Physical disability affects millions of people of all ages, gender and ethnicity around the world. It can be something that individuals are born with, issues that occur because of increasing age and reduced mobility or a disability that is the result of illness, poor nutrition or an accident.
World statistics suggest that you are more likely to have or develop a physical disability if you live in poverty. You are also less likely to get a good education and good life opportunities if you have a moderate to severe disability, whichever country you live in. There are substantial variations around the world in how people with physical disabilities are catered for and treated.
According to the World Bank:
- 15% of people around the world have some form of disability.
- The number of people who have a significant physical disability is between 110 and 190 million.
- A person with a disability is more likely to be disadvantaged in some way – either through lack of education, lower employment opportunities and have more chance of living in poverty.
- Physically disabled individuals are more likely to be disadvantaged or discriminated against when they use public transport, want to perform simple tasks such as going to the toilet in a theatre, get access to premises such as shops and restaurants and use technology that able-bodied individuals take for granted.
In the US, according to DoSomething.org:
- There are over 74 million people in America who are classed as having a physical disability.
- Current projections suggest that a quarter of Americans will become disabled in some way before they reach the age of retirement.
- Young people with a disability are much less likely to participate in activities at school leading to less opportunities for socialising with their peers.
- A large cause of physical disability in the US is arthritis and nearly half of those suffering from the condition having to reduce their physical participation in daily activities.
- Almost twice as many people with a physical disability are not active during the week compared to those who are able-bodied.
- For almost 30% of those with a physical disability, assistive technology is very important in allowing them to go about their daily lives.
In Europe, according to the EU Observer:
- One in six of the population have some form of physical disability and this equates to about 80 million people.
- There are around 5 million physically disabled people in the EU who use a wheelchair.
According to the report Attitudes of Europeans to Disability, almost 40% of able bodied people think that others feel uncomfortable in the presence of disabled people. The majority of people believe that money should be spent on removing barriers for those with physical disabilities including access to premises.
In Africa, according to the African Studies Centre:
- There are around 80 million people in Africa living with a physical disability.
- A majority of Africans with a disability are excluded from areas such as work and education. They are some of the poorest individuals in the world.
- The social stigma that often comes from being disabled is more pronounced in many areas of the continent leading to marginalisation. Many people with a disability end up on the streets begging for food and money.
In East Asia and the Pacific:
- There are out 400 million people with a physical disability, a large proportion of the world’s disabled population.
- Women and girls who are disabled are more likely to be discriminated against and marginalised than men.
- Half of developing countries in the region have a large proportion of disabilities that are related to poor nutrition and poverty including blindness, osteoporosis and rickets.
World Report on Disability: World Health Organisation/Word Bank
Disability Issues in East Asia: Review and Ways Forward
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
European Commission: Persons with Disabilities