Worldwide about 1 billion people are affected by some type of disability, according to estimations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank. The two international organisations released a 350-page report on living conditions of disabled people worldwide. The economic and societal situation for those 15% of the total population could be far better: WHO and World Bank state that people with a disability are among the most marginalized groups in the world, having poorer state of health, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. As a consequence, disabilities disproportionally affect the most vulnerable parts of a population: the poor and less educated people.
Economic discrimination starts during childhood and in education. Many countries do not achieve equal opportunities for children with a disability at school or in universities. The report finds education completion gaps “across all age groups in all settings, with the pattern more pronounced in poorer countries”. The lack of education leads to higher probabilities of unemployment. Handicapped people are more likely to suffer from poverty than non-disabled people. Due to extra costs such as medical care, assistive devices or personal support, people with disabilities are generally poorer than non-disabled people with similar incomes. Especially in less developed countries with weaker health and welfare systems, disabled people often suffer from insufficient food, poor housing, and lack of access to safe water and sanitation.
Integration in the workplace is not only desirable for the disabled, it is also essential for companies. This publication has repeatedly reported about the waste of economic potential created by the exclusion of employees or customers with a disability. Fortunately, some companies are actively tapping into this potential and a few small, middle-sized and large businesses have just been awarded with an Inclusion Award for being outstanding practitioners of inclusion. The global automotive producer Volkswagen, for example, has spent more than one million Euro to offer 1,000 workplaces in line with special demands. “Companies must learn not to oversee the abilities of people with a disability”, Michael Stuber, owner manager of European Diversity Research & Consulting says. “The sometimes required reasonable accommodation is deliberately called reasonable”, he adds. The World Report on Disability also argues that rehabilitation maximizes functioning, but also says that only 26–55% of people with a disability receive the medical rehabilitation they need.This is one of the facts confirming that many societies, governments or employers do not meet their responsibility to improve the participation of handicapped persons. The WHO and World Bank conclude: “People are disabled by society, not just by their bodies.”