New year New Links

February 2021

Hey everyone,

Happy new year! If I can still say that - I hope you are well and carry on fighting the good fight.

Welcome to the global round-up of disability news that is Disability Debrief. In previous news, you can catch-up with the December edition with updates from international disability day and more.

Disability Debrief is made by me, Peter Torres Fremlin, a freelance consultant. This edition is produced with support from Center for Inclusive Policy.

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Welcome back to intense round-ups of disability news.

This edition marks one year since my first newsletter, and so I kick-off with some reflections below about the kind of news we have in the disability sector and what I've learned about how we can do it better.

Of course I don't just spend my time surfing social media for disability news, and last year I worked to understand how to further disability inclusion in humanitarian response based on lessons learned from Mozambique. I chat about it a bit more below.

As you all know, the COVID-19 crisis is still with us. Evidence is slowly coming out about how badly persons with disabilities were affected, and how little governments took the basic actions they could have. I helped with some research for an overview of the impact of the crisis in Europe, which shows “dreadful consequences” for persons with disabilities in who were “often only an afterthought in government actions that turned their lives upside down”. It's one of the profound disappointments of this crisis that governments with supposedly more established approaches on the rights of persons with disabilities did not manifest that in their responses to the pandemic.

Vaccinations hopefully provide the way out - and this newsletter features several discussions of priority access to vaccines for persons with disabilities. We are on the "brink of a moral catastrophe” according to WHO. As well as the previous recommendations from the International Disability Alliance, Light for the World have launched a campaign “Front Row for the Most Vulnerable”.

Don't tell me you weren't watching politics in the US. As well as reflections on the connections between white supremacy and the disability community, the wonderful poet on inauguration day, Amanda Gorman, says that her disability made her the performer and storyteller she strives to be. US politics really is the gift that keeps giving, and fortunately there are some positive notes throughout the newsletter on how the new administration is taking different directions.

In nicer news - there is as always news from a huge range of activities on disability from accessibility, education, employment, as well as live experience and popular culture. For fans of huge training materials on human rights then the OHCHR has blessed us with the SDG-CRPD Resource Package which, if I understand correctly, has the kitchen sink and plenty more.

Coming up. Well you’ll carry on hearing from me this year with these newsletters and hopefully with features other than the link collections too. During February you can get your disability fix at the Zero Project, which is on the 10th-12th and features innovative practices and innovative policies on employment and ICT.

One year of news and newsletters

Of course I didn't know in January last year the sheer amount of information that would flood us as the pandemic gathered speed a couple of months later. The most visited newsletters of the last year are the news on COVID-19 from 18th March, 26th March and late April. Frankly, I am not brave enough to revisit them.

My favourite post from last year is for sure the interview with Catalina Devandas who had just finished her years as UN Special Rapporteur. The quote that resonated with people was talking about her own experience: “I don't have multiple identities, I have one identity that compiles everything I am”.

As well as the trust that the Centre for Inclusive Policy has shown in support for these newsletters, feedback from you all keeps me going. Most of my work on this is still voluntary time and your good vibes are a big contribution. I'm glad to hear from colleagues that this collection helps them do their work, whether they're in government development departments or UN agencies. A particular high/lowlight was getting featured as a “helpful reference” by the Trump administration's Department of State.

I thought when I started that this flood of links would only be interesting to professional disability nerds like myself. So one of the most touching comments I got last year was from an internet friend who recently acquired a disability:

“It kind of cheers me up to see that there IS all this work going on because it really feels like people simply resent me for not being healthy, especially during covid. Your newsletter helps provide a perspective from a world I'm re-learning to navigate, and one that's incredibly well-researched and makes me hope for a better future.” — Jodi Ettenberg, author of Curious about Everything:

It often feels we're up against it, and it especially did last year. I'm glad that showcasing the work we do for disability rights can give perspective and cheer. Here's hoping for that better future and the what we do to get there.

Going forward

On my side, I'm going to try to continue this newsletter this year, and hopefully add different types of content too, like more interviews. I'm aware that newsletters can be more regular and also aware that we have too much news from the US and UK and hardly any from, say, China or Russia.

