This policy arena focuses on a significantly under-represented subject in international development journals—disability. This is timely, as the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently came into force in May 2008. As a result, there is a growing awareness among policy-makers and development practitioners of the need to comprehensively address disability issues in their core activities. Persons with disabilities have long been subjects of international aid, so why has there been so little focus on mainstreaming disability within international development, and so little attention to development within disability circles? This editorial, and the papers presented in the policy arena, draw out the key issues around these themes that emerged from a major conference—poverty, discrimination and lack of access—held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2008 and looks at the trajectory of links between disability and development and asks what is the significance of convention and how will it take the field forward. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.