Benetech, UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center, and Professor Michael Stein have joined forces with the Ford Foundation to ensure people with disabilities can access information on their rights to education and employment. Benetech will also design a software platform in order to document violations of these rights as part of this important project.
Benetech believes that access to education is a universal human right. It can lift families out of poverty, empower people to reach their full potential, and serve as the foundation for a more just and engaged world. Despite its importance, inclusive access to education and subsequent employment is not something we can take for granted. Even with a growing number of international, national, state, and local policies aimed at ensuring all individuals have access to education and employment, millions of people are still left behind.
People with disabilities, who represent 1 in 5 people around the world, fight for their right to education and employment on a daily basis but are under-resourced in that fight. Their experiences and voices are not always heard or used to influence positive change. The Benetech, UCLA WORLD, and Ford Foundation partnership will leverage Benetech’s Data for Inclusion Platform and WORLD’s global data on legal rights to not only provide access to legal information but to also empower people with disabilities and disabled persons’ organizations to input firsthand reports of the issues they face. Achieving such access and capturing the voice of this traditionally marginalized population presents an opportunity to uplift millions while positively changing the world for generations to come.
“Access to education and employment for people with disabilities is critical in building a fair and inclusive society,” said Betsy Beaumon, President, Benetech. “We must not only help people understand their rights, but also help them share their stories to shed light on the challenges millions of people with disabilities face in pursuing those rights.”
We are at a critical moment in the fight to realize access to education and employment for people with disabilities. Over the last decade, powerful international agreements—such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—have come to fruition. These agreements represent ambitious goals and establish a valuable framework for the creation of policies that embrace the rights of all people. In many cases though, policies that are meant to protect the rights of people with disabilities are unevenly adopted across nations and difficult to navigate.
Even where there are policies in place, it remains easy to find many examples of people with disabilities being denied the right to education and the ability to enter or succeed in the workforce. A recent UNESCO study of 49 countries found that people with disabilities have fewer years of education, are less likely to complete primary or secondary school, and are less likely to have basic literacy skills than people without disabilities. In developing countries, 80-90 percent of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed. However, in order to take action, authorities must see below the top-level numbers, by getting a window into the lives of individuals and communities that often lie in stark contrast with official policies.
“Globally, there’s been immense progress on equal rights, but we have so much further to go. We are mapping legal rights for children, youth, and adults with disabilities in every country to call out successes and also to shine a light on remaining gaps in basic rights that urgently need to be addressed,” said Jody Heymann, UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center. “We are thrilled to be working with Benetech and leaders from the disability movement globally to create tools we can use together to break the barriers.”
The project will map disability-related policies across 193 countries and focus even more deeply, in partnership with disabled persons’ organizations, in three countries with varied policy environments. Benetech, through its Data for Inclusion Platform, will design ways these organizations and individuals can navigate the information and report their experiences. The project is made possible thanks to funding from the Ford Foundation and its commitment to inclusive projects for people with disabilities.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of Benetech’s partnerships with Sightsavers and Leonard Cheshire to design and build inclusive software solutions for disability employment that amplifies individual voices through data and stories. The project is part of the Department for International Development (DFID) United Kingdom (UK) Aid Connect. More information on the DFID UK Aid Connect program is available on the Benetech website.