Today is the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons, proclaimed by the United Nations first in 1992 to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities.

Disability is truly a global issue and about 15% of the world’s population—more than one billion people—live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization.

The team at Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, including faculty, students, and staff, not only recognize this day of observance and the toll disability takes on so many people around the world, but work day in and day out to address and counter this global burden.

We know from our work and that of colleagues around the world, that disability not only affects the individual, but also has consequences (health, social, and economic) for family members, friends, and the community. In collaboration with partners in Cambodia, Kenya, Malaysia, and Vietnam, our team has worked to understand the long-term health, social and economic impact of disability on individuals, their caregivers, and families. Using a holistic sociological framework to account for the interrelatedness of family structures and economic opportunities, we sought to get insight on the impact of disability, as well as various adaptation and coping strategies employed by individuals and their families.

One limitation to addressing this issue is the lack of timely and reliable data to understand the needs of individuals with disability and the barriers they face in accessing services – health and other services for day-to-day functioning. Our work in collaboration with partners in Uganda focused on adapting and implementing standardized disability assessment tools at the community level to better measure disability as an outcome in children and adults. It has provided evidence on the magnitude of the problem and its health and socio-economic impacts. This body of work focuses on approaches for generating data that can be used for policy and decision-making to better understand and address the needs of individuals with disabilities.

Through research, education, and practice, we’re working to contribute to a world inclusive of individuals with disabilities addressing key issues related to diversity and equity.

As we all strive on a global level to stay safe in the world of COVID-19 and support experts in their work to end this pandemic, we especially embrace this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities theme, “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World.”

For more information and resources on disability and International Day of Disabled Persons, please see the list below:

· International Day of Persons with Disabilities
· International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020
· Commemorative Event for IDPD 2020: Action Toward a Disability-Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World
· United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy
· Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
· World Health Organization Overview of Disability
· World Health Organization Fact Sheets on Disability and health
· World Health Organization Disability Facts in Pictures