Disability and Development

Disability can be both a cause and a consequence of poverty. In total 15% of the world’s population live with a disability, 80% of those persons live in a developing country. Disability-inclusive development is crucial to alleviating world poverty as persons with disabilities are much more likely to experience adverse socio-economic outcomes, and are also more vulnerable to economic-related shocks.

The UN claim that the most pressing issue facing persons with disabilities is not the disability itself, but their vulnerability to poverty. Persons with disabilities regularly feature in the lowest quintile of any given development outcome. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s poorest people experience some kind of disability. The OECD estimates that on average 19% of less-educated people experience some kind of disability. Disability does not just intersect with poverty, it drives it.

Addressing the rights and the needs of the most vulnerable must include addressing the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Development co-operation is beginning to recognise persons with disabilities as a demographic and disability-inclusive development programmes have gone a long way to ensuring that those with a disability do not also experience adverse outcomes - but there is much more that needs to be done.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has contributed enormously to recognising that the specific needs of persons with disabilities must be addressed. It places obligations on states to ensure that persons with disabilities are given a fair chance to a dignified and full life. Ireland’s ratification of the CRPD was an important step forward for disability-inclusive development in domestically.

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