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130311 WHO Disability Report of the secretariat


130311 WHO Disability Report of the secretariat

Disability is neither purely a biological nor a social construct but the result of interactions between health conditions and environmental and personal factors. Disability can occur at three levels: an impairment in body function or structure; a limitation in activity, such as the inability to read or move around; a restriction in participation, such as exclusion from school or work. As such, people with disabilities include those who are traditionally understood as disabled (for example wheelchair users, people who are blind or deaf or people with intellectual impairments), and people who experience difficulties in functioning due to a wide range of health conditions such as chronic diseases, severe mental disorders, multiple sclerosis and old age.

There are more than 1000 million people with disabilities in the world, of whom between 110 million and 190 million experience significant difficulties. The total corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population and is higher than WHO’s previous estimates, which date from the 1970s and suggested a figure of around 10%. Furthermore, the prevalence of disability is growing because of ageing populations and the global increase in chronic health conditions. National patterns of disability are influenced by trends in health conditions and environmental and other factors – such as road traffic crashes, natural disasters, conflict, diet and substance abuse. Disability disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, in particular, women, older people and people that are poor. Low-income countries have a higher prevalence of disability than high-income countries.

People with disabilities face widespread barriers in accessing services, such as those for health care (including rehabilitation), education, transport and employment. These barriers include inadequate policies and standards, negative attitudes, lack of service provision, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility, inappropriate technologies and formats for information and communication, and lack of participation in decisions that directly affect their lives.