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Federal Agency Evaluates Disability Access Abroad

Thursday, March 21, 2013


March 21, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The latest report by the National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and other federal agencies on disability policy – reviews the accessibility of foreign assistance programs meant to foster international diplomacy and improve the quality of life for people around the world.

But how well are foreign assistance programs providing equal access to people with disabilities?

Titled “Toward the Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities: Examining the Accessibility of Overseas Facilities and Programs Funded by the United States” NCD’s report reviews United States federal disability laws; the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) disability policy; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as they relate to foreign assistance programs.  The report also makes recommendations to help ensure that programs administered by the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Defense are accessible to persons with disabilities.  

“Recent estimates suggest that 15 percent of the world population is made up of people with disabilities and that number is growing,” said Joan Durocher, NCD’s General Counsel & Director of Policy. “The United States cannot successfully accomplish the goals of foreign assistance programs unless we also ensure that U.S. sponsored programs include people with disabilities. While progress has been made in many areas, there is still work to do.”

Key Findings:

  • Officials at embassies, consular offices and missions routinely invoke security concerns when confronted with the lack of accessibility. Access should not be pitted against safety.
  • USAID should review and update its Disability Policy. The current policy, drafted in 1997, is outdated and provides minimal guidance on how USAID programs can be made inclusive across all sectors of its development portfolio.
  • The Department of State should strengthen its disability rights coverage in its Human Rights Reports. Human Rights Officers should be encouraged to consult with local DPOs when drafting Country Reports within its Human Rights Reports.
  • The Department of Defense should provide clear guidance to contractors on the application of the ABA Accessibility Standards in developing countries. At present, the standards state that they apply “worldwide,” but there is a gap in the standards that allows contractors to apply for waivers or argue for an exception in developing countries.

The report will be officially unveiled at an event held Thursday, March 21, 2013 from 12pm – 1:20pm at American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington DC 20016. Panelists will include representatives from the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Council on Disability, as well as the report’s co-authors. CART and ASL will be provided. 

A copy of the full report and NCD’s recommendations is available online at: /NCD/publications/2013/032013/

An official website of the National Council on Disability