A recent report co-funded by Cambridge-based international disability charity CBM UK, claims that disabled people are one of the world’s biggest untapped resources.
This claim from experts in Cambridge follows a study into the costs of exclusion from education for disabled people, as a cause of lower employment levels and opportunities for people with disabilities all over the world.
The report suggests that people with disabilities suffer ‘widespread exclusion as a result of physical, attitudinal, financial and policy barriers’, and as a consequence, they are not able to contribute to the economy of the countries they live in.
The report suggests that this is not just in the UK, but an international phenomenon.
For example according to the report, in Bangladesh, failure to help disabled people participate in the education system is estimated to lose the economy £137 million.
A spokeswoman for CBM commented on the issues raised by the report, stating:
“It provides robust evidence to advocate for disability-inclusive international development. Despite the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities being the fastest human rights treaty to be ratified, people with disabilities are still experiencing persistent inequalities on almost all indicators of social, political, cultural and economic participation compared to the rest of the population.
“The costs of exclusion from education may lead to lower employment and earning potential among people with disabilities.
“Not only does this make individuals and their families more vulnerable to poverty, but it can also limit national economic growth.”
Research into the association between disability and poverty is not new, with many studies highlighting the fact that people with disabilities experience poverty more intensely, suffer widespread discrimination and have fewer opportunities to escape poverty than people without disabilities.
In addition, the influence of access to education as a barrier to employment opportunities for disabled people is well documented.
However, this report from CBM has been hugely influential in outlining the global effects of these issues, and the implications of the exclusion of disabled people on national and international economic growth.
Kirsty Smith, chief executive for CBM UK, said: “CBM, along with other leading non-governmental organisations specialising in disability urgently need to persuade decision-makers within governments to take note of the estimated one billion persons with disabilities worldwide.”
If this report from CBM actually has an impact within government and policies affecting disabled people on issues of exclusion, education, employment and poverty, this may have the potential to reduce a whole range of inequalities in terms of disability,
In some ways, it may seem wrong that these issues affecting disabled people are only seen as important enough for action to be taken, once the connection has been made to economic growth.
In addition, it is clear that governments must begin to consider the difficulties, barriers and exclusion faced by disabled people all over the world, not just because they begin to view disabled people as an ‘untapped resource’ for the economy, but because it is important that everyone has an equal opportunity in life.
Regardless of how the recent report from CBM is viewed by governments, it could be argued that anything which places issues of disability and exclusion in the media and under the government’s radar can only be a positive thing.
If you have any thoughts on these issues, please feel free to leave a comment and share your opinion.