We must change the way we think, talk, and act about disability-inclusive development. According to the World Report on Disability published in 2011 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are around 16 million people with disabilities in Bangladesh.
The Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HES) conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2010 revealed that at least 9.1% of the country's total population have some sort of disability.
Disability on this scale represents not only a major health issue but it is also a major cause of poverty and underdevelopment. The numbers are growing rapidly, and it is impossible to design and develop national development priorities while excluding this group.
Furthermore, the ongoing pandemic has made it more difficult for many people with disabilities in Bangladesh to access services, support, and treatment facilities. Those who live in rural areas are the most affected.
By adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 193 Member States of the UN have committed to ensuring that "no one will be left behind." This means we must ensure global action by promoting disability-inclusive development starting from participation in decision-making processes to accessing services, benefits, and employment.
As a signatory and ratifying country to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the government of our country is taking various steps to fulfil its obligations towards people with disabilities.
In 2013, the Disability Welfare Act 2001 was amended and strengthened through the enactment of the Disability Rights and Protection Act, 2013. In addition, the Protection of Persons with Neuro-developmental Disability Trust Act, 2013 was also enacted.
In its recent 8th five-year plan (July 2020 – June 2025), our Government has emphasized on promoting prosperity and fostering inclusiveness. It has also made it absolutely clear that "disability issues will be properly addressed in collaboration with various actors through preventive and curative services, including the expansion of services to cater to the needs of those who are physically or mentally challenged, with the goal of bringing in more people under universal coverage and reducing individual out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE)."
Now is the time to take a collaborative approach to contributing to such a noble global and national commitment. We need to prioritise demand-driven key issues now that we have learned from the 7th five-year plan, ongoing pandemic, and social safety net programmes. To this end, the following steps must be taken:
Disability Inclusive Database/Disability Disaggregated data system is an immediate requirement. The government with the support from relevant experts (individuals and institutions) may develop a comprehensive "Disability Inclusive Database". This will help relevant actors plan their priorities in a more inclusive and targeted manner.
Steps must be taken to increase mass awareness, particularly of local government, as Union Parishads are at the heart of local development.
Important websites must be designed in such a way that persons with disabilities can fully access, understand, and use them
Special financial assistance schemes from banks and microfinance institutions are required for skilled men, women, and youths in order to ensure adequate access to finance for persons with disabilities.
Our experience with implementing "Enhancing the Participation of Community-Based Organisations (CBO) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in Democratic Governance in Bangladesh" has clearly demonstrated that there is a crying need for greater accessibility, among other things, in workplaces and cyclone/flood shelters.
As we have time up to 2026 to prepare for the transition to the status of a developing country, together we must focus adequately to ensure inclusion agenda in a qualitative manner along with economic growth consistency indicators.
Md Mostofa Ali works as a Senior Programme Officer at Oxfam in Bangladesh. (In collaboration with OXFAM)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.