Filling the gap in data about disability

Maeve O’Reilly


Maeve O’Reilly, our Policy Advisor on Data and Disability, reflects on the journey of our Disability Data Portal.

Although challenges in collection and analysis remain, the disability data landscape is improving. We hope as the portal develops, it will continue to be a vital resource for all.

You would think in today’s world, global data on disability would be available at your fingertips. However, that’s not always the case. Disability data can be hard to find, hard to compare, or in some cases, may not be collected at all.

This makes it much harder for disability rights advocates to highlight inequalities and bring about real change. In short, the old adage ‘strength in numbers’ could not be more true when it comes to disability data. That’s why we worked with Department for International Development (DFID) to develop the Disability Data Portal.

Our data portal

The portal was launched in 2018 at the Global Disability Summit. Storing data from 40 countries so far, it has been designed to make disability data easier to find and use. It acts as an open resource for anyone looking for evidence to combat inequalities. 

The portal includes data on education, economic empowerment, technology, and stigma and discrimination. You can also explore the data across disability type, gender and age. This helps to identify barriers faced by different groups. Making the picture even clearer. 

Through the data added to the portal so far, we discovered some stark statistics (PDF). For example, on average 70% of children without disabilities finish primary school, compared to only 48% of children with disabilities.

We also found that girls with disabilities are falling even further behind. This kind of information can serve as a crucial resource for disability right activists. 

The stories behind the numbers

All this, however, is just a starting point. The aim is to add data for more countries, expanding on the existing 40 on the portal. While statistics are important, we also know that stories and videos are powerful tools for change.

That’s why we’ll add personal stories collected by our Youth Citizen Reporters as part of our 2030 and Counting project in Kenya, Zambia and the Philippines. 

We are also working with Disabled People’s Organisations in Kenya and Bangladesh. They’ll be collecting data on how laws and policies are meeting the standard set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The evidence they collect will add another dimension to the data picture.

Making our data relevant

By working with people with disabilities, we can take steps to ensure the data being collected is relevant to those most affected.  

Although challenges in collection and analysis remain, the disability data landscape is improving. We hope as the portal develops, it will continue to be a vital resource for all.