Timely and disaggregated data: a tool to raise awareness around disabilities

Fredy Rodríguez and Margarita Vaca


January 3, 2020 

About one billion people throughout the world (one in eight adults) live with some sort of disability. Moreover, between 110 million and 190 million people experience significant disabilities (WHO, 2018). According to different studies, people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty and face limitations in accessing the health system, the education sector, and the labor market.

Disabilities [1] are not limited to a person’s health conditions: they also distill into multiple areas of society that includes both the environment where they live and the equal opportunities they have to allow them to develop their abilities and exercise their rights as a person and citizen (United Nations, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006).

In this context, data disaggregation has a role to play to help fulfill the rights of people with disabilities all spheres. The separation of information into smaller units such as age, sex , the type of disability, geographical location, among others, will allow building a more equitable, inclusive and resilient world that leaves no one behind, as postulated by the 2030 Agenda.

Updated and disaggregated data play a transcendental role to highlight the progress, challenges and expectations of this group. It also helps to build evidence-based public policies that not only guarantee the basic needs of people with disabilities, but also promote opportunities and their active participation in our societies.

Such is the case of the Inclusive Data Charter-IDC, an initiative of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, which establishes principles to help its allies guide their objectives into more disaggregated data. This case shows the transcendental role that updated and disaggregated data play in making visible the progress, challenges and expectations of this group, as well as the critical role it plays in the construction of public policies based on evidence that will promote opportunities and an active participation of society.

The following table is an overview of the situation of people with disabilities associated with some of the Sustainable Development Goals based on the United Nations Disability and Development Report, and other relevant studies.

Most people with disabilities live in poverty (Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, 2006).

Only 28% of people with significant disabilities have access to government aid globally, and only 1% have it in low income countries (United Nations, 2020: 4-5).
In regards to food security, data reveals that in developed European countries, the average percentage of people with disabilities who cannot afford a meal with protein every other day is almost double compared to people without disabilities (United Nations, 2019 : 39).
In 43 countries, about 42% of people with disabilities, compared to 6% of people without disabilities, perceive their health as poor (United Nations, 2019: 4).

The lack of financial resources, accessibility to medical facilities and transportation, as well as inadequate training of health personnel to care for people with disabilities are some of the factors that hinder the correct provision of specialized services for this population (United Nations, 2019).
One in ten girls and boys has a disability (UNICEF, 2018).
Only 47% of more than 30,000 educational facilities are accessible to people in wheelchairs (United Nations, 2019).
7 out of 10 girls, boys and adolescents with disabilities do not attend school (UNICEF, 2019).
Women with disabilities are three times more likely to have a lack of healthcare and be illiterate (United Nations, 2019).
Around 80% of the disabled population is of working age (ILO, n.d.). However, there are still barriers that limit their entry into the labor market. For example, the percentage of the employed population with disabilities is almost half compared to those without disabilities. In addition, the inadequacy of the workplace hinders their activities or access to it (United Nations, 2019).
In some countries, more than 50% of people with disabilities have experienced discrimination. Moreover, only 36% of countries do not have legal restrictions for people with disabilities to marry (United Nations, 2019: 13).
There are different barriers that affect the mobility of people in public spaces and accessing or using public transportation. These barriers are physical (sidewalks, road conditions, obstacles in pedestrian spaces, among others), operational (rows, traffic), attitudinal / cultural barriers (in regards to traffic lights and pedestrian spaces) and communication barriers (road closures without prior notice) (IDB, 2019). These barriers are magnified for people with disabilities, since they cause delays, but also bring significant challenges surrounding their interaction in their societies.
Natural disasters can disproportionately affect people with disabilities by many means: limiting their access to food and adequate nutrition and / or according to their needs, drinking water and sanitation, health care services and medicines, adequate housing, among others (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2020).

The limitations and barriers that people with disabilities must face when having to flee a territory due to threats on their lives cause by armed conflicts or the presence of criminal gangs can be much broader when compared to other people, both due to their limited operation and the specific needs they require, as well as the means and paths they must travel (UNHCR, nd).
At least 120 out of 214 countries or areas that conducted a census during the 2010 round included a set of questions on disability, which is an increase of 532% over the number of countries (19) that did so during the 1970 census round. (United Nations, 2019: 17).

In recent decades, there has been a positive and significant change for people with disabilities, especially with the proclamation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, by expanding the concept of disability from a medical condition to a social model where the barriers of both the environment and social interaction are an implicit factor in disabilities.

Multi-stakeholder alliances play a key role in promoting awareness-raising processes and in producing increasingly disaggregated data that allow us to meet and understand the needs of this group. For example, the Washington Group has made several efforts to strengthen statistics and promote surveys with greater detail. This case is closely linked to the goal of SDG 17.18 which calls for timely and frequent data with the disability variable included for users.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to publishing data and statistics more frequently. This may be done through the development of capacities of decision-makers in the process of collecting, analyzing and disseminating data, to reinforce societies’ commitments with people with disabilities within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.

 [1] “People with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory deficiencies that, by interacting with various barriers, may prevent their full and effective participation in society, on equal terms with others” Article 1 , Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006.


About the authors

Fredy Rodríguez, Data Coordinator, Cepei
Margarita Vaca, Data Researcher, Cepei