On Tuesday 24th July, the UK will co-host its first ever Global Disability Summit. DfID’s Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt announced the summit last month using sign language - a House of Commons first – and is spearheading renewed action to tackle the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in society.

Statistics show that of the one billion people around the world who have a disability, 800 million of them live in the developing world but planning of new inclusive education services is being hampered by a lack of reliable data on education and disability.

Street Child’s Head of Africa Programmes, Megan Lees McCowan explains:

There is a serious lack of information available on the prevalence of disabilities in developing countries. Street Child is committed to increasing inclusion in education of children with disabilities. Our primary research in Sierra Leone is the first step towards understanding how the global community can better ensure that no child is left out of education.’  

Whilst many might imagine accessibility or lack of specialist resources to be the primary barriers to children with disabilities attending school, our latest research shows that discrimination tops the list.

‘44% of the children we spoke to said stigma and discrimination were the primary barrier to attending school’ explains Megan,  ‘This is an under-recognised and under-supported issue and we, including our partners in Sierra Leone - WESOFOD and SCoSL - are calling on national and international actors to contribute to developing more evidence on children with disabilities in Sierra Leone - and globally.

The Global Disability Summit represents a moment of change, with many organisations signing up to the Charter for Change to ensure the rights, freedoms, dignity and inclusion for all persons with disabilities.

Our research shows that teachers, parents and caregivers must be a key target audience for combatting stigma and discrimination with one teacher quoted as saying: ‘Children with disabilities are a great burden in the classroom.’ And a 14 year old child stating: ‘My parents don’t consider me as a normal being’.

Street Child CEO, Tom Dannatt added: ‘Street Child believes every child deserves the chance to go to school and learn and we are constantly striving to do more for the most vulnerable and marginalised children we work with. That’s why we are committing to the Global Disability Summit Charter and to developing programmes that tackle stigma and discrimination by creating new norms, ensuring inclusion in education and dignity and respect for all.’

Download Street Child’s research on children with disabilities here.

Street Child