In Asia and the Pacific, 690 million men, women and children, accounting for 15 per cent of the total population in the region, live with some form of disability. The number is expected to rise over the next decades as a combined effect of population ageing, chronic health conditions, natural disasters, road traffic injuries, poor working conditions and other factors. Despite this expected constant increase, persons with disabilities tend to be unseen, unheard and uncounted. They continue to face multiple barriers in their participation in society and are exposed to violations of their human rights. They are often excluded from access to education, decent work, social protection services and legal support, and are subject to disproportionately high rates of poverty. Studies show that improved utilization of the productive capacities of persons with disabilities can boost the Asian and Pacific economies and contribute to their gross domestic product to grow by one to seven per cent. Yet, negative stereotyping of persons with disabilities prevents them from exercising their rights and fulfilling their responsibilities as equal members of society. In addition, the dearth of reliable and comparable data on persons with disabilities hampers the design and implementation of disability policies and programmes.
ESCAP is the only Regional Commission of the United Nations that has been promoting the rights of persons with disabilities through the three consecutive regional disability-specific decades that started in 1993. The ongoing Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, from 2013 to 2022, is guided by the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific. Building on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Incheon Strategy comprises 10 disability-specific time-bound development goals, 27 targets and 62 indicators. The Incheon Strategy supports the achievement of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2017, members and associate members of ESCAP adopted the Beijing Declaration, including the Action Plan to Accelerate the Implementation of the Incheon Strategy, at the High-level Intergovernmental Meeting on the Midpoint Review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, held in Beijing from 27 November to 1 December.
ESCAP works to enhance capacity, knowledge and regional cooperation in support of the Incheon Strategy and the Beijing Action Plan. To this end, ESCAP works together with Asian and Pacific governments, civil society organizations for or of persons with disabilities and international organizations.
ESCAP is the secretariat of the Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022, that was established in early 2013 as an advisory body for the full and effective implementation of the Incheon Strategy. The Working Group is composed of 30 members (i.e. 15 from governments and 15 from civil society organizations), formally endorsed by the Commission. The Working Group meets annually to review regional progress in the implementation of the Incheon Strategy and adopt a set of decisions and recommendations on the important disability agenda.
The Disability at a Glance series
The Disability at a Glance series, which started in 2006, serves as a companion for policymakers, statisticians and disability practitioners. These publications 2012,2015, 2017) aim to provide a regional overview of disability policies and practices, as well as relevant country data and information on persons with disabilities. The latest publication in 2017 on “Building disability-inclusive societies in Asia and the Pacific: Assessing progress of the Incheon Strategy” provides the first comprehensive report on persons with disabilities, drawing upon the midpoint review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022.
Strengthening the evidence base on persons with disabilities
Collecting timely and quality data on persons with disabilities is a focus of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. With the support of the Republic of Korea, ESCAP has been involved in capacity building of its member States to effectively plan and collect reliable and comparable disability data with a view to establishing the baseline on the Incheon Strategy indicators by 2017, the midpoint of the Decade. ESCAP continues working with member States to support statistical capacity building through national consultations and advisory missions to help them prepare for the final review of the Decade.
Promoting accessibility of the physical environment, public transport, knowledge, information and communication
Ensuring accessibility for everyone in society, including persons with disabilities, is a precondition for building an inclusive society, as indicated by the Incheon Strategy (Goal 3), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction for 2030. ESCAP has been placing great importance on promoting accessibility among member States. It published knowledge products to help them understand and implement comprehensive concepts of accessibility and share good practices. More recently, ESCAP organized an Expert Meeting on Creating Universal Design-based Accessible Societies in Asia and the Pacific to inform the development of a forthcoming publication. ESCAP also encourages member States to develop public procurement policies integrating accessibility or universal design standards in their bidding process.
Strengthening disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction planning
The Asia-Pacific region is the most adversely affected by disasters. Persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are at higher risk of death, injury and additional impairment, as a result of disability-blind disaster risk reduction policies and programmes. Goal 7 of the Incheon Strategy focuses on ensuring disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction and management. The midpoint review of the Incheon Strategy revealed that Asian and Pacific Governments had a long way to go in creating enabling policy environments for disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction as well as for adopting a comprehensive set of accessibility standards to apply to emergency shelters and disaster relief sites. Few countries had introduced disability-inclusive modules in the training programmes for their service personnel. ESCAP developed a model online learning tool to support ESCAP member States in developing and implementing disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction strategies. The tool provides a series of self-paced learning modules to help understand how to design and implement DRR planning and preparedness strategies that are inclusive for all, including persons with disabilities. The Tool is expected to be pilot-tested in different countries for further customization and refinement.