Approximately 15% of the world’s population (1 billion people) has a disability, with a disproportionate amount living in developing countries. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 4 Americans have a disability; the numbers are expected to increase as the population ages along with an increase in chronic health diseases. The UN’s first-ever flagship report on disability and development published in December of 2018 "published by, for, and with, persons with disabilities" has found that most people with disabilities are at a disadvantage in regard to sustainable development goals (SDG).
The UN report’s intention is to foster more accessible, disability-inclusive societies, and its findings are indicative of just how much needs to change. People with disabilities face challenges in their everyday life in a variety of ways, from accessibility in their workplace, to public transit, to having access to health care, education, and new technologies. In addition to these challenges, people with disabilities face discrimination, marginalization, stigma, and exclusion. People with disabilities are often left out of development processes and progress. They are also disproportionately affected by poverty; disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty. It can lead to job loss, reduced earnings, barriers to education, impede skill development and additional expenses. The report also found that women and girls were severely underrepresented in decision making and political participation.
Although these numbers are sobering, they provide an impetus to include people with disabilities in development programs as experts — they are the best at identifying the barriers that they face and coming up with innovative solutions.
Change cultural stigma
It’s important to recognize that having people with disabilities visible and present in the community, making decisions, and being valued like anyone else has the transformational power to impact attitudes toward inclusion. Being inclusive is important to an organization’s success in order to enact positive social change that includes all members of their community.
Empowering people with disabilities to improve web accessibility and user experience
When participating in testing for digital accessibility and user experience, people with disabilities access the internet in a variety of ways and can provide incredible insight. Simulating how a refreshable Braille display or screen reader will be used can't match empowering people who use those technologies everyday to inform testing and decisions.
This also provides an opportunity to support people as catalysts for their own change and it's an opportunity we shouldn't miss.