Blogging for CBM Ireland
Vienna conference showcases good practice on disability inclusion
22 January 2011 - Mary Keogh, Advocacy Coordinator of CBM Ireland
Commitment to including persons with disabilities in development highlighted as a model of good practice
For the first time ever, on January 22nd and 23rd 2012 parliamentarians, representatives of NGOs, foundations, academics and disability rights activists will come together to discuss inspiring policies for persons with disabilities.The ESSL foundation and the World Future Council are jointly organizing the conference, taking place in Vienna entitled "Future Just Policies: Persons with Disabilities". After a process of selection by a Scientific Advisory Board (which included academics, disability activities and organisations representing persons with disabilities) the six most encouraging examples of political responsibility will be presented and discussed. These policies will be presented at the conference and they include education, personal assistance, employment, voting rights, anti-discrimination, accessibility and independent living.
Other examples of good practice can be found in the Zero report, which also details the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. AusAid's approach to including disability in its development cooperation was highlighted as a model of good practice. In particular it was recognized for the establishment of its development reference group, which is a small group of independent experts, including persons with disabilities to provide high-level guidance on disability inclusive development to AusAid. Light for the World, an Austrian NGO and its work in Burkino Faso in monitoring the implementation of the CRPD was also highlighted as a model of good practice.
CBM Ireland will be one of the NGOs attending and speaking at the conference.To find out more about the report and to learn about other models of good practice on disability inclusion, go to http://www.zeroproject.org/
People with hearing impairments at risk due to decision of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo
20 December 2011 - Mary Keogh, Advocacy Coordinator of CBM Ireland
BBC news reported a story last week on the banning of texting/sms messaging in the Democratic Republic of Congo, see their story here. The decision to ban texting was made by the government on the basis of preserving public order following unrest after the recent elections. The deaf community has raised their concerns about the ban, claiming that it is putting the lives of members of the deaf community at risk and increasing isolation of the deaf community.
There are over 1.4 million people living in the DRC who have some form of hearing impairment. Text messaging is widely used by the deaf community for communication. It has been described as an easy way for deaf people to communicate with the rest of the world, see an article here. The simple act of texting enables deaf people to interact independently with fellow members of the deaf and hearing community with ease.
Not alone, has text messaging opened up easy communication methods for deaf people, it is also being used as a way to communicate in case of an emergency. Text messages are now considering an essential tool for communities to maintain security, as they could spread alerts cheaply, quickly and discreetly to a large number of people who may be in danger. For example in the UK some police services are offering text services for people who are deaf or have difficulty with speaking, as seen on the Staffordshire police page.
From a development perspective, the use of mobile phone technology and sms messaging is a vital way to communicate with marginalized groups that do not have access to mainstream methods of communication or information services. For example, radio announcements to stay indoor during times of conflict are usually not accessible to people who are deaf. Mananga Biala, the head of Kinshasa's main educational centre for deaf people commented that a as a result of this texting ban, members of the deaf community had no alternative means of staying in touch as many did not have access to email or the internet. Additionally he commented that members of the deaf community lives were at risk due to not being able to hear gunfire or protesting.
There are many good example of how to make emergency responses inclusive for persons with disabilities in times of conflict and also during natural disasters etc. CBM have produced some useful publications on this matter see links here.
Also it is worth remembering that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides for the right to safety for persons with disabilities, particularly in times of conflict and emergencies. The Democratic Republic of Congo became a signatory to the CRPD in 2007. By signing the Convention, the DRC is considered to be making a commitment to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities. It is also committed not to take any retro regressive steps, which might undermine the sentiments of the CRPD. Article 11 of the CRPD asks States to ensure that all "necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters".
EffortsArticle 11 can be broadly interpreted as asking States to take a range of measures to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities during times of conflict and natural disasters. These measures can be very broad, but at the very least, should ensure that methods of communication used during times of conflict are accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities, and in this particular instance, people from the deaf community in the Congo.
CBM conference addresses why Disability must be systematically embedded in all International Cooperation
30 October 2011 - Mary Keogh, Advocacy Coordinator of CBM Ireland
Read a comprehensive pdf report on the event here
Recently, we heard a lot of headlines about the 7th billion baby been born to the world. The exact location and timing of the birth was debated and it was even suggested that we could be past this figure already given the fact that some countries do not register births. What we do know is that this child was born into a world, which comes under continuous pressures to support its growing population. A world where poverty levels are high and millions of people go hungry on a daily basis. There is no disagreement that 7 billion people inhabiting our planet is without a doubt a staggering number.
