4 Takeaways from the UN’s First Major Meeting on People Living with Disabilities

You may not have known it, but history happened yesterday. The United Nations held it’s first ever high-level General Assembly to discuss the struggles faced by people living with disabilities worldwide.

While a lot was discussed during this meeting (and we mean a lot), here are a 4 key takeaways:

1) People living with disabilities are the world’s largest minority…

There are more than 1 billion (yes, with a “b”) people living with disabilities worldwide. One billion. That represents 15% of the world’s entire population, making people living with disabilities the largest minority in the world. Of that population, an estimated 80% live in developing countries.

2) …but despite their numbers, they have not been included in the UN development agenda.

Despite the size of this population, people living with disabilities were not originally included in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), a global action plan to address the needs of the world’s poorest and most marginalized populations. The MDG, agreed on by world leaders in 2000, includes 8 goals all to be achieved by 2015 – but none of these goals directly address the rights of people living with disabilities.

During yesterday’s meeting, the General Assembly recognized that people living with disabilities are an integral part in achieving these goals, and in shaping the developments goals for 2015 and beyond. The Assembly adopted a resolution (more on that later) encouraging heads of state to make their development plans disability-inclusive.

3) Access is a huge obstacle.

One of the key issues addressed during yesterday’s meeting was the issue of access. While we all know access to proper health care is a problem throughout the world, it is even more dire for people living with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, people living with disabilities worldwide are 3 times as likely as someone without a disability to be denied adequate health care. WHO went on to say that of the 70 million people in the world who need wheelchairs, only between 5 and 15% have one.

4) Yesterday’s outcome was a show of support – nothing legal.

The outcome of yesterday’s meeting was the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution stressing the importance of including people living with disabilities in all UN development goals, and calling for urgent action to ensure people living with disabilities have equal access to health care, education and “full and productive employment.”

So what does that all mean? Well, unfortunately, not much more than a show of support. The resolution is non-binding, meaning it cannot be converted into any legislation. But, it is a great start.

To learn more about yesterday’s General Assembly and the topics discussed, visit http://www.un.org. In the meantime, let us know what you think.

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