Seven years are left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its pledge to “leave no one behind”. In particular, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 states that “inequality within and among countries is a persistent cause for concern.” Persons with disabilities are a group at risk of being left behind. While the achievement of the 17 SDGs needs to be monitored for persons with disabilities, the paucity of statistics disaggregated by disability status makes it challenging to assess their situation at both national and subnational levels, and to be factored into budgetary, policy and program decisions (UNPRPD 2022).

Specifically, disability disaggregated data is key to target 17.18 of the SDGs to increase significantly the availability of high-quality and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts. Disability disaggregated data is also central to Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which requires that States Parties “collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data”.

In addition, subnational statistics are crucial for Article 19 of the CRPD which requires that state parties take measures to facilitate the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of the right to be included in the community, including through access to community services and facilities.

Yet, there has been concern for many countries about the lack of disaggregated data on persons with disabilities, with existing data neither reflecting the actual number of persons with disabilities nor the inequalities they may experience (CRPD Committee 2023). National statistics offices rarely disaggregate statistics by disability status to monitor the situation of persons with disabilities at national and subnational levels.  There is, therefore, a lack of information on the inequalities that persons with disabilities experience across and within countries. In the absence of this information, it is challenging to develop, and advocate for, inclusive policies and practices at national and local levels and to evaluate existing policies in terms of their impacts on persons with disabilities in all their diversities by type of disability, age, gender and more.

Producing both national and subnational statistics on the situation of persons with disabilities is important for several reasons. In general, disability disaggregated statistics can inform the development and the implementation of disability-inclusive policies and programs, notably by serving as a baseline for the evaluation of future policies. More specifically, the CRPD may be a tool used by national as well as local governments to make their policies inclusive of persons with disabilities (Weber et al 2022). In fact, even in countries that have not ratified the CRPD, subnational estimates can inform policies as some local entities use the CRPD to uphold disability rights[1].

Some studies suggest that the inequalities persons with disabilities experience vary within countries (e.g. Mont and Nguyen (2018) (Vietnam); Hoogeven (2005) (Uganda), Sevak et al (2018) (US)). Recent evidence shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has had geographically heterogenous effects underscoring the role of the local environment on social vulnerabilities (ILO 2022; Parcha et al 2020). The climate emergency also has varied effects depending on geography and there is growing evidence that persons with disabilities are more at risk during natural disasters and extreme climate events due to a lack of inclusive planning, accessible information, early warning systems, transportation, and discriminatory attitudes within institutions and among individuals (Stein and Stein 2022).

This report first reviews the availability of questions on disability in national censuses and household surveys globally and documents their availability overtime between 2009 and 2022.  Second, this report shows that it is feasible to produce statistics on the situation of persons with disabilities in subnational geographic areas from household surveys and censuses and to derive insights on within country inequalities that may affect persons with disabilities. In this report, we present results at the sub-national level, which is derived from Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data for 12 countries[2]  and census data for three countries (Guatemala, Kenya, Tonga). We analyze data that covers more than 20 indicators in 179 sub-national regions in 15 countries.

The main text of the report covers: dataset review (section 3), the geographic distribution of the share of adults with functional difficulties (section 4), human development and rights indicators disaggregated by functional difficulty status at national and subnational levels (section 5), and conclusions (section 6). More results are available in Results Tables and Country Briefs.

[1] See for instance Barsky 2018 on the U.S.

[2] Cambodia, Haiti, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Timor-Leste and Uganda.