The focus in this edition of The State of the World’s Children (2013) is to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities as equal participants in society. Inclusion goes beyond just integration, however. Inclusion requires that the current framework change in fundamental ways to help mitigate the institutionalized barriers to normal life associated with being disabled.
Often treated as objects of pity, or even worse as targets of discrimination and abuse, children with disabilities face many challenges. According to the report, they are more likely to live in poverty and are less likely to attend school or to have access to health clinics. Around the world, only 51% of children with disabilities complete primary school, as compared to 61% of those without disabilities. 1 in 20 of those aged 14 or younger live with a moderate or severe disability of some kind. Girls, who are disabled, often face even more discrimination than boys, which can lead to malnutrition, low school attendance, and even infanticide. Beyond neglect and exclusion, children with disabilities can face verbal and physical abuse. Children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence. Caregivers of children with disabilities face the added strain of caring for a disabled child, and this strain increases the risk of abuse. To add to this problem, these estimates of abuse may be an underestimate as children with communication disabilities struggle to find ways to report their abuse.
Despite these structural disadvantages, children with disabilities are capable of participating in society and contributing equally to the life of that community. Inclusion of children with disabilities around the world is possible if perceptions regarding the disabled change from those of shame and mistrust to those of solidarity and encouragement: “What is needed is a commitment to these children’s rights and their futures, giving priority to the most advantages- as a matter of equity and for the benefit of all.” Many countries have taken steps to emphasize the importance of greater equity for the disabled, signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The conventions demand recognition of each child as a full member of his or her community rather than as passive recipients of care and protection. These Conventions are indicative of a growing global movement dedicated to the inclusion of children in community life.
This report includes seven chapters detailing the current challenges to achieving greater equity for the disabled as well as future actions that might be taken to confront these challenges. The report also includes perspectives and personal accounts from both individuals living with disabilities and individuals advocating on their behalf around the world.
Follow this link to read the full report and find other interactive media.