3 December 2021

This year the International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD) presents us with a challenge: namely, how we, as a global community, rebuild our world following COVID-19. During the pandemic, disabled people suffered disproportionately, and now face being left behind without inclusive and targeted support.

At Leonard Cheshire we have been working internationally to highlight the importance of data reporting and accountability when working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without data, we cannot see the full picture, nor can we track improvements.

To address this lack of information, in 2018 we created the Leonard Cheshire Disability Data Portal. Just last week, Leonard Cheshire committed to sharing over 100 sources of national disability data on the Disability Data Portal. This aggregate data will be launched on the Portal prior to the Global Disability Summit in February 2022.

The data covers the themes of education (SDG 4), economic empowerment (SDG 1; SDG 8), stigma and discrimination (SDG 1; SDG 5; SDG 16), and technology and innovation (SDG 17). This is a huge step forward in confronting the reality of disability rights across the world. The reported data consists of internationally comparable numeric information. These numbers can be used practically to recognise areas for improvement in each state, as well as global trends.

However, this quantitative data shows just one side of the story. We believe that localised Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPD) and citizen generated qualitative data sets are fundamental in understanding how to support those with disabilities. These stories and experiences inform government and NGO efforts to sustainably improve the lives of disabled people.

One of our most successful schemes has been the Access to Employment (A2E) pilot programme, in Thailand. The project aimed to boost awareness of issues faced by youth with disabilities as they sought employment. Youth with disabilities were trained to use mobile phones to document and share experiences online. This created a powerful evidence-base to identify trends and highlight examples of discrimination. This reporting could then be shared with decision makers to influence change.

The volunteers were asked to share their experience of the job market as a disabled young person. They were also encouraged to suggest what governments and employers could do to improve the situation. The project received 114 testimonies from 55 youth with disabilities, aged between 18 to 35 years old.

Transcripts from these media posts then underwent thematic data analysis to discover patterns and trends, which could be summarized into a report.

Several themes were uncovered:

  • Lack of accessible recruitment processes and workplaces, including a lack of confidence by youth with disabilities (YWD) to address inaccessible or discriminatory workplaces
  • Stigma from recruiters –a perception of disability as inability
  • Lack of employment rights and benefits for youth with disabilities
  • Fewer work opportunities for out of work youths due to COVID-19
  • More flexibility for those already in work before the pandemic due to the increase in remote working.

Youth with disabilities put forward strong arguments for improvements and suggested changes, and a webinar was hosted in Thailand to hear first-hand from youth with disabilities on what needs to be done to ensure inclusive employment based on their own lived experience. Stakeholders from UN agencies, Governmental bodies, private sector, and civil society joined youth with disabilities to discuss real solutions to the problems they had encountered. You can hear some of their stories over on The Disability Data Portal.

Enough data was gathered to influence key figures in national and international positions of authority. Through this process, Thailand’s government were able to recognize the importance of quality disability data and have committed to sharing up to date aggregate data on our Disability Data Portal.

These lived experiences build on our understanding of disability within individuals’ cultures. For those countries that have provided census data, it is important to then collaborate with OPDs and disabled citizens to better these statistics. This often includes removing barriers to education, employment, and healthcare.

The Disability Data Portal will allow disability statistics to be tracked alongside government efforts to reduce inequality, as well as global events like the pandemic. Ideally, we will see data gaps and inequalities reduce over time. In any case, disability data will give us a clearer picture of how events on a larger scale affect people with disabilities’ lives day to day.

At Leonard Cheshire, we believe that accurate and disability conscious data reporting, at governmental and ground level, has the potential to transform the lives of those with disabilities around the globe. We hope that disabled people worldwide face less stigma by opening a dialogue across all tiers of society.

We will be using the 2022 Global Disability Summit to encourage even more governments to join the Portal and commit to making a trackable improvement in the field of disability rights.

You can find out more about the Portal here: www.disabilitydataportal.com