I really wanted to further my education

Guide to recent disability news from nearly 50 countries

Dear Debriefers,

Here's the March guide to recent disability news from around the world. We see what keeps disabled kids out of school, what's wrong with accessibility jobs, how to get ahead in politics and much more.

As well as the highlights below, find the full guide of 165 curated links, organised by subject or by country. All these feed into the Debrief library, a unique collection of disability news cataloguing 4,300 links from over 150 countries.

Disability Debrief is supported on a pay-as-you can basis. Thanks to Claire and Youmna for renewed contributions.

“I really wanted to further my education”

On his uniform. In Nigeria, a detailed article shows how children with disabilities, especially girls, aren't getting healthy or appropriate hygiene facilities in Lagos schools. Inappropriate and malfunctioning toilets are leading to children having accidents and dropping out of school. One ten-year-old girl reported falling regularly on the rough path to the toilet. But a young boy did not mind the lack of water in the toilets as he wipes his hand clean on his uniform.

Solving a policy puzzle. In Philippines a feature analyses advocacy on inclusive education and how they went about getting budgets for construction and repair of accessible facilities in schools. They worked to secure a budget line and then followed it up by ensuring accessibility was in the way the department of education monitored its inventory.

“Something in the water.” Meanwhile, here in the UK, even the government's own assessment says that over 50% of pupils in a special schools programme could be in mainstream education. And some councillors in Warwickshire have gone viral for questioning the costs of supporting children with disabilities. One asked if increasing special needs cases were caused by “something in the water”.

“I really wanted to further my education but that wasn’t possible.”A research study with youth with disabilities in Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa explored the reasons that they drop out of education. According to that study, it wasn't the issues of appropriate facilities but rather “key social support networks and relationships”. Parents or grandparents passing away led to people dropping out. And, on the other hand, where they got support from teachers, peers or mentors, they could do better.

What's wrong with accessibility jobs?

What's wrong with accessibility jobs? Craig Abbott in the UK gives an incisive description of many flaws. The roles are too broad, created for the wrong reasons, underpaid and unrealistic:

“I've seen it time and time again. People hire an accessibility specialist because it's a hot topic and it's always good publicity. But then they just leave that person to drown in an environment and an organisation where they are not supported.”

In turn, this leads to a vicious cycle of people not being able to achieve the impossible tasks they are hired to undertake. Abbott points to the “far-reaching consequences”:

“Firstly, they perpetuate the idea that accessibility is not important or valued. And secondly, they set people up for a career of being overstretched, overworked and underpaid.”

“No longer centring our own growth”. While well-designed accessibility jobs are essential, perhaps not every job in international development is. ADD International has shared insights in the organization's journey to shift power and decolonise its work. Their goals include reducing their own size, and number of staff:

“Our overall aim of disrupting the dominant funding system means no longer centring our own growth. On joining ADD, we observed that over time the ‘professionalisation’ of its work had led to more and more of the organisation’s resources being invested in ADD doing things.”

Fake work. In Honduras, forty people with disabilities were scammed by crooks posing as officials from the United Nations. They promised a job in exchange for paying 400 lempiras [16 USD].

Non-traditional canvassing plan

Non-traditional canvassing plan. For Debriefers thinking of running for office, some helpful advice comes from the US with disabled politicians sharing what worked for them. Rebecca Lamorte, a candidate for New York City Council, acknowledged the challenges and advises:

“Political campaigns are not one size fits all though. After coming to terms with the inherent inaccessibility, I challenge you to create a non-traditional canvassing plan that meets your needs personally and politically.”

From our armchairs. And for those of us will spend this year looking in horror at the US elections, key advice comes from Julia Métraux. We shouldn't be armchair diagnosing Biden or Trump based on their age or supposed capacity issues:

“It is appropriate for people to judge Biden and Trump by their actions. How either mishandled classified documents could be a dealbreaker. How either handles foreign policy [...] can also be a dealbreaker. But associating supposed bad actions with age, and aging-related health issues, can lead to these conditions being further stigmatized.”

