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UN World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons, 1982



At least 10 per cent of children are disabled. They have the same right to education as non-disabled persons and they require active intervention and specialized services. But most disabled children in developing countries receive neither specialized services nor compulsory education.

There is a great variation from some countries with a high educational level for disabled persons to countries where such facilities are limited or non-existent.

There is a lack in existing knowledge of the potential of disabled persons. Furthermore, there is often no legislation which deals with their needs and a shortage of teaching staff and facilities. Disabled persons have in most countries so far not benefitted from a lifelong education.

Significant advances in teaching techniques and important innovative developments have taken place in the field of special education and much more can be achieved in the education of disabled persons. But the progress is mostly limited to a few countries or only a few urban centres.

The advances concern early detection, assessment and intervention, special education programmes in a variety of settings, with many disabled children able to participate in a regular school setting, while others require very intensive programmes.


Many persons with disabilities are denied employment or given only menial and poorly remunerated jobs. This is true even though it can be demonstrated that with proper assessment, training and placement, the great majority of disabled persons can perform a large range of tasks in accordance with prevailing work norms. In times of unemployment and economic distress, disabled persons are usually the first to be discharged and the last to be hired. In some industrialized countries experiencing the effects of economic recession, the rate of unemployment among disabled job-seekers is double that of able-bodied applicants for jobs. In many countries various programmes have been developed and measures taken to create jobs for disabled persons. These include sheltered and production workshops, sheltered enclaves, designated positions, quota schemes, subsidies for employers who train and subsequently engage disabled workers, cooperatives of and for the disabled, etc. The actual number of disabled workers employed in either regular or special establishments is far below the number of employable disabled workers. The wider application of ergonomic principles leads to adaptation of the workplace, tools, machinery and equipment at relatively little cost and helps widen employment opportunities for the disabled.

Many disabled persons, particularly In the developing countries, live in rural areas. When the family economy is based on agriculture or other rural occupations and when the traditional extended family exists, it may be possible for most disabled persons to be given some useful tasks to perform. As more families move from rural areas to urban centres, as agriculture becomes more mechanized and commercialized, as money transactions replace barter systems and as the institution of the extended family disintegrates, the vocational plight of disabled persons becomes more severe. For those living in urban slums, competition for employment is heavy, and other economically productive activity is scarce. Many disabled persons in such areas suffer from enforced inactivity and become dependent; others must resort to begging.



Member States should adopt policies which recognize the rights of disabled persons to equal educational opportunities with others. The education of disabled persons should as far as possible take place in the general school system. Responsibility for their education should be placed upon the educational authorities and laws regarding compulsory education should include children with all ranges of disabilities, including the most severely disabled.

Member States should allow for increased flexibility in the application to disabled persons of any regulation concerning admission age, promotion from class to class and, when appropriate, in examination procedures.

Basic criteria are to be met when developing educational services for disabled children and adults. These services should be:

  • Individualized, i.e, based on the assessed needs mutually agreed upon by authorities, administrators, parents and disabled students and leading to clearly stated curriculum goals and short term objectives which are regularly reviewed and where necessary revised;
  • Locally accessible, i.e., within reasonable travelling distance of the pupil's home or residence except in special circumstances;
  • Comprehensive, i.e., serving all persons with special needs irrespective of age or degree of disability, and such that no child of school age is excluded from educational provision on grounds of severity of disability or receives educational services significantly inferior to those enjoyed by any other students;
  • Offering a range of choice commensurate with the range of special needs in any given community.
Integration of disabled children into the general educational system requires planning by all parties concerned.

If, for some reason, the facilities of the general school system are inadequate for some disabled children, schooling for these children should then be provided for an appropriate period of time in special facilities. The quality of this special schooling should be equal to that of the general school system and closely linked to it.

The involvement of parents at all levels of the educational process is vital. Parents should be given the necessary support to provide as normal a family environment for the disabled child as is possible. Personnel should be trained to work with the parents of disabled children.

Member States should provide for the participation of disabled persons in adult education programmes, with special attention to rural areas.

If the facilities of regular adult education courses are in- adequate to meet the needs of some disabled persons, special courses or training centres may be needed until the regular programmes have been modified. Member States should grant disabled persons possibilities for education at the university level


Member States should adopt a policy and supporting structure of services to ensure that disabled persons in both urban and rural areas have equal opportunities for productive and gainful employment in the open labour market. Rural employment and the development of appropriate tools and equipment should be given particular attention.
Member States can support the integration of disabled persons into open employment through a variety of measures, such as incentive-oriented quota schemes, reserved or designated employment, loans or grants for small businesses and cooperatives, exclusive contracts or priority production rights, tax concessions, contract compliance or other technical or financial assistance to enterprises employing disabled workers. Member States should support the development of technical aids and facilitate access for disabled persons to aids and assistance, which they need to do their work.

The policy and supporting structures, however, should not limit the opportunities for employment and should not hinder the vitality of the private sector of the economy. Member States should remain able to take a variety of measures in response to their domestic situations.

There should be mutual cooperation at the central and local level between government and employers' and workers' organizations in order to develop a joint strategy and joint action with a view to ensuring more and better employment opportunities for disabled persons. Such cooperation could concern recruitment policies, measures to improve the work environment in order to prevent handicapping injuries and impairments, measures for rehabilitation of employees impaired in the job, e.g ., by adjusting workplaces and work contents to their requirements.

These services should include vocational assessment and guidance, vocational training (including that in training workshops), placements and follow-up. Sheltered employment should be made available for those who, because of their special needs or particularly severe disabilities, may not be able to cope with the demands of competitive employment. Such provisions could be in the form of production workshops, home-working, and self-employment schemes, and small groups of severely disabled people employed in sheltered conditions within competitive industry.

When acting as employers, central and local governments should promote employment of disabled persons in the public sector. Laws and regulations should not raise obstacles to the employment of disabled persons.

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