Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, it is everyone’s reminder to do two things; one, leverage our voices to promote accessibility and inclusion and two, listen to and learn from the disabled community.
Because disability inclusion is essential for a fair society and upholding not only human rights, but progress towards improved sustainable development.
We must remember that leaving no one behind is key to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But we know that persons with disabilities are less likely to access quality health care, education, employment and participate actively in the community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened many pre-existing inequalities; exposing a huge lack of inclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is urgent and imperative.
Because it is a reality that as the global community faces pandemics, war and the adverse impacts of climate disasters people are being left behind; it is the more than a billion people who currently live with disabilities, who are often the most excluded and overlooked groups in our societies, who will be at the greatest risk.
We know that for 1.1 billion people vision impairment is not being corrected or treated. As one of largest disabilities, unaddressed vision impairment means exclusion and lost opportunities. Children can experience delayed development with lifelong consequences, adults are omitted from the workforce and older adults are isolated from their communities.
The impact of unaddressed vision impairment is frequently underestimated, but it is promising to see more countries and companies actively working towards inclusion, accessibility and providing programmes and services that address the needs of those with disabilities.
And companies who provide eye health to their employees, or leaders like Lego who have developed Braille Bricks to help develop literacy skills by arranging the studs to correspond to numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet. These inspiring toys allow unsighted and sighted children to play and learn together on equal terms.
It is endeavors like this that help lead the way to viable, sustainable inclusion.
It is time to unlock the belief that inclusion is complicated or expensive. Inclusion is an investment that opens the world up to more opportunity and potential.
When we strive to make products, places, and professions more accessible, we move closer to upholding the core values and principles set out by the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy.
So, I urge all organisations, those within the eye health sector and those outside of it, to consider their policies and practices and make inclusion a priority.
At IAPB, we recognise that action comes from individuals to those in the highest of offices. So, to address vision impairment, we are calling for action in the form of accessible eye care, available sight tests and affordable glasses so that everyone, everywhere, can access the eye care they need.
Together, with the active involvement of persons with disabilities, we can increase accessibility and dismantle social, economic and other barriers.
I remind you that 15% of the worlds’ population lives with a disability. So, let’s use this day to share the message that when it comes to inclusion, there is no time like now.