PROFESSOR Stephen Hawking has urged governments across the world to do more to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities, after a new report reveals there are more than one billion people with some form of disability.

Prof Hawking said: “We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation for people with disabilities, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock their vast potential.

“It is my hope that this century will mark a turning point for inclusion of people with disabilities in the lives of their societies.”

The first ever World Report on Disability claims people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to experience inadequate health care, and more than three times more likely to complain of being denied health care, the report reveals.

Children with disabilities are less likely to start education than non-disabled children, and do less well at school.

The report states that almost one fifth of people with disabilities – between 110 and 190 million – encounter significant difficulties.

Barriers include stigma, discrimination, lack of adequate health care and rehabilitative services, inaccessible public transport, buildings, information and communication technologies.

As a result, people with disabilities experience poorer health, lower educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said: “Disability is part of the human condition. Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life.

“We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society.”