Advocating for the needs of persons with disabilities - World Refugee Day 2020

Academics & researchers

Advocating for the needs of persons with disabilities - World Refugee Day 2020

19 June 2020

Refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities can contribute to making a difference if they are given an opportunity. Daniel Maduk Bol, a Sudanese refugee living in Kenya is a recipient of UNHCR’s DAFI program, contracted polio as a child and uses a wheelchair. This didn’t prevent him from taking up a paid internship as a graduate assistant in Masinde Muliro university of Science and Technology, Turkana West campus.

I also worked as a zonal leader and community counsellor. Many people looked up to me as a role model and I would help in resolving conflict and building peace among my people. - Daniel Maduk Bol


In September 2019, Windle Trust International awarded him the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake a Master of Arts degree in Management of Special Education in Developing Countries at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He is now taking every opportunity in Kenya and abroad to campaign for increased opportunities for refugees with disabilities, including in the response to COVID-19. Daniel is now volunteering online as a Talk English Tutor at Fircrof College, United Kindom, and participating in activities to support access to protective and hygiene products, like face masks and sanitizer gel, to prevent COVID-19 in Kakuma refugee camp.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how important it is to take action to create a more inclusive world to ensure everyone has equal access to basic human rights and services. This includes refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people with disabilities who may face additional physical, information and communication barriers in accessing essential COVID-19 prevention and services. Depending on their disability and the environment they live in, they may face physical obstacles that prevent them from accessing health facilities or they may not be able to access crucial information leaving them uninformed and unprotected. In the worst cases, they may be denied life saving interventions.

Accessible communication has the power to reach people who need it the most to ensure that they can protect themselves. Information provided in multiple accessible formats including sign language, Easy Read, plain language, audio, captioned media, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication is an easy place to start.

The International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium have raised the profile of refugees like Daniel Maduk Bol with their End of Discrimination Campaign.

UNHCR welcomes the statement shared as part of this campaign, and is committed to include asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities, in line with the entities’ commitments under the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy and which will help advance their collaboration on the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

In 2019 the International Disability Alliance pledged at the first ever Global Refugee Forum to assist in the  implementation of the GCR. The International Disability Alliance and UNHCR will work together to  strengthen the capacity of organizations of persons with disabilities to mainstream refugees with disabilities and to engage with humanitarian organizations. The World Refugee Day Campaign is a demonstration of their commitment to deliver on their pledge, even in light of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to celebrate human diversity. It poses all of us with the challenge to remove barriers, assumptions and prejudices about personswith disabilities and provide outreach support to those who are most at risk.

Everyone can make a difference. Every action counts.

A group of people on the tarmac smiling at the camera.

Read the full statement by The International Disability Alliance and the International Disability and Development Consortium for World Refugee Day 2020 here.