Ant reports on progress since the UK’s Disability Summit

Our Programmes and Advocacy Assistant, Anthony Ford Shubrook OBE recently attended an event assessing progress since the commitments made at the UK’s disability summit last year. Here he gives his take on the discussions.

“I have recently returned from the twelfth session of the Conference of State Parties for the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). It was fascinating hearing the different experiences from individuals and organisations from around the world. I was also invited to the Department for International Development’s (DFID) side event to discuss the progress that has been made since last year’s global disability summit in London. The summit marked the start of change, with over a thousand commitments made, tackling issues ranging from ending stigma and discrimination, to making inclusive education work for all children.

It was apparent many challenges remain embedded in our society. There is still inadequate data on children with disabilities, particularly those living in rural and marginalised communities, who are often those in the most desperate need of support, and it is difficult to know we are providing the right support when there is insufficient data to assess the situation with. Whilst governments around the world are increasingly developing legislation to focus on empowering people with disabilities, this often has little tangible impact on those who need it most. One of the major reasons for this is many developing countries have insufficient resources and infrastructure to make these commitments a reality.

One area that it is clear governments should invest in is technology and assistive devices. Globally, only 10% of those who need assistive devices have access to them. These devices can be life changing for those who need them, however, many people in developing countries do not have access. Most devices are too expensive, and in some cases even when technology is available, it is unsuitable for their environment, such as electric wheelchairs on uneven terrain. One speaker highlighted this point by jokingly suggesting a wheelchair that makes animal noises to scare off other animals, rather than its usual horn, because he lived in a rural area with many animals around.

There appears to be intent within the international community to collaborate and move forward to enact the commitments made at the global disability summit. We need to ensure that these commitments align both with the CRPD and SDGs; this was mentioned by several speakers. We will only get there if we all work together as individuals, in civil society, and with governments. We must listen to the voices of those with disabilities, capitalise on their expertise and experience; reinforcing the idea of ‘nothing about us, without us’.

We also need to ensure laws and policies become practice; including translating national level legislation into local level policy implementation. Some important points raised during the event included the need to eradicate bureaucracies, retain momentum and incentivise progress. Furthermore, the Kenyan Minister of Sports raised the need for organisations to combine resources rather than competing and pulling in different directions.

Overall, I felt the event provided a useful platform for discussion, highlighting the progress made and momentum gained. The work AbleChildAfrica does with its partners has helped change the lives of over 17000 children, helping them gain access to education and healthcare, which gives them the opportunities open to other children. However, it is all too apparent that there is a long way to go in implementing the DFID disability strategy and ensuring that no one is left behind.”

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