Indigenous persons with disabilities
According to the United Nations (UN) of the 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world, 54 million are indigenous persons with disabilities. They are overrepresented among those living in absolute poverty and continue to exist as one of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
The issues faced by indigenous persons with disabilities intersect with issues faced by all indigenous persons and persons with disabilities. They are unaddressed in both disability and indigenous policies. Inadequate action has been taken as a result to address the barriers and discrimination faced by indigenous persons with disabilities. Traditionally their participation in the community at large has been challenging, resulting in poor access to and meaningful participation in development programmes and funds, education, employment, health care, communication, and transportation services.
Some key challenges are the exclusion of indigenous persons with disabilities in legislation and programmes including those that are disability-specific, lack of disaggregation of data based on indigenous persons with disabilities, and inadequate measures to eliminate violence and discrimination. Access to community and state-provided services is limited and indigenous persons with disabilities remain invisible.
Their invisibility makes it difficult to bring the voice of indigenous persons with disabilities to the table. However, links may be established through existing Organisations with Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), though these links may also be limited in some countries. Additional efforts must be made to make indigenous persons with disabilities a part of all decision-making processes pertaining to them. Ways of ensuring their participation include:
- Indigenous communities may have their own distinct social and cultural norms pertaining to indigenous persons with disabilities. Strengthening the capacities of project staff through awareness-raising and sensitisation workshops on their specific issues and rights is important for sensitive project design and implementation
- Build internal capacities to enable meaningful participation of indigenous persons with disabilities at all levels to ensure that all phases of the project address their concerns.
- Ensure that the consultation process is an accessible and enabling space to them so that they can participate with disability and beyond constituencies.
- Be aware and sensitive to the cultural beliefs and practices of indigenous groups and adapt the consultation, meeting or workshop accordingly.
- Take specific action to engage indigenous persons with disabilities and their respective organisations in monitoring and review of the project, drawing on their experience to ensure they are not left behind.
- Strengthen capacity and invest to collect national data disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and other relevant characteristics.