New Internationalist

The Facts

July 1992

new internationalist
issue 233 - July 1992

Liberty, Equality and Disability - THE FACTS

Illustration by CLIVE OFFLEY (Based on the painting LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE by DELACROIX)

[image, unknown] Numbers
. 500 million people in the world are disabled - roughly one in ten.
. 300 million live in developing countries.
. 140 million are children.
. 160 million are women.1


[image, unknown] Causes
. Over 100 million people are currently disabled as a result of malnutrition - that's one in five.2
. Iron deficiency, anaemia and chronic infections of the pelvis are major causes of disability in women in poor countries. The latter is often caused by female circumcision - which affects at least 80 million young girls and women - and early pregnancy.2
. A handful of green vegetables every day would be enough to save the eyesight of 250,000 children who go blind every year because their diets lack Vitamin A.2
. Lack of iodine is the chief cause of preventable intellectual disability in the world. It is estimated that about 800 million are at risk, mostly in Asia.2
. War and violence cause disability. An estimated 100,000 Cambodians have become disabled as a result of landmines. Between 300-500 people become amputees each month.3


[image, unknown] Poverty
. Most people with spinal cord injuries in Third World countries die within two years of becoming disabled due to lack of facilities.4
. In developing countries only one per cent of disabled people have access to any form of rehabilitation.1
. 80 per cent of disabled people live in Asia and the Pacific but they receive just two per cent of resources allocated to disabled people.5
. In the US and UK over 60 per cent of disabled people live below the poverty line.6,7
. The cost of living for a disabled person in the West is estimated at $100 more per week than for a non-disabled person.8


[image, unknown] Education
. In poor countries the vast majority of disabled children do not go to school and do not find a job.
. In rich countries the majority of disabled children receive segregated education that does not enable them to reach their full potential.
. In the UK only 0.3 per cent of higher-education students are disabled although disabled people are 10 per cent of the population.6


[image, unknown] Work
. It is estimated that 80-90 per cent of all people labelled as mentally handicapped' are unemployed.
. Disabled people in the US and the UK are three times more likely to be unemployed then any other group. 6,7
. Disabled men in full time work in the UK earn almost a quarter less than non-disabled men, and disabled women earn a third less than disabled men.6
. In the UK only 12 per cent of the disabled workforce are in professional or managerial jobs compared with 21 per cent of non-disabled workers.6


[image, unknown] Gender
. Disabled women are doubly disadvantaged. The figures in all categories are much worse.
. In Australia only 28 per cent of disabled women are in the workforce compared with 49 per cent of disabled men.9
. In the Philippines only 19 per cent of disabled women are employed and 95 per cent of those have to settle for very low wages, only $35 per month, one third of the poverty threshold.2


[image, unknown] Rights
. Only one country in the world has anti-discrimination legislation - the United States which in July 1990 passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.
. Human Rights charters for disabled people exist in Canada, Sweden and some states in Australia.
. Many countries have equal-opportunities laws but these are rarely implemented.
. The UN Human Rights Declaration on Disability of 1975 would give disabled people rights internationally - if it were properly implemented, monitored and evaluated.


1 Final Report on Human Rights and Disability, the United Nations Economic and Social Council, July 1991.
2 Women and Disability, Esther Boylan, (Zed Press, 1991).
3 Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, 1992.
4 The Hesperian Foundation, Palo Alto, US.
5 Disabled People's International, 1992.
6 Disabled People in Britain and Discrimination, Colin Barnes (Hurst and Co., London 1991).
7 Toward Independence: a Report to the President of the Congress of the US, February, 1986.
8 Disablement Income Group, London, UK, 1990.
9 Disabled Women's International Newsletter, No 5, October 1991.

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This feature was published in the July 1992 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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  1. #1 omg 21 Feb 11

    love your facts!

  2. #2 Rachel Stephens 09 Jan 12

    The American Disability Act is a very wonderful thing who ever came up with it is a really amazing person!!!!
    I'm doing a history fair project on it and it is really amazing to learn so much about something the changed the U.S. and the world so much!!!

  3. #3 Amna 13 Apr 12

    This helped a lot with my research, thankyou!

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