Elsewhere, voters in Pakistan raised challenges to access before last month's elections. In Mexico accessible voting is being prepared but disabled people are identifying flaws. And the Dominican Republic had various ways to increase participation in municipal voting.

From El Salvador comes a cautionary tale of how disabled people can get caught up when politics goes wrong. One mother says her son was arrested for using sign-language in the country's mass arrests, supposedly targeting gang members.

Leaders and changemakers

In Cabo Verde, women with visual impairments face insults and discrimination from hospitals and families, pressuring them to avoid pregnancy.

In Nigeria, a feature on Lois Auta, founder of the Network of Women with Disabilities, also reports perceptions that women with disabilities “don’t have emotions, or sexual feelings, and that they can’t have children”. As well as attitudinal barriers faced by disabled women, Auta emphasises “infrastructural and institutional” barriers.

And in Europe, the European Disability Forum has launched its third manifesto on the rights of women and girls with disabilities, focussed on empowerment and leadership:

“Women with disabilities in all their diversity must not only be treated as victims of crises, but as leaders and changemakers. They need to be able to advocate for their rights effectively and address their societal needs.”

Which child should I carry?

“Which child should I carry, this one or that one?” A powerful photo-essay from Jason Strother explores the risks people with disabilities in Bangladesh face in natural disasters.

The awful Israel-Palestine conflict continues. A thematic report from Acaps summarises the situation for disabled people in Gaza as of mid-February. Humanity and Inclusion report their office was bombed. In just one of the tragedies of the conflict, Haaretz report Israel detained an 82-year-old woman with Alzheimers for two months as an “unlawful combatant”: she was imprisoned, “refused a meeting with an attorney and was only freed after an appeal”.

Array of interesting information

“An array of interesting information” Eurostat has just launched a thematic page on disability statistics across Europe. This makes it easier to find data.

“Concerns with the proposed changes” The US Census Bureau proposed to use the Washington Group questions in the American Community Survey. US disability activists objected to using the international standard, and the Census Bureau will engage further.

Nefarious or unknown purposes. In our era of big data, a timely reminder comes from Ariana Aboulafia that internet privacy is a disability rights issue:

“No disabled person should have to choose between accessing technologies that help them lead fulfilling, self-directed lives and protecting their personal information. And, people with disabilities should be able to benefit from technology without worrying that their health-related data will be used for nefarious or unknown purposes.”

Living up to our commitments

Living up to our commitments. A report shows that one tenth of commitments made at the Global Disability Summit in 2022 are complete.

The new norm. A US campaign has beautiful photos and videos to change perceptions of hearing aids. (Sadly no image descriptions).

Misidentify less focused items. Speaking of image descriptions, Aaron Preece writes about how AI image recognition is “an absolute game changer in accessibility”:

“The level of detail and accuracy provided by GPT-4 is groundbreaking. That being said, you will notice that it does have a tendency to misidentify less focused items or those that are less common.”

How far would you go? In Thailand, Monthon Phetsang, a 48-year-old disabled man lost his ID card and other documents in a flood, and had his disability benefit paused. Officials in his province of Sukhothai advised him to go to the capital to sort it out. So off he went on the 400-kilometre journey, pedalling his tricycle, in search of the monthly benefit of 800-baht [22 USD].

Farewell. This Monday was March 4th, the first anniversary of Judy Heumann's passing. A range of events commemorated the anniversary. In my farewell to 2023 I wrote about how losing her was a turning point for our movement.

Let me know what news stood out for you,


Please share this with friends, as that's how people find the Debrief. On socials we're on Linkedin, twitter at @DisDebrief and I'm @desibility. And hit reply to say hello!

Recent News

This update has 165 curated links from 49 countries and regions, organized across 49 subjects.

You can explore it organized by subject or by country.




Many thanks to the readers and organisations whose support makes this work possible.