As USAID’s coordinator for Disability and Inclusive Development, Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo has a first-hand view of how disability is changing throughout the world. A paraplegic herself, McClain-Nhlapo travels between foreign locales to understand how the disability experience differs — and how to empower people with disabilities. She is full of amazing stories of progress from unexpected places like her native South Africa, where advocacy and policy have helped change attitudes and access, and Uganda, where thousands of people with disabilities have gotten involved with policy at the village level. Yet she is also aware of the many places where progress is far from a reality.
“I think there are some universal obstacles or barriers, and I think the most dominant one is attitude. It can be covert or overt, but it’s there. In some countries people still think disability is bad karma. In some countries people may not think of it as bad karma, but they still don’t see you as a full human being. Universally, there continues to be stigma and discrimination.”
To get a sampling of what life is like for people living with disabilities in other parts of the world, we talked with a number of individuals and have highlighted some of the issues in a series of short accounts.