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WBU statement on international day of persons with disabilities, 3 December 2018

Every third of December, the World commemorates International Day of Persons with Disabilities to create awareness of their rights and to influence their inclusion and equal participation in mainstream development. The theme this year is: Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

The World Blind Union joins these celebrations and takes the opportunity to influence governments, development partners and UN agencies to mainstream the rights of blind and partially sighted persons in their planning, policy frameworks, programming, budgeting and implementation.

Blind and partially sighted persons worldwide continue to face significant challenges such as: inaccessible environment and non-inclusive education systems; learning facilities including textbooks remain largely in print as opposed to being accessible in braille, large print, audio and electronic formats; there is limited access to assistive technology as computers and screen readers are too expensive for many blind people; information regarding reproductive health and rights is hardly accessed by girls and women with visual disabilities, therefore, they remain disempowered in making appropriate choices; discrimination and exclusion in employment for persons with visual disabilities remains rampant where policies and legislative frameworks do not allocate resources for the provision of reasonable accommodation to meet their needs; consistent and disaggregated data on the number of persons with visual disabilities depends on estimates, which limits the planning and resource allocation.

It is important to note that about 174 states have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and committed to respect, promote and fulfil the rights enshrined therein. The CRPD has further advanced the rights and wellbeing of persons with visual disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and other international frameworks such as the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction, the charter on inclusion for persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, the new urban agenda, and the Addis Ababa agenda action on financing for development. More than 190 UN Member states acknowledge the need to promote inclusive development by ensuring equality for all without leaving anyone behind. The sustainable development goals are international commitments which states have accepted to promote inclusive development through a number of goals such as goal 4 on inclusive and quality education, goal 5 on gender equality, goal 8 on work and employment, goal 10 on reducing social inequalities, goal 11 on accessible cities and inclusive human settlements and goal 17 with indicators on the provision of statistical data.

The World Blind Union therefore appeals to states, development partners, donner agencies, the UN and other organizations to influence the mainstreaming of the rights of persons with visual disabilities through inclusion and equal opportunities. 

We call upon states to: allocate resources for consistent disaggregated data to aid planning, policy development and advocacy; promote accessible smart cities by ensuring that shared spaces are safe for persons with visual disabilities by marking pedestrian walk ways with tactile signage, traffic lights with braille and sound, public transport with audio, talking lifts on buildings and the recognition of the white cane as a mobility tool; facilitate schools with accessible learning materials to improve the quality of education for learners with visual disabilities; empower women and girls with visual disabilities with information in sexual and reproductive health rights in order to improve their wellbeing; collaborate with technology companies including manufacturers of computers and screen reader softwares to ensure that costs are subsidized and affordable to persons with visual disabilities.

In addition, we call upon employers in both the formal and informal sectors to promote inclusive employment by guarantying equal opportunities and providing reasonable accommodation to meet their needs of people with disabilities.
 
The underlying principle in the sustainable development goals is "leave no one behind". We cannot have inclusion and equality if the rights of persons with visual disabilities are not mainstreamed in the development processes. We call upon states to respect our plight and mainstream our rights into the development processes.​

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The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 253 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of 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. Visit our website at www.worldblindunion.org

For further information, please contact:

Terry Mutuku
Communications Officer, World Blind Union