Persons with disabilities, who comprise an estimated 15 per cent of the global population, are one of the largest minority groups in the world. In Asia and the Pacific, this translates to an estimated 690 million people, including those with physical disabilities, those who are blind or experience low vision, deaf, hard of hearing, and those with learning disabilities, cognitive/developmental disabilities, psychosocial disabilities, deafblind, and those with multiple disabilities.
Persons with disabilities face numerous barriers that restrict their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others and are among those at highest risk of being left behind in the development process. This risk is particularly pertinent given rising inequality across the world, which has a disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities. For instance, the increase of income inequality puts persons with disabilities – who already are less likely to be employed compared with their peers without disabilities – in a particularly vulnerable position. Furthermore, the rising inequality with regard to access to basic services such as education opportunities often results in persons with disabilities falling behind, as evidenced by their relatively low rates of completing secondary education, gaining full time employment and securing a decent income compared to those without disabilities.
The inadequacy and lack of accessible built environments, accessible information and communication, including information and communications technology (ICT), and accessible services are fundamental barriers that widen this inequality. ‘Accessibility’, in simple terms, is the breaking down of the barriers across these sectors that prevent persons with disabilities – and the broader population – from participating in society on an equal basis with others.