In the meantime, I will take the liberty of sharing reflections on knowledge management in the disability sector. Each of these newsletter updates is testament to the extent of work going on — and also speaks to the impossibility of any person being able to keep up.

We are great at reports, webinars, sharing links on social media, and there are some areas — like inclusive education or disability and data — where people have taken initiative to coordinate knowledge exchange in a really useful way.

However, other sectors seem further advanced in the “thinking in public”, whether in terms of analysis or reflection. In the disability sector it would be great to see more curation of news, assessment of key points, sharper executive summaries, people's thoughts when they have read a report, and highlights of what goes on in webinars. And all of that without even getting on to how we can make insights from work on disability relevant to those that work in different areas.

Another point that I don't quite know what to make of yet is the variety of sources that I compile in these newsletters and the multidimensional view that they give us. For the US and UK it is possible to feature strong journalism or opinions directly from persons with disabilities ourselves, which are important counterpoints to the official narratives.

The news from countries in the Global South nearly always comes through intermediaries, and quite often in terms of the fundraising or policy agendas of these intermediary organisations. As a person with disability, I am keenly aware that rights frameworks are a window to only part of my life experience, but this is the window through which it is all too easy to see others’ experiences in totality.

Something I worked on: lessons from disaster response

Much as my planned visit to Mozambique was one of last year's cancellations, it was still a great pleasure to work with the Light for the World Team there. We were gathering the lessons learned from the humanitarian response to Cyclone Idai in 2019. LFTW had already documented the “aid out of reach” and how many humanitarian interventions were not accessible or inclusive of persons with disabilities.

In our work we got to document what can be done about that: how to include persons with disabilities in disaster response. We feature two of the things they did — a disability working group, and disability inclusion facilitators — as well as trying to describe how it all fits together in the complex system of humanitarian response.

I've often seen disability mainstreaming as an issue of systems change and trying to do it in a fast-moving humanitarian response with so many people working together just brings it to another level, and has useful lessons for all of us.

There's already very comprehensive guidance in humanitarian issues, namely the wondrous and huge IASC guidelines, so we made this guide to communicate some of those key points, linked with the experience of 2019. Hopefully we've written it in a way that it works as a useful guide to those with disability experience but who don't know the humanitarian sector, and also those in the humanitarian sector who don't know the disability side.


The topics covered below are:

  • Accessibility and Design
  • Ageing
  • Assistive Technology
  • Civil Society
  • Community-based Rehabilitation
  • Communications
  • COVID-19 (and vaccines)
  • Culture and Entertainment
  • Data
  • Digital Accessibility and Technology
  • Education and childhood
  • Elections and Politics (all US this time)
  • Employment, business and work
  • Health
  • History and Memorial
  • Humanitarian, Migrants and Refugees
  • International Cooperation
  • Lived Experience and Opinion
  • Policy and rights
  • Sign Languages
  • Social Protection
  • Sport
  • Transport
  • Violence

And in closing there are some events and vacancies.


Do keep in mind that these collections are mainly just little ol’ me getting links off social media - and we all need to be careful about information we get off the internet, even if they do come in such brilliant newsletters. I mark the source and date and try to organize by importance to give you a good start.


Accessibility and Design

For digital accessibility see the section below.

A report on accessibility in 37 Countries of OECD. Gathering partial evidence to highlight situations in each country. From the French Ministère de la Transition écologique. (Link to pdf in English, see also in French, or their website)

Accessible Design: Why And How To Make It A Priority In 2021 (January, Forbes)

In Australia, We must improve accessible housing (January, Guardian)

In India, Access to Hope: How a Woman on Wheelchair is Making Mumbai Accessible, One Footpath a Time (January, News 18)


The Independent Expert on the human rights of older persons is calling for input for a thematic report on ageism and age discrimination (OHCHR, deadline 22nd March)

In Europe, Older persons with disabilities in Europe (January, EDF)

Assistive technology

In Malawi, Development of a public audiology service in Southern Malawi: profile of patients across two years (January, International Journal of Audiology): “uptake of hearing aids for those in need is low”.

