First meeting: Washington, D.C., 18-20 February 2002

18/02/2002 - 20/02/2002


Representatives of national statistical agencies and international organizations of people with disabilities participated in 3 days of sessions directed toward developing agreement on the nature of a global measure of disability to be recommended for use in censuses and surveys in the world community.  The group also sought to develop an agenda for future meetings by prioritizing the most pressing issues in disability measurement and data collection.


Agenda – First Meeting of Washington Group on Disability Statistics


As the first order of business, the Washington Group examined the objectives established by the planning committee. At the completion of the sessions and discussions, the group revisited the objectives and refined the wording to better represent the conclusions that had been reached. The following objectives were accepted enthusiastically by the participants and were used to guide the development of a work plan:

  • To guide the development of a small set(s) of general disability measures, suitable for use in censuses, sample based national surveys, or other statistical formats, which will provide basic necessary information on disability throughout the world.
  • To recommend one or more extended sets of survey items to measure disability or principles for their design, to be used as components of population surveys or as supplements to specialty surveys. These extended sets of survey items will be related to the general measures.
  • Measures identified in objectives 1 and 2 will be culturally comparable to the extent possible.  The ICF model, a useful framework to assist in the development of these measures, will be utilized in developing the measures.
  • To address the methodological issues associated with the measurement of disability considered most pressing by the City Group participants.

Papers and Presentations

Introduction and Overview

The first session provided a welcome and review of the conclusions from the original meeting ‘United Nations International Seminar on the Measurement of Disability’, as well as goal setting for the first meeting.

Purpose of Measurement

Select attendees, representing both developed and developing nations, described disability measurement in their societies.

An Examination of the ICF Model

The ICF model and its relationship to disability measures was discussed.

U.N. Standard Disability Tables

Concepts, definitions, and classifications of disability were reviewed as well as the suggested approach to collecting data on disability in censuses

Global Measures of Disability

This session focused on the types and numbers of questions that could be useful in census formats.  The impact of the cut point associated with limited questions on estimates of disability was of particular concern.

The Relationship of Global Measures to the ICF

This session examined the relationship of disability measures currently in use to the ICF.

ABS Approach to Collecting Disability Data and Relationship to the ICF: A joint paper prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 

Exploring the Confounding Function of Assistive Device Use

This session explored the identification of disability and whether the lack of specification of assistive device use alters a true count of what is happening within a population. Does the lack of accurate consideration of all devices and their use compromise our measures? How does this impact on global indicators?

What are the Unique Cultural Practices that Influence the Nature of the Environment or Prescribe or Proscribe Participation?

To ask participation questions in a culture that prohibits certain types of  participation to certain members of the population is an exercise in futility.  These presentations address the cultural attitudes within which the questions must be framed. Does this problem constitute a barrier to collecting comparable data?

What are the Unique Cultural Issues that Act as Barriers to Collecting Data?  Are There Common Barriers to Data Collection that Occur Cross-Culturally?

Executive Summary