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Press Release from WBU in honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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Toronto, December 3:  2015 has been a seminal year for persons with disabilities, as well as for global civil society and the UN system as a whole. The world’s governments, civil society actors and citizens came together to decide the way forward for the post-2015 development agenda, resulting in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will direct the work and funding of the global development community for the next 15 years. Persons with disabilities, including the visually impaired, were among the many voices championing for strong and inclusive global goals. It is fitting that the theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2015 is “Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities,” as several of the SDGs cover inclusion and accessibility. The Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) has also identified three key sub-themes that highlight the need “to reduce inequalities and remove barriers to equal participation for persons with disabilities in society.”​

Sub-theme #1: Making cities inclusive and accessible for all. 

The full inclusion of all persons with disabilities, including persons with low vision and blindness, is essential for their education, employment, access to information, and therefore, equality. Universal design is an essential part of building inclusive and accessible cities, environments, and products. Universal design is the “design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (Martine Abel-Williamson, WBU Strategic Lead for Access to the Environment). There are seven principles for universal design, which have been established to guide a wide range of design disciplines (link to seven design principles: If used correctly, these design principles can ensure that products are easily usable for all people and groups, including people with low ​vision and blindness, regardless of user`s experience, knowledge, disability, physical size, language skills or current concentration and energy levels. Examples of universal design are Apple products with accessibility features built in, braille on elevators buttons and stop announcements on transit vehicles. This sub-theme and the importance of universal design can be incorporated into SDG #11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Follow this link to learn more about all 17 of the SDGs and their corresponding targets: To learn more about Universal Design, download WBU's resource paper: WBU Universal Design Resource Paper.docWBU Universal Design Resource Paper

Sub-theme #2: Improving disability data and statistics.

Global and national data on persons with disabilities are sorely lacking. In order to accurately know what barriers and discrimination persons with disabilities face, and how to improve policy and programs to remove these barriers, we need accurate data. Within the SDG framework, there are multiple targets and indicators with responding data requirements for every goal that will measure the progress (or lack thereof) of the development work relevant to that goal. If these targets and indicators do not explicitly call for disaggregated ​data on essential aspects of persons with disabilities’ lives, namely health, education and employment data, they will be left behind as they have been in the development agendas of the past. These indicators will likely be finalized in March 2016, so it is imperative for all of us to advocate directly to our governments and nationals statistical offices on the importance of disability-specific SDG indicators. To learn more about this issue, follow this link to the International Disability Alliance-International Disability Development Consortium advocacy toolkit:​ 

Sub-theme #3: Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development.

Persons with “invisible disabilities” are often overlooked and misunderstood. The SCRPD argues that it is important “to include the unique characteristics of invisible disabilities when taking measures towards full participation and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.” Persons with invisible disabilities includes those who have low vision but do not use a cane, guide dog, or other visible assistive device, and they are often elderly. Features for low vision persons, such as good lighting and contrast, are often overlooked when designing spaces and products, even though they are an important of accessibility and inclusivity, and therefore need to be included alongside features for blind persons. To learn more about issues that people with “invisible disabilities” face, follow this link to the SCRPD website, UN Enable:

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations run by blind people advocating on their own behalf, and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment. 

For further information, contact:

World Blind Union

Caitlin Reid

Communications Coordinator