Development

Disability and a Human Rights Approach to Development

“Disability is a human rights issue! I repeat: disability is a human rights issue.”

Bengt Lindqvist, UN Special Rapporteur on Disability

 

Why disability is a human rights issue and in turn a development issue


As disability describes the barriers faced by people with impairments to equality and justice, and because disabled people are human beings too it is axiomatic that disability is a human rights issue.


And as with all groups who face discrimination and disadvantage it is the recognition of that intrinsic humanity that is essential for equality and justice outcomes and full implementation and protection of human rights.


As the 24th Special Session of the UN World Summit for Social Development and beyond (1 July 200) said: “The ultimate goals of development are to improve living conditions for people and to empower them to participate fully in the economic, political and social arenas.”  This development must be achieved for all people, without discrimination.


As has been repeatedly documented, access to full and equal participation in their societies has been denied disabled people in all countries, putting them amongst the poorest of the poor.


In addition their need for income is greater than that of non-disabled people since they need money and assistance to try to live normal lives (Sen, 2004).


Similarly, lack of development and economic growth creates disabled people through malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of immunisation, poverty, poor health and safety provisions and pollution.


“Overlooking or ignoring the plight of disabled people is not an option that an acceptable theory of justice can have.”

Amartya Sen 2004


From a human rights perspective, development programmes can no longer make excuses for not addressing disability.


To intentionally exclude disability would be a violation of human rights as expressed in several legal instruments that states have ratified.


Rights are indivisible and universal: leaving disabled people out of mainstream systems of development perpetuates discrimination and exclusion.

 

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