Sustainability starts with disability inclusion and accessibility.
For starters, for every 1 % increase in people with disabilities working, $25 billion would be added to the US economy.
Many people start the year with New Year’s resolutions:
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Purchase more sustainable solutions
- Buy local
But each of these resolutions only addresses one small aspect of the overall sustainability problem. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are a series of 17 integrated goals that are part of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Most UN SDGs can be tied to disability and accessibility, either directly or indirectly.
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being — Adults with disabilities are more than four times as likely to report their health as fair or poor than adults without disabilities. This derives at least in part from the linkage between work and private health insurance in the US. Discrimination in education leads to lower employment opportunities, which then forces people with disabilities to enroll in poorly funded public health care systems that result in health inequalities.
GOAL 4: Quality Education — American children with disabilities in special education have a significantly higher drop out rate than children without disabilities. Children with mental health disabilities experience the highest drop out rate in the US. Outside of the US, less than 5 % of children with disabilities have access to any education at all.
GOAL 5: Gender Equality — Men with disabilities, while discriminated against, still have more than twice as many jobs as women with disabilities. Women with disabilities are also more likely to struggle to get stable housing and more likely to be institutionalized. The global literacy rate for women with disabilities is 1 %.
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth — When women with disabilities can get work, they often experience:
- hiring and promotion inequalities;
- access to training inequalities;
- unequal pay for identical work;
- occupational segregation, and;
- they rarely participate in economic decision making.
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure — Women with disabilities have unequal access to credit and other business resources, limiting their ability to start a business when faced with hiring discrimination.
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities — “Smart cities” aren’t always accessible to people with hearing, vision, mobility, or speech disabilities. In today’s cities, people with disabilities face a widespread lack of accessibility to built environments, including lack of access to roads, housing, public buildings and spaces, transportation. Barriers also exist in ICT, including websites and apps, compounded by cultural attitudes such as damaging stereotypes and stigma. All of these things put together create an environment that excludes and marginalizes people with disabilities.
- People with hearing loss are shot for not complying with police orders they couldn’t hear.
- Police will stop 1 in 5 children with autism before they reach 21.
- People with untreated mental health conditions are SIXTEEN TIMES more likely to be killed in a police incident than someone without a disability.
The world won’t be sustainable for anyone
until it is sustainable for everyone.