the leaders gathering at the UN in New York have committed themselves to a new 15-year global development program, based on 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). This time, the goals take into account people with disabilities, particularly in four areas: education, equality, inclusive employment and urbanization. This is an historic advance.

In the future, any country wishing to implement or finance a development project must ensure the needs of people with disabilities are taken into account. This means that those who know their needs best–people with disabilities–will at long last be consulted by authorities implementing development programs.

In the field of education and training, for example, which must be accessible to everyone, “including people with disabilities,” all school construction programs must include facilities accessible to people with disabilities. States also commit themselves to developing school programs addressed at children with disabilities. The SDGs will bring an end to urbanization policies, which ignore the accessibility needs of people with disabilities, and employment policies from which they are excluded.

Recognition for Handicap International’s actions
The SDGs show that Handicap International’s messages on the inclusion of people with disabilities have been heard by the international community. It is a wonderful endorsement of the organization and its work alongside people with disabled people for more than 30 years.

For nearly 20 years, Handicap International has run programs aimed at improving the social inclusion of people with disabilities in developing countries. Programs range from the promotion of inclusive employment for people with disabilities, to the training of health professionals in disability issues, the adaption of school equipment into Braille for the visually impaired, the presence of sign language interpreters for the Deaf, and the building of access ramps. The organization’s expertise is now indispensable.

Funding bodies and authorities in many countries must, for the first time, pay attention to disability issues. Handicap International is preparing to help them build development programs together so that people with disabilities can play a full role in their societies.