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World Report on disability podcast

10 June 2011 -- In New York this week, the World Health Organization, together with the World Bank, launched the first ever World report on disability.

Transcript of the podcast

Tom Shakespeare: You're listening to the WHO podcast and my name is Tom Shakespeare. In New York this week, the World Health Organization, together with the World Bank, launched the first ever World report on disability.

The World report on disability will support implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or CRPD which came into force in 2008 and which has now been ratified by 100 countries. We asked Maria Soledad Cisterna, a lawyer from Chile, who is deputy chair of the CRPD committee, to explain some of the problems faced by people with disabilities worldwide.

Maria Cisterna (voice over by Elena Altieri): It is the issue of personal integrity, the situation of people who are forced to endure, against their free and informed consent, forced sterilization, invasive surgery, medical research, forced treatment, institutionalization. I feel that these are very delicate and important areas in the life of a person. In addition, exposure to violence, abuse and exploitation of people with disabilities in institutions and also in the community. Also don't forget the problems of implementing inclusive education for people with disabilities or simply difficulties finding employment.

Tom Shakespeare: Over 370 experts from around the world helped write the report. Alana Officer, WHO executive editor for the publication, highlights the type of barriers which they identified.

Alana Officer: There are over a billion people with disabilities in the world and they face widespread barriers in accessing services, health, education, employment, transport as well as information. Either these services are unavailable or when they are available, they are inadequately funded, there are barriers of physical access and negative attitudes, As a result, people with disabilities are more likely to be living in poverty, have poorer health, lower levels of educational achievement, and are dependent.

Tom Shakespeare: Each chapter in the report offers specific ways forward and the report as a whole concludes with cross-cutting recommendations.

Alana Officer: The first recommendation of the report is to enable access to all mainstream services, because people with disabilities have ordinary needs. Second, to invest in specific programmes and services for people with disabilities, like rehabilitation, support and assistance or vocational training. Third, to adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action, so that all stakeholders can join forces to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Tom Shakespeare: The report finds that the global prevalence of disability is 15%, higher than previous WHO estimates. Somnath Chatterji, of the WHO Department of Health Statistics and Informatics, tells us how this figure was obtained.

Somnath Chatterji: The first thing is that we have defined disability in a very different way. So we are not thinking of disability as a problem of a minority of people who have impairments. But what we believe is disability is any decrease in functioning, which means that every person can potentially be disabled.

So what we did, we took a data set, a large data set of about 250 000 people from the World Health Survey, looked at the kinds of difficulties people experience in their day to day functioning, and using that information, we set a threshold to get a number. And this threshold has been defined by looking at the functioning of people who have diabetes, who have heart disease, who have arthritis and use that to set our cut off, and compared that to people who have, for example. blindness, or people who are paralysed or people who cannot remember things and matched that as well. So we are certain that the people we are talking about are people who have significant difficulties in their functioning.

Tom Shakespeare: The report suggests that rates of disability are increasing, and that disability is concentrated among more vulnerable populations.

Somnath Chatterji: Disability, we find, increases as people grow older and its much more common in women than in men, it is common among the poor, and in low-income countries.

Tom Shakespeare: The World report is intended for use by governments and other partners who can adapt the report's recommendations and remove barriers to the participation of people with disabilities. Aleksandra Posarac, World Bank executive editor of the report explains.

Aleksandra Posarac: This report is going to make a difference because this is a report based on available evidence, on the knowledge, it provides good practice examples. I really hope that, in all countries, every country in the world would find something useful in this report which is going to be implemented in practice and is going to contribute to improvements of the lives of people with disabilities.

Tom Shakespeare: Disabled people's organizations are key partners in this effort, as AK Dube, from the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, tells us.

AK Dube: The World report on disability provides us with evidence on the status quo in terms of disability work world wide. So the findings are important, the recommendations are important, and like all reports, what is essential is that it must be properly disseminated and it is properly utilized. We are expecting to use the evidence from that report to support our national disability mainstreaming strategies in terms of planning, but also to help governments to understand how to mainstream disability.

Tom Shakespeare: If you want to learn more about global disability, you can download the whole report, or the summary document, or the fact sheet from the WHO web site. You can also view the four video stories of disabled people at the WHO YouTube Channel. That's all for this podcast, and thank you for listening. This is Tom Shakespeare for the World Health Organization in Geneva.