Purpose of Collecting Disability Information

At the first meeting of the United Nations Statistical Commission’s Washington Group on Disability Statistics (WG) in 2002, the over 40 countries participating were asked why they wanted to collect information on disability. Their reasons were collected and analysed into three main categories:

  • Providing services;
  • Monitoring the functioning of the population;
  • Assessing the equality of opportunities for persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities.

Providing services:

One reason for collecting data on disability is to design and implement services for persons with disabilities – either via special programmes for them or by making general programmes more inclusive. Estimating the need for services requires collecting information that serves to determine eligibility. However, beyond that, there is still a need for gathering information on the specific types of services required and the specific barriers limiting the delivery of those services, such as types and quantities of assistive devices, numbers of trained personnel and distribution systems.

Monitoring the functioning of the population:

Monitoring can also take place at various levels of functioning – body function, activity or participation – depending on the goal of the monitoring. A government might want to assess the scope of potential concerns relating to disability. Monitoring body functioning pertains mostly to programmes designed for the prevention of impairments associated with disability.

Equalization of opportunities:

The third main reason for collecting data on disability is to track whether society is becoming more inclusive; that is, to determine whether the opportunity gap between persons with disabilities and those without disabilities is closing.

The common goal is to promote participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life by limiting consequences of impairments, promoting optimal levels of functioning and equalizing opportunities
for participation.[1]

[1] See Regional Guidebook to Improve Disability Data Collection and Analysis in the Arab Countries: Implementing the Washington Group Questions on Functioning. E/ESCWA/SD/2018/MANUAL.1.