Ann Goerdt, Brenda Myers and Marilyn Moffat at the UN meeting in New York.

UN calls for new action on equal access for people with disabilities

WCPT was represented at a high-level United Nations General Assembly meeting on disability on 23rd September. At the meeting, heads of state and governments adopted a historic document, negotiated over the past year, attempting to address the exclusion of people with disabilities from equitable access to resources such as education, employment, healthcare and legal support systems around the world.

The meeting, held at the United Nations in New York, examined ways to make the UN’s anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals achievable for people with disabilities, and realise a disability-inclusive development agenda.

According to Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, there are one billion people with disabilities out of a global population of seven billion, and they suffer disproportionately high rates of poverty.  

He said that the high-level meeting was taking place as the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals was nearing and a sustainable development agenda was being formulated . The event would mark “the beginning of greater and more focused” international cooperation to promote a disability inclusive agenda.

Heads of state and governments put on record their concern that earlier commitments to realising development goals for people with disabilities had not yet translated into action. They underlined the need for urgent action by all stakeholders to adopt and implement ambitious disability-inclusive development strategies. These should include:

  • developing plans and legislation to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities
  • ensuring that health services are accessible to people with disabilities
  • ensuring accessibility by following the universal design approach, removing barriers to the physical environment. 

The WCPT representatives at the meeting were Marilyn Moffat, WCPT President and Brenda Myers, WCPT Secretary General. They were joined by physical therapist Ann Goerdt, who previously worked with the World Health Organization’s rehabilitation unit. 

Brenda Myers said: “There is a lot of work to be done but the day was significant because it gave voice to people with disabilities and also the international community committed to an inclusive development agenda. The agenda doesn’t just address physical barriers – it recognises the social, political and economic barriers that prevent full participation.”  

Several side events were held alongside the high level meeting of heads of state in New York. At a session on non-communicable diseases and disability, physical therapist Anthony Duttine, Senior Rehabilitation Technical Advisor in Global Health at Handicap International, was a panellist. A new policy brief from the NCD Alliance, Handicap International, Alzheimer’s International and HelpAge was announced during the session: Sustaining Equitable Human Development: Addressing non-communicable Diseases and Disability Throughout the Life Course.

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