Disability Prevalence in the Arab Region

The accuracy of disability statistics in the Arab region depends on the way each country disaggregates disability, and the source and date of data. According to a 2018 ESCWA report on disability in the Arab region,[1] disability prevalence rates in Arab countries were below the world average of 15 per cent, ranging between 0.19 per cent in Qatar and 5 per cent in Morocco, with varying prevalence between men and women as shown in figure 2. Based on the types of disabilities, the report shows that mobility is the most prominent disability at 21.6 per cent in Qatar and 43.3 per cent in Egypt, and vision impairment is n second highest with 12.6 per cent in Qatar and 26.5 per cent in Iraq and the State of Palestine.

Figure 2. Disability prevalence in the Arab region

Disability prevalence in the Arab region. Qatar 0.19. Mauritania 0.96. Tunisia 1.22. Syrian Arab Republic 1.46. Oman 1.48. Saudi Arabia 1.91. Egypt 1.92. Iraq 1.98. State of Palestine 2.03. Yemen 2.17. Bahrain 2.41. Jordan 2.74. Sudan 4.8. Morocco 5.07.

Source: ESCWA, 2018. Disability in the Arab Region.

However, all Arab countries have shown commitment to the care of persons with disabilities through the establishment of governmental institutions responsible for disabilities and the ratifying of CRPD. In addition to the growing number of civil society initiatives, international non-governmental organizations and private-sector institutions for the care and awareness of disability, the growth and maturity of the ICT sector in the Arab region has led to the advancement of education, business and e-government services. According to the ESCWA 2019 Arab Digital Development Report, average mobile phone subscriptions exceed 100 per cent and the Internet penetration rate of 51.6 per cent was close to the world average.[2] The report identified important findings with great effects on ICT in the region, including the following: firstly, the noticeable surge in 3G and 4G smart mobile usage among all age groups; secondly, the average number of women connected to the Internet, which exceeds the world average, especially in GCC countries, despite high Internet costs in most countries; and thirdly, a very low usage rate of e-government services in the region, while e-commerce is well below the world average.

This uptake of ICT-enabled services is having a great impact on the status of digital accessibility in most Arab countries, and on promoting digital inclusion for all, including persons with disabilities, within the framework of digital transformation and digital economy. The 2016 and 2017 ICT Development Index (IDI)[3] show high rankings for GCC countries, especially Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and low rankings for the Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic, as shown in table 7. The E-Government Development Index and the E-Participation Index for the region show that GCC countries are outperforming other Arab countries and have a good world ranking.

Table 7. ICT Development Index, e-Government Development Index, and e-participation in the Arab region

Country IDI 2016 rank IDI 2017 rank EGDI 2020 E-participation 2020
Bahrain 30 31 38 51
Qatar 36 39 66 77
United Arab Emirates 34 40 21 16
Saudi Arabia 45 54 46 66
Oman 64 62 50 38
Lebanon 65 64 127 148
Jordan 66 70 117 148
Kuwait 70 71 46 18
Tunisia 95 99 91 73
Morocco 98 100 106 106
Algeria 106 102 120 183
Egypt 104 103 111 106
Libya 112 115 162 189
State of Palestine 122 123 NA NA
Syrian Arab Republic 124 126 131 106
Sudan 141 145 170 175

Sources: www.itu.int/net4/ITU-D/idi/2017/index.html#idi2017byregion-tab and https://publicadministration.un.org/egovkb/en-us.

This rapid growth in ICT, especially the growing Internet penetration rate, in Arab countries is providing substantial benefits to all social groups, including persons with disabilities. This has encouraged local governments and civil society organizations to initiate different programmes and use ICT to provide IT-based services for persons with disabilities. New accessibility features allow persons with disabilities to enjoy reading, viewing and listening to multimedia content available on the Internet in a personalized way that suits their needs.