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