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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

International Perspectives on Disability

Historically viewed as welfare recipients, persons with disabilities are now recognised under international law as right-holders, with a claim to the right to education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunities. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), the World Declaration on Education for All (1990), the United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993), and the Salamanca Declaration and Framework for Action (1994) all embody measures testifying to the growing awareness and understanding of the right of persons with disabilities to education.

Recognition of inclusion as the key to achieving the right to education has strengthened over the past 30 years, and is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (herein after: the Convention), the first legally binding instrument to contain a reference to the concept of quality inclusive education. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 also affirms inclusive quality and equitable education. Inclusive education is central to achieving high quality education for all learners, including those with disabilities, and for the development of inclusive, peaceful and fair societies. Furthermore, there is a powerful educational, social, and economic case to be made. The OHCHR Thematic Study of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Education (2013) affirms that only inclusive education can provide both quality education and social development for persons with disabilities, and a guarantee of universality and non-discrimination in the right to education.

However, despite progress achieved, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (herein after: the Committee) is concerned that profound challenges persist. Many millions of persons with disabilities continue to be denied a right to education, and for many more, education is available only in settings where they are isolated from their peers and receive an inferior quality of provision.
At US News, Deirdre McPhillips notes a big problem:
 Disability statistics on a global scale are almost nonexistent, experts say. Efforts to collect, standardize and analyze international data have been scattered, largely due to challenges defining disability and to ingrained discrimination that has made disabled people less of a priority in policymaking.

High levels of shame and stigma attached to disability cause underreporting, by both individuals who resist acknowledging their limitations and by governments that don't consider people with disability when conducting census and other surveys.

On a basic level, the logistics behind segregating disability data are simply more difficult than those for gender, race or other commonly tracked demographics, experts and advocates say. With such a wide variety of individual experiences potentially falling under the same umbrella, determining the percentage of people with a disability within a population presents complications. Prevalence estimates vary widely from country to country, ranging from 24 percent in New Zealand to 1.5 percent in Iran, according to the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in 2015.

"Defining disability prevalence is almost an impossible task. It is not us versus them, and we must demystify this magic number that is making everyone crazy," says Dr. Alarcos Cieza, coordinator for disability and rehabilitation with the World Health Organization.