National governments in the South, as well as international bodies such as the World Bank, are finally beginning to take the issues of the extent, causes and implications of disability seriously. There is, however, a danger that data on people with disabilities are not being collected in the most reliable manner, resulting in flawed policies and inefficient use of resources. In this policy brief we argue:
that the identification of disability must not be seen merely as a technical issue (does someone have or not have a particular impairment) but also as a political one (what claims are being made by or about someone if they define an impairment as worthy of public attention);
that in large scale surveys, questions concerning disability must move beyond primarily medical definitions and reconceptualise disability in a functional and interactionist perspective;
that there is a greater place for qualitative studies of the social meanings of disability to illuminate the effects of changes in policy and in wider society.
Centre for Commonwealth Education, University of Cambridge, UK, 4 pp.