Press release

UK pledge to help tackle the ‘great neglect’ of disability

Lynne Featherstone announces UK support to ensure all school construction in the developing world is designed to allow disability access.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Lynne Featherstone meets Mosharraf Hossain Country Director for ADD International in Bangladesh. Picture: Fernando Olivas/ IDA & IDDC

Lynne Featherstone meets Mosharraf Hossain Country Director for ADD International in Bangladesh. Picture: Fernando Olivas/ IDA & IDDC

Children with disabilities in the developing world will be able to access and use all schools built from now on with direct UK funding, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone has announced.

She used the High Level Meeting on Development and Disability taking place the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York – the biggest disability rights meeting in 5 years – to call on the international community to tackle the ‘great neglect’ of 1 billion people globally who face unequal access to education, employment, healthcare, social support and justice as a result of disability.

Speaking at UNGA, Lynne Featherstone said:

Those living with a disability are disproportionately some of the poorest and most marginalised people in the world – part of an unseen great neglect. It is telling that of the 57 million children currently out of school in the world today, over a third have a disability.

As a global community, we have a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable. If developing countries are to move forward into prosperity and greater self-reliance, they must take everyone on the journey.

That’s why from this day forward, all schools built with the direct support of British taxpayers will be designed to allow disability access.

With the ongoing discussion of what development should focus on when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to finally put disability on the agenda.

New UK measures to help include:

  • Ensuring all school construction the UK directly supports in the developing world is designed to allow disability access. New schools will be built using ‘universal design’, with easily accessible entry points and toilets, wide entry doors, wide aisles, ramps with railings and handles, and water points with easy-access levers.

  • Working with partners to improve the global data on disability, in particular focusing on children with disabilities and their special educational needs, and on information about access to water and sanitation facilities.

  • Urging governments in the countries we support to deliver on their commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Dominic Haslam, Director of Policy at Sightsavers said:

It’s encouraging to see the UK government leading the way in its support of the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities. These new measures have the potential to make a real difference in the fight against poverty and discrimination, enabling thousands of disabled children to get the quality education they deserve.

It’s vital that as a global community we empower people with disabilities to participate in this week’s negotiations. This is our opportunity to listen to the voices that so often go unheard.

Notes to editors

  • DFID is already incorporating disability into programmes across Africa and Asia, and recently committed £2 million towards an additional 3 years support to the Disability Rights Fund – the only grant-making organisation to solely and directly support disabled people’s organisations in developing countries.
  • The internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have done a great deal to address global poverty, but the gap where improving the lives of people with disabilities should have been has hindered progress.
  • The UN’s High Level Panel, set up to present the UN Secretary-General with a vision of what the development framework should look like after the MDGs expire, set out that the post 2015 development agenda should ‘leave no one behind’, regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status.
  • Sightsavers is a registered UK charity (registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities.

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Published 23 September 2013