Civil Society

Crip Camp have offered a Curriculum “to extend the knowledge and understanding of disability and of disabled people offered in the Netflix film”. “Our bold collective vision is to support students, educators, and families in a welcomed conversation about the disability rights movement, power, ableism, and disability justice.”

In India, Right To Worship: People With Disabilities Continue To Be Denied Entry Into Temples (January, Feminism India)

In the United States,

Community-based Rehabilitation

Autumn issue of the Disability, CBR and Inclusive Development journal.

In India, Effectiveness of Community-Based Rehabilitation on the lives of Parents of Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Mixed Method Study in Karnataka (December, Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development)


World Braille Day was celebrated on 4 January. “Inspirational” stories from the United Nations observance.

In India, Beyond braille "Technology has made it possible for people with visual impairment access texts, images and avail assistance through apps." (January, New Indian Express)

In Malaysia, More can be done for the visually impaired (January, New Straits Times)

In Mali, How we were the first to adapt braille into Mali’s local language (December, Sightsavers)


The International Disability Alliance is doing a survey: Experience of Persons with Disabilities Adapting to COVID-19 Global Pandemic. “The survey is for persons with disabilities only.”

In Mental Health, report from WHO Director General on Mental health preparedness and response for the COVID-19 pandemic (link to pdf, January). Welcomed by 22 member states (United for Global Mental Health)

In Long-Term Care,

  • A first look at Comparative Cross-national Statistics (December, ASPE): “the available evidence suggests that COVID-19 infection rates are likely to be lower among the elderly and people of all ages with disabilities and chronic medical conditions who reside and receive assistance ‘at home.’”.

In Bangladesh, ‘Disabled persons and emergency assistance: COVID-19 perspective’ (December, Prothom Alo)

In Chile, Necropolitics and the bodies that do not matter in pandemic times (preview, January, Crisis and disability)

In Europe, Impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities in Europe. (January, EDF)

In India,

In Turkey, Violations of the Rights of Women with Disabilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic (link to pdf, November, Turkish Federation of the Blind) Based on survey of 225 women.

In Uganda, The impact of COVID-19 measures on children with disabilities and their families (January, Disability and Society) “Families of children with disabilities have difficulties meeting daily basic needs as they were unable to work and had no income during the COVID-19 related lock down.”

In the United Kingdom,

In the United States

Other news


The chief of the WHO warns that the world “the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure”. “Not only does this me-first approach leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it’s also self-defeating.”  (January, UN)

A reminder of IDA recommendations on vaccines: Persons with disabilities must be prioritized in accessing COVID-19 vaccinations (link to pdf, December).

From Light for the World Front row for the most vulnerable A call for equitable and inclusive COVID-19 vaccination roll-outs. “We ask UN agencies, governments and the private sector to ensure an equitable global distribution of vaccinations to leave no person and no country behind!” With focus on affordability, availability, accessibility, and awareness.

In terms of Long-term care, International “living” report: Long-Term Care and COVID-19 vaccination, prioritization and data (January, LTC Covid)

In Australia, COVID-19 vaccine rollout for Australians living with disability needs clarity (January, News)

In Bangladesh, Disabled should be given priority for vaccines (December, Prothom Alo)

In Canada, Including People with Developmental Disabilities as a Priority Group in Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Key Considerations (January, Portico)

From India, Rights groups urge priority vaccination for persons with disabilities (January, The Economic Times)

From the United Kingdom,

In the United States,

Culture and Entertainment

18 Books That Will Help You Better Understand Disability And Chronic Illness (January, Buzzfeed News). Good to see it feature Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus, which I particularly enjoyed over the break. See a taster of his poetry on his homepage.

On social media:

In popular culture:

In gaming:

In Ghana, Media Urged To Help Fight Stigma Against PWDs (Disability News Africa)

In Italy, launch of Nessuno Escluso by Christian Tasso (Contrasto Books). "If you look closely, nothing is missing" (in Italian, January, See also on L'Almetico.


