DISABILITY STATISTICS FIGHT INVISIBILITY
In many countries across the globe statistics on disability are insufficient and poorly developed or, in many cases, they are non-existent. In many countries in South East Europe official statistics on disability are practically absent. This is one of the reasons HI-SEE initiated a preliminary assessment of disability and statistics in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. In fact, in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, there are no official statistics on the number of people with disabilities and in none of the countries is disability included in national censuses. The lack of comprehensive and up-to-date statistical information on disability contributes to the exclusion of disability from the political agenda and makes it very challenging to build effective reforms around this issue.
The activists from the disability movement in the region consistently stress the importance of disability statistics, in order to end this marginalization and to have a more accurate picture of the situation in which people with disabilities live. Comprehensively collected, statistical information will help better target the issues affecting the lives of people with disabilities on a daily basis, such as discrimination and poverty. This is crucial for developing comprehensive policies and for monitoring their implementation. The statistical data can also be used to measure how the situation improves over time.
Collecting statistics on people with disabilities is not something new. It is each state’s responsibility to collect information on the general population and this includes people with disabilities. Statistics should show not only the number of people with disabilities living in a given country but data should show their living conditions as well, including income levels, types of housing, access to services, level of education and employment records. It is also important to have statistics that compare people with disabilities with people without disabilities as this provides an overview of indirect levels of discrimination, such as the education levels of people with disabilities versus those of people without disabilities.
It is with these priorities and recognition of the clear need for disability statistics in the region that Handicap International South East Europe initiated an assessment of the situation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Crucial in that assessment was a series of meetings with key actors involved in data collection in each country. Through these interviews, the HI SEE team formed an overview of the existing data, the prevailing trends and the roles of different stakeholders in data collection. A working paper with the findings of the assessment will be issued in February 2007 followed by local workshops gathering key stakeholders.
Disability Monitor Initiative in South East Europe is managed by the Center for Society Orientation – COD (Centar za orijentaciju društva).
The mandate of COD is to support capacity building of local actors in the Republic of Serbia and other countries of Southeast Europe during transition period, in order to enable all marginalized groups, with a special focus on people with disabilities, enjoying their fundamental human rights and equal opportunities.