Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

young boy with casts on both legs writes in a notebook with his mother sitting next to him

In 2019, 6-year-old Suman had surgery for his bilateral clubfoot at the CBM partner Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children near Kathmandu, Nepal. In this photo, Suman practices writing in the hospital schoolroom with his mother Radha by his side.

December 3rd marks the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), which brings attention to the inequalities persons who experience a disability face. This year the theme is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’.

To mark this important day – and in keeping with the theme – we take a moment to reflect on some of the most notable recent achievements at CBM, in supporting and promoting the rights of persons living with disabilities.

By advocating for development policies and practices that are disability inclusive, CBM strengthens the voice and autonomy of persons with disabilities and holds decision makers to account.  

Our work with local partners and governments to bring about, influence and implement disability-inclusive policies and practices is a good example of this, with a case in point being Kenya’s inclusive education policy earlier this year.

CBM also advocates for disability inclusion at important international meetings. For example, CBM participated in the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations in September, which saw the adoption of the political declaration on universal health coverage.

And today CBM is co-sponsoring an event at the United Nations headquarters, organised by UN Women, on empowering women and girls with disabilities. It will address how to better facilitate cross movement building and synergies to ensure meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities. Amongst the speakers is CBM’s Representative at the United Nations, Elizabeth Lockwood.

By empowering communities to address mental health needs of those with psychosocial disabilities, we promote the well-being of individuals and the community. 

Since the launch of CBM’s Community Mental Health Initiative in April this year, CBM has been addressing mental health as part of an holistic approach to well-being.

For one, CBM has actively supported the Speak Your Mind campaign, which demands governments invest in mental health.

CBM has also been instrumental in raising the profile of mental health in Africa though media and advocacy. In November, CBM and the West African Health Organisation ran a conference on mental health in Burkina Faso. Additional conferences in London, where CBM participated, also focused on mental health in Africa. These events identified gaps in mental health care, made recommendations and looked at ways to strengthen response. 

We work toward improving access to eye care for all and eliminating neglected tropical diseases.  

This year, in one of our neglected tropical disease programmes, in Nigeria, CBM and our local partner, HANDS, targeted special needs schools in Abuja – including two schools for the blind – to ensure that children with disabilities were included in deworming activities.

Meanwhile, thanks to CBM’s Peek programme, health workers in Talagang Tehsil in Pakistan are now able to use Peek technology for eye screenings and referral. The programme has reached over 22,000 people so far, and 83% of those referred for further treatment (for consumables like eye drops, ointments, etc. and/or spectacles) were able access these services at primary or secondary health centres. This means that services are delivered at the right level and patients can access basic eye care services much closer to home.

The results of a three-and-a-half-year programme, which delivers low vision services for people with disabilities in Indonesia, were recently provided by CBM’s partner Layak in Jakarta. Statistics show that more than 90% of first-time clients were identified as a result of the active networking by low vision services with community based programmes to reach people with disabilities. Only 4% were referred by medical services. The results also show how low vision services can be successful in providing vision services to people with all different disabilities, and not just to those with low vision. 

And, when disasters strike, CBM aims to include persons with disabilities in humanitarian relief efforts. 

CBM is marking IDPD with another important event. Today is the launch of a new disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction application that will ensure accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction programmes of DRR actors worldwide, including governments, NGOs and DPOs.

At the same time, CBM is also releasing an improved version of its Humanitarian Hands-On Tool (HHoT) application, which provides a step-by-step practical guidance on inclusive humanitarian field work. Since its original release in 2017, it has been used in various humanitarian crises.

Also, on this date, CBM, along with Humanity & Inclusion and the International Disability Alliance, is releasing a new report on learnings from 39 examples of field practices inclusive of persons with disabilities in humanitarian content and disaster risk reduction (DRR), from 20 countries of intervention. This report supports the uptake of the recent launch of the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the first humanitarian guidelines to be developed with and by persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in association with traditional humanitarian stakeholders.  

Our community-based inclusive development programmes help those with disability in poorer communities to access medical services, education and the means to a livelihood. 

In terms of education, the work of CBM’s partner in Nicaragua, ASOPIECAD, in contributing towards the implementation of an inclusive education approach in the country has been a particular success. The partner trains community members, family members as well as pre-school teachers in early detection and early education so that boys and girls with disabilities, or those living with a developmental delay, are included from an early age.

More generally, CBM, in collaboration with Asociación Nicaraguense para la Integración Comunitaria, has been leading a case study on inclusive education in Nicaragua, which will be published as part of the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2020.

Together we have made great progress toward an inclusive world, but there is still much to do. 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many persons with disabilities are still left behind. This is particularly true for persons living in low- and middle-income countries, where there is a vicious cycle of poverty and disability.

More than ever, CBM is committed to breaking this cycle of poverty and disability. And, CBM will continue to work alongside persons with disabilities in poor communities in order to realise our Vision of an inclusive world in which all persons with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.