Hot topics in disability worldwide

Bringing you news on the latest big picture policy and policy-relevant developments in disability worldwide.

2 July 2014: Australia's Disability Discrimination Commissioner Grame Innes AM

Graeme Innes will complete his term of office on 4 July 2014.

To find out more and read Graeme's address to the National Press Club on 2 July 2014, click here

To view the address click here

23 May 2014: WHO global disability action plan 2014-2021

World’s health ministers endorse action plan to improve health for all people with disability.

For more information click here

13 October 2013: The UN International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

Leave nobody behind – disability and disaster risk reduction

The UN International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), celebrated on October 13, ‘encourages every citizen and government to take part in building more disaster resilient communities and nations’. This year the UN has focused on a Not So Obvious Conversation: ‘Living with Disability and Disasters’

People with disability are more vulnerable to death and serious injury in disasters. Inaccessible warning systems and evacuation plans that have not considered the needs of people with disability are examples of how this vulnerability is increased. Post disaster, people with disability often experience greater difficulty accessing relief services for a variety of reasons such as stigma, physical access and lack of awareness. A recent study in Japan found that the mortality rate of people with disability in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake was twice as high as that of the total population. See Great East Japan Earthquake - We, people with disabilities, have an appeal to make - Preview.

Given that 15% of the world’s population (approximately 1 billion people) is directly affected by disability the UN’s focus this year has been welcomed by those in the disability sector. As Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, Director of the Centre for Disability Research Policy explains “The fact is that, during natural disasters, persons with disabilities face higher risks of dying or acquiring additional disabilities. This means that more attention needs to be paid to persons with disabilities in disaster risk reduction programs and disaster risk management. Disability is a cross cutting concern of relevance to all in DRR and must be addressed”.

The Centre for Disability Research and Policy, at The University of Sydney in partnership with Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Deutschland e.V (ASB) are exploring how people with disability can be included in DRR activities in Indonesia. The 2 year research project, funded by AusAID, is led by Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn with immediate team members Sarina Kilham and Alexandra Gargett as well as partner investigators Professor Deb Black, Dr. Michelle Villeneuve and Dr. Charlotte Scarf. The project will build capacity in disability inclusive DRR by bringing together the disability community and DRR programs. Persons with disabilities through their DPOs are best placed to actively participate in, and lead disability-inclusive DRR activities in their communities. This project places persons with disabilities through their representative organizations, the DPOs, front and centre in investigating risks and developing solutions to ensure effective disability inclusive DRR.

The aim of this project is to better understand the risks faced by persons with disabilities in natural disasters in Indonesia and to design and implement effective disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction training programs at the local level. This will occur in four provinces. The knowledge gained through this project will inform DRR policy and practice at local and national levels. Through active participation in regional and international networks, project knowledge will help build the evidence base needed to decrease, indeed actively minimize the unacceptable fatalities and injuries currently experienced by persons with disabilities in natural disasters across the globe, and make sure “nobody is left behind”.

For further information visit

10 October 2013: World Mental Health Day

On World Mental Health Day over 90 organizations screened the film, Hidden Pictures, on line and at several community screenings. Learn more at the Facebook page.

23 September 2013: Governments to agree increased focus on people with disabilities in development strategies

Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn participated in the UN High Level Meeting on Disability and Development at the UN General Assembly on Monday 23 September.

There was unanimous and enthusiastic support for the Meeting Outcomes document.

The focus on access to mainstream health care, rehabilitation and assistive technology is very welcome. The recently released WHO Draft Global Action Plan on Disability is open for consultation and comment.

Gwynnyth is participating in the World Health Organisation Western Pacific Region Consultation Meeting on the Global Action Plan on Disability in late October and supported by WPRO under the WHOCC (under designation) is developing a tool to map rehabilitation services in the region.

If you would like to know more about either the High Level Meeting and the Outcomes Document or the WHO Draft Global Action Plan on Disability, please contact

View More Information

UN High-level Meeting on Disability and Development

Better health for people with disabilities: infographic

WHO Action Plan 2014-2021 Better health for people with disabilities

World report on disability

31 July 2013: Sterilization and women with disabilities

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee released its Report on Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia on July 17th 2013. The report is available here

The report makes 28 recommendations from ranging from strengthening laws to better education for medical professionals. The Committee received over 90 submissions including one from the Centre for Disability Research and Policy. The CDRP submission can be found here

Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn also appeared before the Committee – see Public Hearings and Transcripts here

An ABC news item on the release of the report can be found here

In preparation for the ICPD Human Rights Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health in The Hague July 7-11, 2013.Carolyn Frohmader, Executive Director, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and Stephanie Ortoleva, President, Women Enabled, Inc., prepared a significant Briefing Paper entitled “The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities" .

This Briefing Paper explores these issues from the human rights perspective, providing references to the findings of international human rights bodies and mechanisms, and provides details on specific human rights issues which have a significant impact on the lives of women and girls with disabilities and violate their core human rights.

The briefing paper is available in PDF and MS Word versions on the Women Enabled Website under “News” here

30 June 2013: Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled

In late June 2013, a Diplomatic Conference was held to conclude a treaty to facilitate access to published works by visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities was held in Marrakesh under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The treaty was adopted by the Diplomatic Conference. The following description comes from the WIPO website here

The treaty, called the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled, addresses the “book famine” by requiring its contracting parties to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats through limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright rightholders. It also provides for the exchange of these accessible format works across borders by organizations that serve the people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. It will harmonize limitations and exceptions so that these organizations can operate across borders. This sharing of works in accessible formats should increase the overall number of works available because it will eliminate duplication and increase efficiency. Instead of five countries producing accessible versions of the same work, the five countries will each be able to produce an accessible version of a different work, which can then be shared with each of the other countries.

Currently, it is left to national governments to define what limitations and exceptions are permitted. In practice, limitations and exceptions contained in national laws vary widely. In many countries copying for private use is free, but only a few countries make exceptions for, say, distance learning. Moreover, the exemptions apply only in the country concerned.

The treaty is also designed to provide assurances to authors and publishers that that system will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries. The treaty reiterates the requirement that the cross-border sharing of works created based on limitations and exceptions must be limited to certain special cases which do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonable prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.

The treaty calls for cooperation among its contracting parties in order to foster cross-border exchanges. The parties are committed to increasing the availability of published works as quickly as possible, and this cooperation will be an important step toward achieving that goal.

30 May 2013: Social Inc Launch

Visit Social Inc website to watch the Social Inc Intro film.

May 2013: DisabilityCare Australia (formerly known as NDIS)

May 2013: DisabilityCare Australia (formerly known as NDIS) Budget Papers 2013: Stronger. Smarter. Fairer. Commonwealth of Australia. Download Budget Papers

May 2013: We Want 2015: Global thematic consultation on addressing inequalities

May 2013: We Want 2015: Global thematic consultation on addressing inequalities: Persons with Disabilities online discussion Synopsis. Moderated by: UNICEF and International Disability Alliance. Download here

1 March 2013: 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act

20 years ago, life for millions of Australians got easier. The Disability Discrimination Act was born. That’s what Twenty Years: Twenty Stories is all about; 20 inspiring stories on film. Take a look

13 February 2013: Fulfilling Potential

On 13 February 2013 the UK Government published ‘Fulfilling Potential: Building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK today’. More

Final discussion summary from global e-discussion address inequalities facing persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda More

Asia-Pacific countries adopt landmark strategy for building disability-inclusive societies More