In June this year, the Word Report on Disability estimated that 1 billion people live with some form of disability and this figure is expected to grow as people grow older and develop age-related impairments. This means 1 in every 7 of us has some form of disability. 1 in every 7 makes disability a significant policy issue for all governments to consider, some would say a call to action to ensure this large population of people are included in all aspects of life. Yet disability remains on the periphery. As a policy issue, it is usually situated in categories such as the socially excluded, or the marginalised or the most vulnerable. There is no denying that all of these categories describe how people with disabilities live their lives on a daily basis in both rich and poor countries. For example, research shows that 98% of children with disabilities do not attend schools in developing countries  ; that 80% of persons with disabilities of the 1 billion persons with disabilities are estimated to live in developing countries. Similarly, in what we describe as rich or more 'developed' nations, disability continues to remain a peripheral issue. From both a 'developing' and 'developed' perspective, the disability movement is calling for all persons with disabilities to be able to fulfil their capabilities such as the opportunity to be educated and to work and for acceptance in their communities and families. In every country, rich or poor, how this inclusion is realized, depends on how governments and also the wider public respond to the call for including persons with disabilities as citizens.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted by the UN in 2006 provides governments, policy and lawmakers with tools to bring about inclusion for persons with disabilities. With over 105 countries ratified, the political commitment is now there on paper, and the challenge ahead is how to ensure these commitments are put into practice across
Left to right front row: Ms Prudence Mabhena, singer/artist, Ms Judith Heumann, Special Adviser to the US Department of State, Ms Mary Keogh, Advocacy Coordinator, CBM IrelandLeft to right back row: Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, Mr David McAllister, CBM Ireland; Mr BeralMBaikoudou, Mr Bob McMullan, Professor Gerard Quinn, Ambassador Bruce Davies (Australia), Ambassador PerttiMajanen (Finland)Copyright CBMOn October 20th, CBM Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (CDLP) National University of Ireland Galway in conjunction with Dochas and the Disability Federation of Ireland organised a major conference The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities "Promoting Disability inclusion in Ireland and World ". The conference was designed to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss how nations need to realize that disability is a growth area and that strategies for inclusion must now be sustainable for the long term rather than piecemeal approaches. These strategies for inclusion must not be confined within our own borders but must reach out to other countries that Ireland supports through its overseas development programmes.
The overarching message of the conference was that Irish International Cooperation must be inclusive and accessible to those with disabilities.
The conference had a number of distinguished speakers. Ms Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, delivered the keynote address. Ms Heumann commented that there is a need to acknowledge the disability is unquestionably a development issue and furthermore that if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved then people with disabilities need to gain access to changes brought by development money and programmes.
Ms Judith Heumann, Special Adviser on International Disability Rights to the US State Department Copyright CBMMr Bob McMullan who served as an MP in the Australian Labour government and who championed the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Australian governments overseas programmes also addressed the conference. Starting with what he called an imaginary country, he gave the audience some stark statistics. This country has up to 500 million people, the under 5 mortality rate is up to 80%; the school attendance is 10%; the literacy rate is 3% and the unemployment rate is up to 80%. These statistics in any country would be unacceptable from a human rights perspective. Mr McMullan went onto explain that while the country might be imaginary, the statistics are true when it comes to describing disability within a developing country.
Mr Mc Mullan, then outlined to conference participants the 10 low cost steps that can be taken to make Aid or International Cooperation more inclusive. These steps are:-
Mr Bob McMullan, former member of the Australian Labour government Copyright CBMStep 1 Establish reference or advisory group
Step 2 Review mainstream programmes for compatibility with CRPD obligations
Step 3 Develop strategy documents focused on rights
Step 4 Fund DPO strengthening (e.g. DRF)
Step 5 Adapt scholarship programme for PWDs
Step 6 Ensure infrastructure programmes reduce barriers
Step 7 Develop disability focus in volunteer programmes
Step 8 Establish partnerships with NGO's
Step 9 Undertake research
Step 10 Become a global advocate for the post 2015 priorities
Other speakers at the conference included NUIG Centre for Disability Law and Policy Director Professor Gerard Quinn who commented that "This is a pioneering event at European level which gives space to reflect how regions like the EU and states like Ireland can be a force for good in the world where the vast majority of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. He went onto comment that "Good practice from around the world - including particularly USAID - will help us reflect on the positive role of development aid programmes in lifting people with disabilities out of poverty and opening up new opportunities in their lives. Inclusion does not necessarily require more money - just that existing monies are spent smartly to avoid exclusion and to create pathways into the mainstream."
