December 3 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Every year, on this day, the international community comes together to take stock of the progress that has been made to advance the rights of people with disabilities around the world.
At the World Bank, we commemorate the signing of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and underscore our commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), to “ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities” by 2030. Yet, despite these international commitments, globally, too many students with disabilities still face significant barriers when it comes to attending school.
While schools and educators aim at more inclusive approaches across the globe, it’s important to acknowledge that mainstream education settings can unknowingly exclude deaf and hard of hearing people.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, out of the 70 million deaf people in the world, 56 million receive no education at all. This is especially true among deaf women and girls, and people living in developing countries.
This is part of the learning crisis that we at the World Bank are concerned about.
Last fall, while supporting the preparation of a World Bank-financed education project in Guyana, and exploring entry points for gender and disability inclusion (with Braille business cards in hand), I met Mr. Leroy Phillips at the Guyana Society for the Blind (GSB). Leroy introduced himself after stepping into my meeting room to collect his cane.
I learned that Mr. Phillips was a youth leader, disability rights advocate, student of communications and freelance radio broadcaster from Georgetown with a weekly disability-themed program Reach out and Touch. Leroy has also been invited to speak internationally, earning accolades for his work for children with disabilities, including the inaugural Queens’ Young Leaders Award 2015.