Through the confidence he gained from competitive sport, he has made his name as a radio presenter and a key leader in the development blind cricket and other sports for persons with disabilities in Guyana.
Last December, James Dooley Sullivan packed his wheelchair and travelled to Jamaica. The Caribbean nation is a tourist destination, but the trip wasn’t a vacation. Sullivan, an animator and visual arts video editor at the World Bank Group, wanted to see first-hand what it’s like to be disabled in a developing country. He shares his experience and his own history in a video and a series of blog posts.
Life in a wheelchair is pretty straight forward – it just requires a different set of verbs. Each morning I transfer into my chair, roll into the bathroom, and flip onto the toilet. I transfer back into my chair and then wiggle into professional attire. I drink enough tea to become civil before descending on my house’s external lift to the sidewalk.
One of the statements that has stayed with me from the event was from Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled. He said: “Disability does not discriminate. Each and every one could, at any point, fall into disability. It’s the only minority group that everybody can join” We are an accident away to join a group that is commonly excluded by societies around the world.
Fortunately, the development community has begun to realize the critical role of exclusion, and in particular exclusion of people with disabilities. This has been a year of fundamental change for the recognition of peoples with disabilities in the development agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Post-2015 Development Agenda clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programs. The new framework is audacious. It unequivocally bolsters equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in access to education, vocational training, jobs, transportation, public spaces, human settlements, and political life.
The SDGs include seven targets that explicitly refer to persons with disabilities; and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities.
These targets alongside the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, now ratified by 160 countries provide both the moral imperative and clear milestones to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully participate in and benefit from poverty reduction and development efforts.
Our research in the World Bank shows the many ways in which persons with disabilities are ignored, stereotyped, and stigmatized in the countries where we work. The rising attention to issues of social inclusion is based on the realization that, while great strides have been made in reducing extreme poverty, in country after country, entire groups remain excluded from development gains.
Our social inclusion flagship report – Inclusion Matters – highlights the importance of societies to provide the ability and the opportunity to excluded populations to access services, markets, and spaces. Furthermore, our research shows that without a sense of dignity, providing the ability and opportunity to excluded populations is not enough to achieve a transformation of their well-being.
Around 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to live with some form of disability, and for 185 million of those, they are severe enough that they have serious difficulty functioning.
As the World Bank renews its commitment to doing more to support people with disabilities, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the evolution of my own thinking on disability. When I was in my teens I thought of disability in black and white terms – there were people with disabilities and there were others, without.
As I grew up in a small town (by Indian standards) in northern India, my perspectives began to evolve, both through routine observation of the numerous failings of people we see as “able”, and through highly inspiring interactions with people who had so called “disabilities”. I must say I am in a very different place today than I was as a child.