In Bangladesh, Disability, Sociodemographics, and Discrimination: A Descriptive Analysis of Household Survey Data from Bangladesh (December, Disability CBR and Inclusive Development)

In Paraguay, Paraguay consolidates the inclusion of persons with disabilities in its data and statistics (Bridging the Gap)

Digital Accessibility and Technology

From W3C Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0 First Public Working Draft (January): a new draft of the web accessibility standards “provide a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible to users with disabilities”.

In Australia, Australia adopts new standard in accessible procurement for ICT products and services (December, Intopia)

In the UK, How we made Gov.UK more accessible (December,

On Facebook, Facebook Improves Alt-text Photo Descriptions for Users with Visual Impairment (January, G3ict)

Zoom now offers automatic captioning (not sure when this happened).

Are Your Virtual Events Accessible to All? How to make sure you’re being inclusive in the digital space (January, Better Marketing)

Artificial Intelligence

Algorithmic And AI Assessment Tools — A New Frontier In Disability Discrimination (December, Forbes)

Red lines for the use of Artificial Intelligence - an open letter to the European Commission (January, EDF). “There have been several examples where AI technologies were used in a way that resulted in discrimination against persons with disabilities in different spheres of life.”

Education and childhood

One Billion Voices a campaign for urgent action on education for learners affected by the COVID-19 crisis (January, Global Campaign for Education)

New Report shows what Works for Deaf Children's Education (January, GPE)

In Canada, Restraining and secluding students with disabilities is an urgent human rights issue (January, The Conversation)

In India,

In Nepal and Uganda, Inclusive Education study by the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (December, IDA)

In Rwanda, Furthering accessibility for learners with disabilities (December, The New Times)

In the Sahel, New Factsheet explores challenges in education for girls with disabilities (January, Humanity and Inclusion)

In the United States, Challenges Providing Services to K-12 English Learners and Students with Disabilities during COVID-19 (November, Government Accountability Office)

In West and Central Africa, a policy brief on promoting inclusive education for girls and boys with disabilities (Sightsavers)

Elections and Politics

United States

On Trump: Trump’s behavior isn’t delusional. It’s criminal (January, Boston Globe) Challenging descriptions of Trump's behaviour in terms of mental health, although the article itself reproduces ableist language. Perhaps better from earlier Washington post: Calling Trump unwell doesn't hurt Trump. It hurts disabled people. (needs subscription, last June).

In terms of election-related violence,

On Senate elections: Ossoff, Supporter of People with Disabilities, Wins Georgia Runoff (January, the RespectAbility Report)

On the new administration and inauguration:

For more on the new administration: some further items in the sections on COVID-19 news, policy and rights, and sign language.

Employment, business and work

The CRPD Committee is seeking submissions for discussion of Article 27 on the right to work. (by 15 March)

From Valuable 500:

Top 10 Accessible Brands & Brand Campaigns Globally (January, Newz Hook)

Disability Fundamentals Training for Managers "free, open-source, 30-minute interactive training that helps managers learn about disability awareness" (January, Disability:IN)

In Asia, Uniqlo to expand disability employment in China and ASEAN (January, Nikkei Asia)

In Bangladesh, Career Advisor - "a digital employment pathway for persons with disabilities (i2i)

In Bangladesh and Kenya, Barriers to Access and Retain Formal Employment for Persons with Disabilities working paper (January, GDI Hub)

In Egypt, Empowering Women with Disabilities for Better Employment Opportunities (December, Cairo Review)

In Kenya, NCPWD Career Portal "Building a pool of qualified candidates with disabilities and engaging disability-confident employers".

In Uganda, PWDs demand employers see beyond their impairment (December, The Observer)

In the United Kingdom,

In the United States, Four corporate disability equity truths (January, Sheri Byrne-Haber CPACC)

For further updates on employment, see the ILO'sGlobal Business and Disability Network newsletters.


