What is the purpose of the WG?

A UN International Seminar on Disability Measurement held in 2001 highlighted the need for standard principles and measures of disability in all national data collection systems and the improvement of cross-national comparability among disability measures.

To meet recommendations for consistency and transparency in disability measurement cross-nationally, the WG was constituted under the auspices of the UN Statistical Commission as a City Group. Specifically the WG was tasked to:

  • address the need for reliable and comparable population-based measures of disability,
  • foster international cooperation in the area of health and disability statistics,
  • produce internationally tested measures to monitor status of persons with disability, and
  • incorporate disability into national statistical systems.

Who has endorsed/used the WG questions?

The WG-SS has been

  • used in censuses or surveys in over 75 countries,
  • has been promoted by international aid programs (DFID/UK and DFAT/Australia) as the means to collect disability data in all programs and projects,
  • has been introduced as the means for collecting disability data by the UN Statistical Division (UNSD) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe for the 2020 round of censuses, and
  • has been endorsed by an Expert Group under the auspices of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) as the means to disaggregate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators by disability status.
  • UNICEF has included the Child Functioning Module (CFM) and WG-SS in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS)
  • US AID has developed a disability module that includes the WG-SS in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)
  • World Bank (WB) is scaling up the inclusion of the WG-SS into future WB-sponsored household surveys, including the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS).

Who is entitled to be a WG member and how?

Membership is open to any United Nations Member State. If you are interested in attending a meeting or organizing training you should contact The Secretariat.

Who are the Washington Group?

The Washington Group (WG) on Disability Statistics is a United Nations Statistics Commission City Group formed of representatives of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) working on developing methods to improve statistics on persons with disabilities globally. In this work, NSOs (currently over 135) are joined by various international agencies and experts including UN agencies (e.g., UNICEF, ILO, World Bank), bilateral aid agencies (e.g. DFID, DFAT, USAID), NGOs (e.g., Humanity & Inclusion, Sightsavers), Disabled People Organizations (DPOs), and researchers.

The United National Statistical Commission authorized the formation of the WG to address methodological issues that were identified at the International Seminar on Measurement of Disability in New York in June 2001. The consensus of that seminar was the recognition that statistical and methodological work was needed at an international level in order to facilitate the comparison of data on disability cross-nationally.

The WG, like all City Groups, invites representatives from all national statistical agencies to come together and participate in addressing the statistical challenges to collecting valid, reliable and cross-nationally comparable data on disability.

Where can the WG Short Set questions be applied?

The WG-SS questions were originally developed for censuses and large population-based surveys.

The WG-SS was designed as a core set of questions for self- or proxy-reporting of functional limitations at the individual level. Although they were developed to be appropriate for administration as part of a census, the questions can be included in any existing data collection activity within a program-level monitoring and evaluation framework or can be incorporated into smaller-scale surveys that collect data at the individual level.

The WG-SS is designed to avoid some of the failures of earlier ways of operationalizing disability (e.g. using only one question or a screening question such as ‘Do you have a disability?’).

As they were developed for use in censuses, the questions are as succinct and straightforward as possible without compromising their effectivity in the disaggregation of outcome data, for example, access to education or employment by disability status. Disaggregation allows for the determination of whether persons with disability have achieved the same level of participation as those without a disability on the selected outcome indicators.

In order to monitor compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) or evaluate whether programs are including people with disabilities and meeting their needs, baseline data on disability status collected at the individual level and follow-up data are required.  Conducting surveys that include the WG-SS at a minimum of two key points in a program (e.g. start and end) will provide valuable information on how people with disabilities have benefited from or been included in a program. These do not have to be large-scale surveys, which may be beyond the resources of a program. In many cases it will be possible to include the questions into the program’s usual data collection processes. Care should be taken to train enumerators to properly ask the questions. Sample sizes should be large enough so that information on the population with disabilities served by the program can be described.