Boy, called Levi, lost one leg when stepping on a landmine. On the photo he is doing his homework

A definition of disability?

Disability is a human rights issue, because of the numerous abuses, violations of rights and denial of autonomy that are encountered on a daily basis by people with disabilities around the world. Strongly linked to poverty and increased vulnerability, with limited access to education, employment and medical care, disability is a development concern as well.

"Impairment" and "Disability" are different:

  • Impairments are the problems in body function or structure that are physical, sensory, neurological, intellectual, mental or physiological. They can be cause by disease or injury and can affect a person's functioning or appearance. Impairments can be short-term or long-term, temporary or permanent.
  • Disability is the result of limitations - or "barriers" - imposed on people with impairments that prevent their full participation in society. These limitations can be other people's discriminatory attitudes, inaccessible physical and/or communication environments (for example a flight of stairs can prevent a wheelchair user to access a building) and prohibitive institutional, legal and cultural rules and practices.

Key facts on disability

    • There are 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide that's 1 person in 7.
    • Vulnerable groups - Women, poor and older people and ethnic minorities- are disproportionally at higher risk of becoming disabled.
    • The prevalence of disability is higher in low income countries (18% of the population is disabled) compared to higher income countries (11,8%)
    • People with disabilities are much more likely to be unemployed than their non-disabled peers.
    • Children with disabilities are much less likely to enrol and attend school than their non-disabled peers. In fact, it is estimated that one in three out-of-school children is disabled.
    • There is a very strong link between disability and poverty. People with disabilities generally have worse living conditions–including insufficient food, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation–than non-disabled people. And the link goes both ways: living in poverty increases the likelihood of becoming disabled.                      

The Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Since then, it has been signed by nearly 150 countries and ratified by 100 countries. The Convention entered into force on 3rd May 2008. It reminds the world that people with disabilities are equal subjects that must enjoy rights and fundamental freedoms, capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives, and active members of society.