New USAID award for strengthening physical rehabilitation in health systems (Humanity and Inclusion)

In the United States, Perceptions of barriers to effective family planning services among women with disabilities (December, Disability and Health Journal). “Analysis revealed multiple barriers experienced by women with disabilities in accessing effective family planning services needed to prevent unintended pregnancy.”

History and Memorial

International Holocaust Remembrance Day "reminds us of the millions of Roma, Jewish, lesbians, gays, intersex and transgender people, persons with disabilities, political opponents, Jehovah witnesses and other victims of the Holocaust." (January, EDF)

In the Nordic Countries, Disability policies and movements since 1945 (January, Nordics Info) “Nordic disability rights activism reached its peak in the 1970s and early 1980s, when protests and awareness campaigns led to a new social and rights-based understanding of disability as well as legal reforms.”

In the United Kingdom,

From the UK and USA: The new podcast ‘smashing the box’ of disabled feminism (December, BBC)

In the United Kingdom, Husband from one of UK's first married couples with Down's syndrome dies of Covid (January, Guardian)

In the United States,

Humanitarian, Migrants and Refugees

The vital IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action now have translations available in Arabic and Spanish.

From Australia, Disability Inclusion in Australia Assists by Skill Area tip sheet to guide mainstreaming (link to pdf, January, RedR Australia and CBM Australia)

In Bangladesh, A voice to the voiceless "Is it possible to develop a sign language for the deaf and mute within the Rohingya camps? " (December, Dhaka Tribune)

In Europe, How Europe can better protect migrants with disabilities and mental health problems (December, New Europe) “The New Pact on Migration and Asylum … reflects an outdated medical approach to disability and must be reframed.”

About Haiti, Ten Years Later: Haiti Earthquake, The Unkept Promises (January, Disability Rights Fund)

From Mozambique, How to include persons with disabilities in disaster response (LFTW) See the introduction where I describe this more.

In Syria, Self-reported barriers to activities of daily living of persons with disabilities living in IDP sites in northwest Syria (November, Protection Cluster Syria)

International Cooperation

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Inclusive development for and with persons with disabilities (December, UN). The resolution welcomes progress but expresses “grave concerns” about continuing discrimination and challenges. It urges development actors to take further action to include persons with disabilities, and do so in cooperation with persons with disabilities and particularly women and girls with disabilities.

Do you need guidance, training materials or indicators? On implementing the Sustainable Development Goals for persons with disabilities, for example? OHCHR's SDG-CRPD Package gets into plenty of details:

  • Policy guidelines and training modules for the goals on: no poverty; good health and wellbeing; quality education; gender equality; decent work and economic growth; and sustainable cities and communities. There are also thematic briefs on a range of topics.
  • Human rights indicators on the Convention of Rights of Persons with disabilities. For more detail see FAQ on the indicators.
  • “This type of guidance is crucial for supporting policy makers and other stakeholders to translate commitments into real changes for people with disabilities” — CBM Global, who contributed to their development.

Opinion: How 2021 can be more disability-inclusive (January, Devex)

CBM Global:

Light for the World recap on 2020, a year of good things?.

From Inclusive Futures, see Citizen reporting podcast. Episode 13 features reflections on supporting disability inclusion at the UK's FCDO.

From the United States, Will Samantha Power Champion Disability Rights? on the new head of USAID (January, International Policy Digest) “hopefully”

Recommendations for Improving the Protection of Persons with Disabilities During Armed Conflict (January, Chavia Ali)

Lived Experience and Opinion

On language:

From India, Harsh Raj profile "Unconditional cash transfers for severely disabled people should be priority (December, Newz Hook)

From the Middle East and beyond, Resisting Ableism, Queering Desirability a special edition of Kohl, a Journal for Body and Gender Research (Fall 2020)

From New Zealand, Repairing "an invisible coat of shame" (RNZ)

In Turkey, a podcast interview on Sacrificial Limbs: “Masculinity, Disability, and Political Violence in Turkey” by Salih Can Aciksoz (no transcript, December, New Books Network)

From the United Kingdom,

In the United States,

Policy and rights

UN Human Rights Experts statement that Disability is not a reason to sanction medically assisted dying (January, OHCHR). “Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly.”

