Around the world, more than one billion people live with disabilities. Of these one billion people, roughly 800 million are of working age but encounter physical, social, and economic restraints from accessing education, employment, and ways to develop skills.

Roughly 54 million Americans have a disability and this number continues to grow. Much like the rest of the world, Americans with disabilities face greater financial difficulties than those without. Those with a disability double their likelihood of living with an annual household income of $15,000 or less.

In an attempt to alleviate the stresses of the disabled and empower them with equal opportunities the United Nations began a three day meeting. Beginning on July 17th, they aimed at improving the lives of the globally disabled, both occupationally and by strengthening the standard of living.

A background paper for the 6th Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states that the disabled face a higher likelihood of living in poverty than those that are not disabled. The paper also found that the economic status of a country had little impact on the placement of the disabled in society.

Yet, according to a pilot study conducted by the UN International Labour Organziation (ILO), it is not advisable to exclude the disabled minority. Performed in ten low and middle income countries, the ILO found that when those with disabilities were rejected from the labor market there was an estimated loss of 3-7% of the country’s GDP. By not educating and tapping into this handicapped minority, many countries are losing out on a pool of skilled workers.

Meeting annually, these States Parties come together for the CRPD to discuss experiences and ways in which to protect disabled rights. However, it is acknowledged that the convention is a stepping stone for the national protection of disabled persons. As Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, stated, “The obligations of the Convention must be implemented at the national level to take real effect in the lives of persons with disabilities. Changes in law, policies and programs are required. But even more importantly, attitudes must change.”

– Michael Carney 

Sources: All Africa, Disability Funder’s Network, UN News Centre
Photo: Facebook

Consider every disenfranchised, marginalized group that you know needs help and would benefit from ending global poverty. Perhaps your thoughts shifted from the homeless in the United States to refugees abroad, from girls and women denied education to young boys who are child soldiers. One large minority group that is arguably among the most underrepresented are those people who suffer from a disability. Even in the United States, a nation looked up to by much of the world, the disabled don’t enjoy the same rights and perks that are afforded to many others; they’re often lost in the shuffle.

One group out there that aims to decrease the marginalization of the disabled is the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). Their mission highlights the civil liberties of the disabled, offering education and legal advocacy aimed at ending discrimination. According to DREDF, one quarter of those with disabilities live in poverty and only 20% realize post-secondary education. Three quarters of them are unemployed, resulting in tremendous setbacks including segregation, inaccessible accommodations, and general societal prejudice in America. DREDF informs the disabled of their rights so they can fight injustices and be treated as everyone else is in their community. Government and legal professionals are also educated about the issues and laws.

According to The Leadership Conference at, the disabled are targets for discrimination in matters dealing with housing and employment which can affect the poverty rate. The societal exclusion and isolation associated with having a disability is precisely why organizations like DREDF exist and underscores the importance of education, advocacy, and tolerance from the general public. Unfortunately however, many people are subjects of violent crimes due to their conditions which ultimately qualifies as hate crime. Many violent acts go unreported or are simply mislabeled as “abuse.” posits:

“…hate crimes against people with disabilities are often never reported to law enforcement agencies. The victim may be ashamed, afraid of retaliation, or afraid of not being believed. The victim may be reliant on a caregiver or other third party to report the crime, who fails to do so. Or, the crime may be reported, but there may be no reporting of the victim’s disability, especially in cases where the victim has an invisible disability that they themselves do not divulge.”

A recent example of DREDF in action in unfortunate circumstances is their call for the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute the murder of Alex Spourdalakis in Illinois. Alex was a 14-year old autistic child who was brutally killed by his mother and godmother because of his condition. Prosecution under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 would make the heinous act a hate crime. DREDF also cites a Department of Justice report citing that instance of violent crime against the disabled is over twice the rate of that for those who aren’t disabled. The abhorrent acts by the worst in our society who callously devalue the lives of those with disabilities must end.

As a society, we must be mindful of the differences that are guaranteed to exist in our lives. Tolerance is born from education, and that also leads to understanding and empathy. Those with disabilities are people who are entitled to the same rights that we have come to expect and enjoy on a daily basis. If you’d like to directly donate to the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, you can do so here: .We can’t forget what human life means.

– David Smith

Sources: DREDF, Hate Crimes Against Individuals With Disabilities, DREDF Calls for Prosecution
Photo: Independence Today