Rights of people living with disabilities

A person in wheelchair on a wooden raft floating in a middle of a pond
Civil society champions rights of people with disabilities in Ukraine

There are more than 1 billion people living with disabilities across the globe, making this group the world’s largest minority. Although people with disabilities represent 15 percent of the population, they face many challenges when it comes to participation in public life.

People with disabilities are routinely denied rights to education, free movement, employment, living independently, accessing information, obtaining proper health care, exercising political rights, and making their own decisions.

The situation in the region reflects this global trend. In Serbia, for example, 70 percent of people with disabilities live in poverty, and only 13 percent have the opportunity to work. Similarly, in Bulgaria(pdf) only 13 percent of people with disabilities are employed. In the Russian Federation, 70 percent of the disability population is unemployed.

These are a just a few examples, which demonstrate the level of seriousness of the issue.

What we do

UNDP partners with national human rights institutions, ombudsmen offices, and civil society organizations through tailor-made programmes that cater to the specific needs of people with disabilities. This includes:

  • Supporting national employment services that offer work placements, vocational training and business start-up support for people with disabilities

  • Assisting disabled persons’ organizations to expand their services at the community level (such as daycare centres and free legal aid services)

  • Prototyping social innovation projects (such as using micronarratives) to empower people with disabilities and improve their social welfare

  • Analyzing legislation, cost-benefit analysis of various measures, and reviewing good practices from the region(pdf)

  • Working with national statistics offices to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities in statistical reports

  • Raising awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities and sharing good practices about addressing stigma, prejudices and negative stereotypes against people with disabilities - through projects and meetings (See our 2014 calendar "Promoting Inclusion and Empowerment of Persons with ‘Special Abilities".)

Some results so far

At the international level, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, providing an effective legal tool for States to end discrimination and violation of the rights of PWDs. So far, more than 20 countries in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States have signed and ratified the Convention.

In Uzbekistan, UNDP and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection are helping to increase social integration and employment opportunities for people with disabilities through ACCESS: Promoting Accessibility, Civic Consciousness, Employment, and Social Support.

In Croatia, a new Register of Voters Act was put to the test in elections for Croatian Members of the European Parliament, giving people with disabilities the right to vote. In the previous electorate act, more than 16,000 people with disabilities were placed under guardianship.

In Kazakhstan, UNDP is designing and testing a new mobile application for more than 21,000 people with hearing and speaking disabilities connecting them with emergency services as well as providing them information on legal aid.

In Belarus, people with disabilities are getting more opportunities to have their voices heard. A platform for collecting micronarratives on disability was created to empower people with disabilities to share their unique feedback.

Call to action

  1. Policymakers need to adopt anti-discrimination legislation to ensure equality and social justice, and take the lead in showing citizens the positive effect of including people with disabilities in every area of social, economic and political life.

  2. Citizens need to promote and protect the rights and interests of people with disabilities, and participate in social innovation initiatives to promote catalytic and innovative actions, exchanges of knowledge on disability issues, and appropriate assistive technologies

  3. Representatives of national human rights institutions and Offices of the Ombudsperson need to partner effectively with treaty bodies, civil society organizations, legal aid associations and international human rights missionaries to achieve the goal of inclusive development.

See results from our regional project: