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A further study on disability in the Caribbean

Published date 2009-12-14
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A significant part of the population in the Caribbean is living with disabilities. The regional meeting for the Dutch- and English-speaking Caribbean countries to assess the implementation of the programme of action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 15 years after its adoption concluded that the physical infrastructure is far behind levels necessary to guarantee equal participation in all aspects of social, economic and cultural life. It was furthermore agreed that increased investments were needed in order to create conditions that permitted self-reliance and dignity for persons with disability.

Countries in the Caribbean subregion have taken several measures and initiatives to address the specific problems of persons living with disabilities. The commitment towards the rights and the position of persons with disabilities is mixed, however. Even the best examples are falling far short of guaranteeing full participation of persons with disabilities in life the same as persons without disabilities. The full potential of persons with disabilities is not utilized which is a loss for the society as a whole.

The availability of statistics on persons living with disabilities is limited. Even if data are gathered, the number of publications and studies published on the basis of these data is limited. Additionally, there are many issues with the quality of the data, which led the World Bank to conclude that ‘the difficulty is obtaining high quality data, especially data that is useful for comparisons across countries and regions. The rate of disability found in household surveys and censuses varies dramatically. This variation results from differing measures of disability, different data collection techniques, and different reactions to survey questions by respondents’.

There are several international and regional initiatives to harmonize the tools to collect data on disability. The Washington Group on disability statistics is the main initiative of the United Nations and its member States. Attempts to gather information on government
commitment and advances towards the CRPD were made by the Global Survey on Government Action on the Implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and as part of the Biwako Millennium Framework.

This is the second study on disability in the Caribbean undertaken by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The first study presented an overview of definitions and concepts applied by the United Nations and further described different concepts and methodologies available to quantify and measure disabilityii. It also presented the findings of an empirical four-country study using recent census data. The current study has the character of a work-in-progress.


UN symbol: LC/CAR/L.237