From time to time people ask us, why serve people with disabilities in other countries? There are many issues here in the U.S. that need to continue to be addressed to better the lives of people with disabilities. We appreciate real, honest questions like this one; and this is absolutely true.
But what is also true is there are gross inequalities and great disparities in our world today. We think about this often at DSI and tend to break these disparities into two categories: a lack of access and a lack of opportunity.
In developed countries, people with disabilities are not only counted, they have rights that are demanded, many services and advocates available to them, and governmental structures with elaborate infrastructure that helps to fund and provide all of this on an ongoing basis.
The reality is that in developing countries throughout the world, many people with disabilities (and yes, many without disabilities as well) lack access to things like clean water and sanitation, healthcare, and nutrition. They are often excluded from opportunities such as education and employment at higher rates than their non-disabled peers.
Their basic human rights go unmet and often, in systems and societies struggling with many issues, people with disabilities are the last to be considered and have their equal human rights realized in multifaceted relief and development work.
It is widely believed that disability data may be unreliable and under-representative. This is largely because of the current realities including a lack of diagnostic tools, under-reporting of child births and accurate school attendance, and the role that stigma and shame plays in communities that prevent families from reporting their children with disabilities that they keep hidden within their homes.