Persons with Disabilities

Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret
Voters turn out in Dili to cast their vote for the parliamentary elections in the morning. A national observer with disability is obesrving the process.

Some 10 per cent of the world’s population, approximately 650 million people, live with a disability.  They are the world’s largest minority, and some 80 per cent of them live in developing countries.  Among the worlds poorest people, 20 per cent have some kind of disability.  Women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse.  Persons with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence or rape, and are less likely to obtain police intervention, legal protection or preventive care. Some 30 per cent of street youths have some kind of disability, and in developing countries, 90 per cent of children with disabilities do not attend school.

[Amputees play in a football game]

In the developed world, a 2004 United States survey found that only 35 per cent of working-age persons with disabilities are in fact working — compared to 78 per cent of those without disabilities.  In a 2003 study by Rutgers University, one third of employers surveyed said persons with disabilities cannot effectively perform the required job tasks.  The second most common reason given for not hiring persons with disabilities was the fear of costly special facilities.

The needs and rights of persons with disabilities have been high on the United Nations agenda for at least three decades.  Most recently, after years of effort, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocolwas adopted in 2006 and entered into effect on 3 May 2008.

 “UN Enable”, which gives voice to the United Nations commitment to uphold the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, describes the Convention as marking a paradigm shift.  It takes to a new height the movement away from viewing persons with disabilities as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection, towards viewing them as subjects having rights.  And as such, they are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent, as well as of being active members of society.

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