03 March 2010

Disability and development

Last week we were lucky enough to have Raymond Lang from the Leonard Cheshire Trust visit IDS and talk about mainstreaming disability within development. This is not an issue that I have focused on in the past, and I was taken by some of the facts and statistics presented, such as:

* 50% of disabilities are preventable
* 98% of children with disabilities do not complete primary school
* The first legally binding document on disability was the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability of 2008 (to date 71 states have ratified it)

Raymond Lang also noted that there is a wide range of opinion within the community working on disability and development (relatively small but growing fast) about whether disability is a completely sociopolitical construct or whether it has other physiological dimensions.

There is also considerable debate about how to get the strategic balance right between mainstreaming disability into service delivery or setting up separate dedicated services.

What struck me was (a) the likelihood that this will be an emerging issue in the next 10 years as services improve generally, (b) the resonance of the issues this community is struggling with and more general development issues (strategic and constructed) and (c) the weak database upon which policy is currently made in this area.

The Leonard Cheshire Trust is working with University College London, supported by DFID and others, to develop this field and I urge you keep in touch with these debates---they are important in their own right and will, I believe, shed light on more general issues of power within international development.

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