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Experts respond to the world's first WHO report on disability


5 December 2011

The 'World report on disability' provides a realistic picture of disability around the world.
The 'World report on disability' provides a realistic picture of disability around the world.

Thought leaders and policy makers in the disability field from Asia and the Pacific will come together at the University of Sydney on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 December to discuss a way forward for the region in response to the first World report on disability released in June this year by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank.

Hosted by the University of Sydney and co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation, the symposium aims to stimulate free, open and vigorous discussion of the report and foster international collaborations to work towards the attainment of human rights and participation for all in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"For the first time the World report on disability provides a realistic picture of disability based on both scientific evidence and the real life experiences of people worldwide," says Gwynnyth Llewellyn, Professor of Family and Disability Studies at the University of Sydney.

"With this new understanding comes a responsibility for us all - nation states, communities, organisations and individuals - to act. Through this symposium we hope to create the momentum to move this forward and see the potential of the report realised."

Key findings of the report:

  • more than a billion people, about 15 percent of the world's population, have some form of disability
  • nearly 200 million people experience significant difficulties in everyday life
  • rates of disability are increasing due to population ageing and increases in chronic health conditions
  • outcomes for people with disabilities are unequal to others, in part due to poor access to services such as health, education, employment, transport and information.

The symposium will be opened by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers. A distinguished lineup of speakers includes: Alana Officer, WHO Executive Editor of World report on disability; Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum, AO Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability; Graeme Innes, Disability Discrimination Commissioner; Rex Bernardo, the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2011; and Setareki Macanawei, from the Pacific Disability Forum.

The Hon Andrew Constance MP, New South Wales Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services will open day two of the symposium.

With participants from 22 countries, presentations from local and international speakers will cover a wide range of topics such as inclusive education in Nepal and Fiji, and the challenges faced by Indigenous Australians with a disability.

"We are delighted to be hosting this important gathering," said Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.

"A number of our staff have made significant contributions to the World report on disability and it is fitting that we can bring so many people together to consider the implications for future research, policy and practice."


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Media enquiries: Jacqueline Chowns, 0434 605 018, 9036 5404, jacqueline.chowns@sydney.edu.au