CBM Ireland National Director David McAllister called for disability support to be systematically embedded in Ireland's Overseas Budget. Having been involved in delivering high impact programmes to address the targets of the Millennium Development Goals Mr McAllister talked about hisastonishment at lack of inclusion of persons with disability in the mainstream development programmes. He called on all mainstream development organisations funded by Irish Aid to engage with organisations such as CBM to learn more about disability and to work in partnership on creating inclusive development programmes. Mr McAllister's final remarks concluded by stating that Ireland has an opportunity to be a leader in this field through ensuring that the Overseas Development is inclusive and accessible to those with disabilities. However this inclusion will not happen merely because of legislation or the development of discussion papers. It must be dynamically imbedded in Irish Development Policy for Overseas Development Aid.
The afternoon session of the conference focused on giving an input into the Irish Aid White Paper Review. Keep an eye out on the CBM website over the next few weeks for the conference full report, including video and audio from the event.
 See disability facts at http://www.add.org.uk/disability_facts.asp
Disability Rights News Round Up
6 October 2011 - Mary Keogh, Advocacy Coordinator of CBM Ireland
During September 2011, a lot of activity took place related to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This blog outlines some of the key headlines and connects you to the links where you can read about the events in more detail.In September, the United Nations convened the 4th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the CRPD. The COSP is quite unique in that it meets every year. Other treaties like CEDAW meet initially over a period of every two years and the last meeting was held in 2006. Over 600 attendees participated in this years COSP session that was held under the theme: "Enabling Development, Realizing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through Participation, Employment and International Cooperation." The 600 attendees comprised of governments, UN agency family members, the international disability community and members of civil society.
During the three-day meeting, the COSP focused on a number of formal and information interventions. With the focus on inclusive development, the first roundtable session discussed how to realize the CRPD through international cooperation. Article 32 and the role of international cooperation were reaffirmed and new modalities for aid and the need to mainstream disability in development was discussed. The interventions made by the panelists can be found on the United Nations website.
The second roundtable focused on ensuring effective and full participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life. Article 29 of the CRPD focuses on the right of persons with disabilities to participate in public and political life. Yet the reality is, in many countries barriers remain to realizing this right. This important session focused on identifying the progress and barriers to political and public participation and made strategic recommendations to realize disability-inclusive and accessible political processes including elections. One of the key issues highlighted was the lack of physical accessibility, whichremains a major barrier to the full and effective inclusion of persons with disabilities in political and public life. It was highlighted that for the CRPD to be fully implemented that persons with disabilities, including persons with psycho-social or intellectual disabilities would not be deprived of their access to the political process.
Along with the formal roundtables an informal session was held on the right to work and employment for persons with disabilities. Panelists noted that persons with disabilities were twice as likely to be unemployed than their peers without disability. The need for comprehensive reforms was discussed including developing strategies; to ensure accessible labour markets;the need firm policy framework against discrimination, the need for enforcement of accessibilityand education. All of which play a role in creating pathways for persons with disabilities into employment.
Finally, the United Nations system organizations presented theiron implementing the Convention and showed how their programmes had been used to implement the CRPD in countries and regions around the world. They highlighted the role played by their organizations in fostering collaboration among national Governments, UN entities and civil society to further the promotion and implementation of the CRPD.
The Conference of State Parties was followed swiftly by the 6th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which took place during 19th - 23rd September 2011. At the opening session of the Committee meeting, the Chairman, Ronald McCallum, updated the Committee on how many more countries had submitted their initial reports during 2011. Since the April meeting the initial reports of Mexico, Korea, Belgium and Ecuador had been received by the Secretariat, bringing the number of reports received to 16, see here for the reports.
The Chairman then raised the pace of work of the Committee, and said that as the Committee would have to deal with an increasing number of reports, two annual sessions of one week may not be enough time, and a solution was needed. Mr McCallum suggested that the Committee must examine harmonization and collaboration across treaty bodies, especially the Human Rights Council. He further stressed that the Committee had emerged as a real Committee whose central purpose was to conduct constructive dialogues with States parties and to be assisted by national human rights agencies and civil society in this work. To-date out of the 16 reports submitted to the Committee, Spain was the second to be considered. The Committee also adopted a list of issues on Peru and China, seen on the United Nations Human Rights website.
World Report on Disability
13 June 2011 - Mary Keogh
On June 9th 2011, the first World Report on Disability was launched. The report, a partnership between the World Health Organisation and the World Bank has been welcomed by both disability and development organisations.
