How can services for disabled people be supported, asks WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched its long-awaited world report on disability. It presents evidence about what works to overcome barriers to health care, rehabilitation, education and employment for people with disabilities, and what can be done to support services and create the environments which will enable people with disabilities to flourish. 

WCPT is now considering the findings and their implications, and inviting member organisations, regions and subgroups to read the report and provide feedback to the WCPT secretariat. 

The report recommends that governments and their development partners provide people with disabilities access to all mainstream services, invest in specific programmes and services for those people with disabilities who are in need, and adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action. In addition, governments should work to increase public awareness and understanding of disability, and support further research and training in the area. It says that people with disabilities should be consulted and involved in the design and implementation of these efforts.

WCPT representatives are listed on the report as being advisors and they were involved in the consultation process providing comments on the draft report, particularly the rehabilitation section. However, the report reflects input from a wide audience and WCPT does not necessarily endorse all findings. 

The report says there needs to be more human resources for rehabilitation around the world. But many countries currently inadequately monitor their current workforce, and sometimes the workforce is inappropriately trained, says the report, which was launched in New York on 10 June. 

The report draws attention to unmet need, quoting a 2006 study in Tonga, which found that although 20% of people with disabilities needed physiotherapy, only 6% received it. It also points to examples of good practice, such as rehabilitation service strengthening and improvement of physiotherapy infrastructure in Gujarat, India, following the 2001 earthquake.

The report recommends improving the human resources available for rehabilitation by establishing strategies to build training capacity and, in countries where specialist rehabilitation personnel are in short supply, develop training for different types of rehabilitation personnel.

It also recommends a wider adoption of the ICF (the International Classification of Functioning and Health) and improvements in national disability statistics. In the field of educating children with disabilities, the report recommends making available speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy to learners with moderate or significant disabilities.

The world report on disability is available for free download from the WHO website at www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report/en/. The summary report is also available in all UN languages, in Braille formatted copy, in accessible pdf and in EasyRead.