Disbility & Development: On Disability and Philosophies of Freedom

The recent seminar in Maputo, Mozambique on disability, development, and Inclusive Tourism was ony the first in an increasingly public set of dialogues and interventions to highlight the cross-cutting relationship of disability to development.

In April 2011 a follow-up event will take place in Rio de Janeiro with participation in REATECH 2011 and a field experience in Socorro, Brazil. In the meantime, the Community of Practice (CoP) formed around Inclusive Tourism as a tool for national development continues to debate issues such as the following:

An exclusive concentration on inequalities in income distribution cannot be adequate for an understanding of economic inequality.

Consider an example. Being disabled has a double effect, in reducing the person's ability to earn an income (the "earning handicap") and in making the conversion of income into good living that much harder, thanks to the costs of assistance, and the impossibility of fully correcting certain types of disadvantages caused by disability (the "conversion handicap"). A person who happens to be physically disabled may need to pay for assistance, and even then may not become able to move around freely. The conversion handicap is routinely missed in poverty relief programmes that concentrate only on the lowness of incomes.

As Wiebke Kuklys, a brilliant young student at Cambridge, has recently shown (she died tragically shortly after completing her work), the conversion handicap for British families with disabled members is four or five times as important as the income handicap, in terms of their respective impacts on deprivation.

A system of poverty removal that concentrates only on the lowness of income, in particular whether a person's - or family's - income is below the poverty line, will catch the earning handicap, but not the conversion handicap, and this could make the poverty relief programme fundamentally inadequate. Indeed, the nature of every serious economic and social problem may be significantly influenced by taking the importance of freedom and capabilities seriously.

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