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Since the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981,  people with disability have organised  themselves into their own organisations all over  the world. Disabled People's Organisations are  those controlled by a majority of people with disability (51%) at the board and  membership levels.

The role of these organisations includes providing a voice of their own, identifying needs, expressing views on priorities, evaluating services and advocating change and public awareness.

DPOs believe that people with disability are their own best spokespersons and their role has been and is fundamental for the human rights movement of people with disability.

Indeed, up until the late 1970’s, the views of persons with disability were largely filtered through the voices of disability service providers, professionals working in the area of disability and family members, including at the international level.

At the time, the key international disability organisation, Rehabilitation International, had a policy that people with disability could attend its periodic international conference as observers, but were not permitted to speak. People with disability strongly protested against this policy at the 1980 conference of Rehabilitation International, held in Winnipeg, Canada where a decision was made to establish a new International organisation of and for people with disability. The organisation founded was Disabled Peoples International, which now has members in over 160 countries throughout the world.

There are different kinds of DPOs:

  • Diagnostic-focused (such DPOs represent a medical diagnostic group – e.g. people living with cerebral palsy).
  • Population-specific (such DPOs represent a population group – e.g. women with disability).
  • Cross-disability (such DPOs represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability).

PWDA is a national cross-disability DPO.

For more information on how we work with DPOs  around the world, click here to read about our International Development work.