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Guterres calls for more disability-inclusive development

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at the event
Photo: Dreamstime

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for more disability-inclusive development.

Persons with disabilities were dying “at vastly higher rates”, all because they faced “persistent barriers in health systems”. In developing countries “which are strangled financially”, Mr. Guterres noted that people with disabilities were among the first victims, he told the opening of the second Global Disability Summit.

Mr. Guterres said that as schools have had to shut because of the coronavirus, many students with disabilities have been left without access to technology and assisted learning devices, making effective remote learning impossible.

According to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, there are 240 million children with disabilities in the world.Half have never attended school, the agency said on Wednesday, while up to one in three do not eat enough decent food to grow and thrive.

In a bid to ensure that all children with a disability have access to education, health, emergency response, social protection, family and community life, UNICEF pledged on Wednesday to mainstream disability in all of its research.

The agency also urged increased investment in technology and equipment to support vulnerable children with specific needs, thereby increasing their opportunities for education, employment and social engagement.

“Assistive technology like wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses give people with disabilities the chance to overcome barriers and demonstrate what they can do, rather than what they cannot,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.

The UN Secretary-General also warned that “workers with disabilities – who were already experiencing exclusion and marginalization – are often the first to lose their jobs and the last to be re-hired”.

To address these issues, among many others, Mr. Guterres called for decisive action to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in every corner of the world and in every facet of life.

“Everyone, everywhere must be free to go to school, to access health care, to start a family, have decent work and participate fully in all spheres of economic, social, cultural, and political life,” he said, before calling for reforms to the global financial system, to allow “far greater investments in disability inclusion, to create accessible environments and opportunities everywhere”.

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