On the 24th of July, I attended the Global Disability Summit joint organised by the Department for International Development (DFID), the International Disability Alliance (IDA), and the government of Kenya, in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Organisations and governments gathered from all over the world, to express the urgency to help the one billion people with disabilities that have been left behind by the development agenda.
Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for International Development, introduced the summit, making use of sign language, a first for a UK minister in the House of Commons. She opened the day by saying it was time to raise the stakes for people with disabilities around the world and ensure their rights are recognised at all levels of society. She especially highlighted the future of children with disabilities – it was not simply the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. “For too long, people with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries have not been able to fulfil their potential due to stigma or lack of practical support. Today, we give focus to this long neglected area.”
We were told that including people with disabilities is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. As a man with a disability, this is a sentiment I’ve felt myself on many occasions, and support fully. Unlocking the full potential and value of people with disabilities will help everyone, both in the public and private sector, tapping a reservoir of talent, innovation and ability which has gone unheard for too long. People with disabilities can bring unique perspectives to the table, and failing them to include them fully is an opportunity wasted.
Several governments made commitments to push the disability agenda, including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania who all committed to furthering inclusive education in their countries. Kenya made specific commitments to enhance the capacity of ten education centres to improve the quality of education for children with disabilities. However, it is important to note that in order to fully achieve an inclusive world we need not only governments, but civil society organisations and the private sector as well to all work together, to see the value of including people with disabilities.
Many countries signed up for the GDS 2018 Charter for Change, a series of commitments dedicated to making the world more accessible for all. Some of the commitments included the promotion of leadership among people with disabilities, the elimination of stigma and discrimination through legislation, and the support of actions to advance inclusive quality education, a focus which is particularly close to my heart of course. These are all aims which AbleChildAfrica strive to achieve through the work we deliver with our partners in East Africa.
At the summit, Penny Mordaunt explained DFID’s ambitious plans to upscale the assisted technology project. By 2030, the aim is for half a billion people to have access to assisted devices, be they wheelchairs, canes, glasses or any other equipment required to help people achieve their full potential.
The summit was an opportunity to address the root causes of stigma, discrimination and abuse, and so work towards a world in which inclusive education and employment for all is the norm. As I know well myself, inclusive education is vital in the elimination of prejudice and misconception, as well as in the preparation of young children for the life ahead of them.
I thought that the summit was a promising start, and look forward to seeing the plans outlined realised around the world. In the words of Penny Mordaunt, ‘now is the time for action, so that we can achieve our sustainable development goals, and ensure a future where everyone is included, by making sure that nobody is left behind’. I want to see commitments turned in to actions and governments upholding their promises by realising a positive and inclusive future for all children with disabilities.