According to United Nations (UN) estimates, there are more than 600 million persons with disabilities throughout the world, 70% of them in developing countries. Disability is caused by disease, malnutrition, incorrect treatment or non-treatment, violence and war, accidents due to inadequate protection at the workplace and in traffic situations, and, increasingly, age-related diseases.
Persons with disabilities suffer from discrimination throughout the world and are frequently excluded from educational, social, economic and political processes in their societies. It is estimated that 98 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. Women with disabilities experience double discrimination as women and as persons with disabilities. Many maternal health facilities around the world lack staff with knowledge of providing care to pregnant women with disabilities. In both developed and developing countries, persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor. It is estimated that of the world’s poorest people (those who live on less than one dollar a day and who lack access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, clothing and shelter), 1 in 5 is a person with a disability. Disability has long been considered an individual problem that is treated from a medical and charitable viewpoint, but neglected in terms of equal rights for disabled persons.
APA strongly supports international policies that address disability concerns. However, the integration of disability continues to be largely absent from general international development efforts, and there is an urgent need for existing and future collaboration to address this gap. The exclusion rises from the fact that disability is often addressed narrowly as a health care issue rather than as a cross-cutting issue impacting many international initiatives such as education, economic development, HIV/AIDS, migrants, indigenous populations and women.
Notwithstanding, APA’s disability agenda includes goals addressing disability in an international context. Those objectives include:
Support of international efforts aimed at reducing human rights violations involving persons with disabilities,
Encouraging research on the mental health needs of persons with disabilities internationally, and
Advocacy for programs aimed at assisting international persons with disabilities toward financial independence/economic growth.
The following articles showcase some of APA’s activities in international disability issues as well as one psychologist’s important research in this area.