WHO: 15 Percent of World's Population Is Disabled

A new report prepared by the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that approximately 15 percent of the world’s population – about 785 million people – suffers from some type of substantial physical or mental disability, The Washington Post reported.

The disabilities range from mental retardation to chronic pain to mental illness and the report, which was released Thursday by the United Nations, found that these problems are more widespread in low-income countries, as they become worse with poverty.

This is the first report the WHO has released that analyzes statistics about disability globally, and acknowledges that anyone who is affected by a disability faces a certain stigma, which only makes the problem worse. Other obstacles to disabilities include architectural barriers, a lack of legal protection and the fact that many non-disabled people do not know how to act around disabled people.

“The message is that we cannot continue to discriminate against or ignore the needs of such a large proportion of the world’s population,” said Dr. Etienne Krug, the Belgian physician and epidemiologist at WHO, who led the study.

The report is also available in Braile, Krug said, and another version with pictures and captions for people who are mentally retarded.

The study took four years and 360 researchers – many of whom are disabled themselves.

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