We believe everyone has the right to learn, earn and be happy, which is why Sightsavers promotes equal opportunities for people with visual impairments and other disabilities.Our work on disability
This global campaign calls for the UN and its member states to ensure the rights of all people with disabilities are upheld.
In June, we launched our Equal World petition. Alongside its global call, it had national-level calls in 14 countries, pushing for progress on the passing and implementation of disability legislation. We collected signatures online, but also wanted to make sure people who might not have access to the internet could take part. To achieve this, Sightsavers’ technical team developed an innovative app that allowed campaigners to gather signatures using mobile devices, which could then be transmitted to our head office once the collector was back online. This made a huge difference in reaching people who would ordinarily be excluded from participating in this type of campaigning.
The global petition gained more than 50,000 signatures, and in December it was handed in to UN under-secretary-general Ana Maria Menéndez.
We campaigned for disability rights in 14 countries around the world. Here’s a roundup of the activity around the world, and some of the impact it’s had so far.
In 2018, the government of Guinea agreed a decree to protect people with disabilities, but progress on putting it into action has been slow, and many people with disabilities in the country have yet to see it make a difference in their lives. We called on the government to implement the law on the protection of people with disabilities, and 4,233 people signed the petition. Campaigners in Guinea also took part in a global day of action for equality.
In Uganda, nearly 7,000 people signed a national petition for the government to implement disability planning guidelines. The minister of state for gender and culture, Peace Mutuuzo, promised to set up a meeting between the country’s president and national disability groups. She also committed to follow up the roll-out of the implementation of the planning guidelines.
In Nigeria, 3,595 people signed a national petition for implementation of the national disability bill. After receiving the petition at the hand-in event, the minister for humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development (the coordinating ministry on disability) made a public commitment to set up a national disability commission in the next six months.
In Pakistan, we campaigned for the national disability bill to be approved. During his speech at the hand-in event, the honourable speaker made a series of commitments, including: making the country’s parliament house fully accessible by the end of 2020, reviewing the 2% employment quote for people with disabilities, making the national assembly website accessible, translating the constitution into braille and setting up a group to review disability legislation.
In Malawi, Sightsavers called for disability rights to be upheld through implementation of the country’s 2018 national action plan. We worked with APAM, the association of people with albinism in Malawi, and our petition – which gained 3,196 signatures – was handed in to the minister for gender, children, disability and social welfare. The minister acknowledged receipt of the petition and ensured the request would be presented to the president, and that it would be implemented.
In Bangladesh, we called on the government to put its national disability action plan into effect. The plan highlights the key strategic priorities to be undertaken, and its timely and effective implementation has the potential to transform society and have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people with disabilities in Bangladesh.
There was considerable coverage of the campaign in national news outlets across the country. More than 2,600 people signed the petition.
We campaigned for the government to ratify the African Disability Protocol in Ghana. This is essential to address disability discrimination and inequality across the country, and to ensure employment policies promote equal and accessible opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the African continent. In Ghana, 2,718 people signed the petition.
In Ireland, we called on the Irish government to prioritise people with disabilities in its global development policy. Campaigning in the country successfully led to a commitment from the tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs and trade, Simon Coveney, to make Ireland’s A Better World development policy disability-inclusive. Five thousand people signed the petition, and it was handed in to Maureen O’Sullivan TD on behalf of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence. Sightsavers Ireland also helped to secure Statements in the Seanad Éireann (the senate of the Irish parliament) to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, during which our campaign was highlighted.
In India, we called for all public places to be made fully accessible by 2025. The petition was signed by 3,114 people.
Our petition, calling on the Senegalese government to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, was signed by 3,788 people. If the government ratifies the treaty, which aims to make reading material more widely available in accessible formats including braille, audio and large print, it will have a huge impact in the lives of people with disabilities and bring an end to the ‘book famine’ experienced by people with print disabilities living in Senegal.
In Sierra Leone, we called on the government to approve and implement the National Inclusive Education Policy to ensure meaningful participation and equal opportunities for all children, regardless of their needs. Almost 2,000 people signed the petition.
In Cameroon, we campaigned for the government to fully implement the national law on the protection and promotion of persons with disabilities and its decree.
In Mali, 1,153 people signed the petition to uphold the law of social protection. The law promises improvements including the correction of current legal deficiencies; equal access to water, sanitation and hygiene services; other supports for people with disabilities; and access to development programmes and benefits. Campaigners called on the government to sign the present draft decree to this law, to make it possible for people with disabilities to claim these rights.
In Kenya, despite numerous existing policies aimed at improving disability inclusion, the gap between policy and practice is wide, particularly when it comes to economic opportunities for people with disabilities. Anecdotal evidence suggests employment exclusion rates are as high as 90%. A total of 1,368 people signed our call to the government of Kenya to implement the commitments on economic empowerment for persons with disabilities made at the 2018 Global Disability Summit.
It’s been an amazing year, proving that by working together, we can tackle disability discrimination and inequality around the world, and work towards a society where everyone can claim their rights.
You can be part of it: join the Equal World campaign today.
The UK government’s new international women and girls strategy is a positive step. But because 18 per cent of women have a disability, it is essential that disability inclusion is prioritised.
Gertrude, who is Sightsavers’ global advocacy manager for social inclusion, becomes the first African woman to lead the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Sightsavers is sad to learn of the death of disability rights activist Judith Heumann, who was often referred to as the ‘mother of the disability rights movement’.