There is much to gain from the collection of data on people with disabilities. On the national and international level, collection results are crucial for both benchmarking and monitoring the impact of policies for people with disabilities and the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD). 

Arguably, the methodologies used in the collection of data needs to be applied consistently and tested cross-culturally in order to produce standardized, international comparisons. Accordingly, such methodologies rely on harmonized definitions of disabilities suitable for constructing well-designed questions for surveys and censuses. 

Since its inception in 2001, the Washington Group on Disability Statistics (WG), formed under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), has developed, tested and implemented methodologies for the collection and analysis of data on disabilities. 

Three tools utilized by the WG – the Washington Group Short Set on Functioning (WG-SS), the Washington Group Extended Set on Functioning (WG-ES), and the Child Functioning Module (CFM) developed jointly with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – provide validated mechanisms using quantitative data instruments for identifying people with disabilities. 

Data collected from national household surveys and population censuses using these existing tools in accordance with WG guidelines provides internationally comparable data on disability prevalence.  Furthermore, outcome indicators, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, can be disaggregated to determine the percentage of persons with disabilities who are fully participating in society.

Initiated by ESCWA in 2016, the Disability Statistics Programme implemented three interlinked activities in the region between 2016-2017.  Beginning in June 2016, the first activity compiled national data on disabilities through the ESCWA Questionnaire on Disability Statistics. The data was used to assess implementation practices in different collection tools.  The results provided a wealth of data on people with disabilities in areas such as demography, education, employment, occupation and industry, cross classification by sex, age and geographical area.  In addition, it revealed a need for capacity-building efforts to address various national implementation practices. 

The second activity organized the Expert Group Meeting on Disability Measurement and Statistics in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme, in Muscat, Oman, in March 2017.  In collaboration with the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD), the objectives were to assess good practices and enhance the understanding of disability concepts and definitions in different countries worldwide.  

The third activity revolved around the Regional Workshop on Improving Disability Statistics in Arab States, which, in collaboration with the WG, was held in Casablanca, Morocco, in April 2017.  The workshop focused on the best practices for implementing the WG-SS, reviewed the challenges encountered in collecting disability statistics, and made improvements to the implementation practices of the WG-SS questions. 

The “Regional Guidebook to Improve Disability Data Collection and Analysis in Arab States” herein is both the outcome of the three mentioned activities and the collaboration with the national statistical offices in Arab States.  

The Guidebook[1] aims to improve the collection, analysis and availability of data on persons with disabilities by providing guidance in standardizing the implementation of WG questions and related indicators. 

This Guidebook is organized into VI chapters as follows:

  • I discusses the role of disability statistics in policy analysis, including how information on disability can assist in the design of inclusive policies, and monitoring and evaluating their impact;
  • II explores the concept of disability, which has varied historically, as it is embodied in CRPD and its implications in designing disability data collection efforts;
  • III presents the WG disability data-collection tools;
  • IV examines in more detail the implementation of WG questions and the best practices for data collection;
  • V discusses measuring prevalence and analyzing data on disabilities;
  • VI summarizes the Arab region’s experience of data collection and presents recommendations to improve data collection methodology to capture data on the majority of people with disabilities, including the Arab Washington Group Extended Short Set on Functioning (AWG-SS+).

The electronic version of this guidebook can be found at: resources.

[1] The Guidebook does not include, however, guidelines on survey sampling, data collection, tabulate, dissemination, etc. Countries may refer to the Guideline and Principals for the Development of Disability Statistics (ST/ESA/STAT/SER.Y/10).