Every December 3, in solidarity with the one billion persons with disabilities around the world, we commemorate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Throughout our Agency’s work, we have a strong history of delivering development impact that benefits persons with disabilities. But just as meaningfully, we have sought to make sure persons with disabilities are recognized as change agents themselves – they are problem solvers and active partners in the design, implementation, and evaluation of our work.
To build on these efforts, earlier this year, the United States made a series of public commitments at the Global Disability Summit(link is external) – 23 in total – to pursue global development that is accessible to all.
Already the United States is delivering on those commitments. We’ve worked to improve access to assistive technologies like wheelchairs, prosthetics, and hearing aids – something we aim to do for 500 million people through a new initiative with ATscale, the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology. And we’re helping to build more inclusive health systems by supporting the development of the World Rehabilitation Alliance, a new World Health Organization-hosted network focused on promoting physical rehabilitation as an essential health service, one that would benefit nearly 2.4 billion people around the world.
We’re taking steps to fulfill other commitments as well. We are developing new guidance to incorporate principles of Universal Design for Learning in all new USAID education programs and are currently developing guidance for Mission staff to follow. We are creating interagency best practices for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian assistance. And we are investing in programming to bolster the resilience of persons with disabilities to climate shocks.
Outside our commitments, we have launched new guidance and trainings that focus on the inclusion of persons with disabilities, including the recently released paper, Approaches to Increasing Employment and Quality of Employment Among Youth with Disabilities, and our revamped Disability-Inclusive Development 101 E-Learning Course, which now includes interpretation in International Sign to further its accessibility and reach.
Of course, it is the work of our own staff with disabilities and disability champions around the world who truly power this work. One of those champions, Josh Josa, won the 2022 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal People’s Choice Award for his work with the Moroccan government to establish the first office dedicated to the education of students with disabilities and introducing a program for families to learn Moroccan Sign Language. As a result of Josh’s efforts, thousands of deaf students can now pursue a secondary education – a powerful example of how impactful inclusive development can be.
I want to thank all those who are working to fulfill the United States’ commitment to supporting persons with disabilities around the world. We must all live the change we seek.
For more information about USAID’s work on disability-inclusive development and human rights, please visit: Inclusive Development | US Agency for International Development.