CBM Ireland welcomes the publication of this groundbreaking report and views it as a significant step in advancing the importance of disability as a core issue for all countries, be that here in Ireland or overseas. As an international development organization whose main focus is on working with the poorest of the poor - namely people with disabilities. This report provides new and reliable evidence that will help CBM in its future efforts to ensure that its overseas programmes adhere to the highest standards of inclusion.
As the report is over 300 pages long, we thought writing a blog on summary of the main issues and recommendations would be useful to our colleagues.
First of all, the report presents some interesting new findings on disability prevalence. It estimates that there are over one billion people with disabilities in the world, accounting for approximately 15% of the world's population. Using a combination of data sets from the World Health Survey and the World Disease Burden, the World Report for the first time attempts to provide evidence based data on disability. The figure of 15% is higher than original estimates put forward by the WHO of 10% and reflects the ageing population and the global increase in chronic health conditions.
Some other important points it noted were that disability disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, for example it is more common among women, older people and households that are poor and there is a higher prevalence of disability in lower income countries. The report reaffirms much of the experience of persons with disabilities that we know anecdotally. For example, people with disabilities susceptibility to poverty as a result of having a disability; the barriers faced in accessing basic services and the fact that persons with disabilities have worse health and socioeconomic outcomes than people without disabilities.
The report recognizes that with the advent of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) there has been a paradigm shift on how disability is understood. The CRPD frames disability within a human rights perspective and puts forward that many of the barriers people with disabilities are avoidable and the subsequent disadvantage associated with disability can therefore be overcome.
Overcoming this disadvantage experience by people with disabilities requires actions across all sectors and actors in life. For example, the health and education sectors need to play a role and actors such as private enterprises and civil society need to participate.
The World Report provides a number of cross cutting recommendations based on its findings and these are as follows:
1. Enable access to all mainstream systems and services; The report strongly recommends that mainstreaming is viewed as a process by which governments and other stakeholders address the barriers that exclude persons with disabilities including making necessary changes to laws and policies, institutions and environments.
2. Invest in programmes and services for people with disabilities: While mainstreaming should be the overall goal for providing services and support to persons with disabilities, some people may require access to specific measures e.g. rehabilitation
3. Adopt a national disability strategy and plan of action: The inclusion of people with disabilities in society requires collaboration by different stakeholders and sectors. A national disability plan can give focus to this collaboration and also help improve coordination between sectors and services
4. Involve people with disabilities: The report states strongly that people with disabilities must be involved and consulted on all aspect of their lives, be that a policy level or at an individual level on how they wish to live their lives.
5. Improve human resource capacity: This is a vital point when it comes to delivering services in a non-discriminatory manner. The report discusses the paradigm shift in how disability is viewed. This human rights approach must translate into the delivery of services such as education and health so that persons with disabilities are supported to live in the community
6. Provide adequate funding and improve affordability: Existing public services for people with disabilities are often inadequately funded, affecting the availability and quality of such services. Adequate and sustainable funding of publicly provided services are needed to ensure that they reach all targeted beneficiaries and that good quality services are provided.
7. Increase public awareness and understanding about disability: Raising awareness on disability is a key factor in developing inclusive societies. It is vital to improve public understanding of disability and confront negative perceptions and represent disability fairly.
8. Improve the availability and quality of data on disability: Understanding the numbers of people with disabilities and their circumstances can improve country efforts to remove disabling barriers and provide appropriate services for people with disabilities
9. Strengthen and support research on disability: The report suggested focusing on research in the following areas: the impact of environmental factors; the quality of life and well-being of people with disabilities; barriers to mainstream and specific services; accessibility and universal design; the interactions between environmental factors, health conditions and disability, and between disability and poverty.
Additional to the cross cutting recommendations, the report has a number of actions listed on what different actors can do to bring about an inclusive society. In the case of governments, the report suggests a number of actions including reviewing and revising existing legislation and policies for consistency with the CRPD; reviewing mainstream and disability specific policies, systems and services to identify gaps and barriers and to plan actions to overcome them. For UN and development agencies, the report recommends that disability be included in development aid programmes using the twin track approach (mainstreaming and targeted where necessary). The report calls on Disabled People Organisations to support people with disabilities to become aware of their rights and it asks that service providers ensure their staff and services are delivered consistent with a human rights based approach. It also outlines actions that can be taken by the private sector to increase employment opportunities of people with disabilities and also to ensure that barriers to business and technology are removed.
Finally, the World Report recommendations are about action at many different levels, across a range of sectors and in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. This approach is needed in order to create a world that is inclusive and enabling and provides equal opportunities for each person's with a disability to fulfill their potential. CBM Ireland is keen to play its part in this action
To read the World Report in detail, please visit this link