Human Rights Watch World Report 2021 mentions the rights of persons with disabilities throughout.

Also from Human Rights Watch is the Lockdown in Chains report:

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic grounded much of the world, lockdown, confinement, violence, and isolation was the daily reality for hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities around the world.

Many are locked in sheds, cages, or tethered to trees and are forced to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in the same tiny area, sometimes for years at a time. Why? Simply because they have a psychosocial disability (mental health condition). This inhumane practice—called “shackling”—occurs because of widespread stigma surrounding mental health, and a lack of access to adequate support services, both for those with psychosocial disabilities and for their families.

A special edition of Revista Parlementaria on the rights of persons with disabilities. (In Spanish, December, Legis).

In Ethiopia, Big celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Ethiopia (Bridging the Gap)

In Europe, celebration of 10 years since ratifying the UN Convention:

In Ghana, Ghana holds maiden disability-inclusion summit (December, Ghana Web)

In Poland, In the Battle Over Abortion, Polish Feminists with Disabilities Are Claiming Their Rights (December, Ms)

In Spain, a new law to eradicate forced sterilisation of persons with intellectual disabilities (link to pdf, in Spanish, December, Government of Spain).

In the United Kingdom,

In the United States,

Sign Languages

Acquisition of Sign Languages (January, Annual Review of Linguistics)

For Chinese Sign Language, Dialects or languages: A corpus-based quantitative approach to lexical variation in common signs in Chinese Sign Language (CSL) (December, Lingua)

In the United States,

Social Protection

In South Africa, Sick people queue outside Sassa offices as disability grants lapse (January, News24)

In Tunisia,

In the United Kingdom,

In the United States, Disabled Americans Are Losing a Lifeline on reductions to people receiving Supplemental Security Income (S.S.I.). (January, New York Times)


From Spain, Disability, Sport, and Television: Media Visibility and Representation of Paralympic Games in News Programs (December, Sustainability) “While Paralympic sports is just one of the facets of disability, its social impact has indisputable importance for the formation of fully inclusive societies”.


In the UK, A Fully Accessible Rail Network Could Help Thousands Of Disabled People Find Work (December, Forbes)


In India, No Data on Violence Against Disabled Women (January, Newz Hook)

In the United Kingdom, The Truth About Disability Hate Crime (BBC Documentary)



The Zero Project, one of the key events in the international disability calendar, will be on 10th-12th February. Register to participate.

12th International Disability Law Summer School from Centre for Disability Law and Policy. 5 weekly online sessions between Monday 31st May and Friday 2nd July 2021.



An Eye for Inclusion: GDI Hub partners with NIUA for global photography competition (submission by 13 March)

Call for Papers Special Issue of 'Sustainability' journal to be guest edited by GDI Hub (deadline 31 May)


Snowdon Masters Scholarships - scholarships"to identify and accelerate talented disabled individuals through higher education." (for UK and International students)

In Canada, Post-Doc Fellow at Queen's University on Disability-Inclusive Development (deadline 28 February)


At World Food Programme in Bangkok, a consultancy on Regional Disability Inclusion Advisor - Asia & the Pacific (deadline 10 February)

ATScale has two short-term specialist positions open. (deadline 10 February)

CBM Global has several positions open including that of Country Director in Kenya.

At IDA, vacancy for a Senior Communications Manager (Deadline 26th February)

For Finish Nationals, UNHCR vacancy Associate Protection Officer on Junior Professional Officer Scheme. (deadline 21st February)


USAID missions are encouraged to apply for FY20 Disability Funding to support programming in the area of Employment and Economic Empowerment (EEE).


Particular thanks at the start of this year to the friends and colleagues who have given ideas, encouragement and feedback on the newsletters so far. Much appreciate those who help think through and guide this initiative.

These newsletters are produced by me, Peter Torres Fremlin. Any opinions or mistakes are mine. Many thanks for Center for Inclusive Policy's support to this edition.

Until next time

Take care and carry on sharing what's on in disability,