UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a historic U.N. meeting of world leaders Monday “to break barriers and open doors” for the more than 1 billion disabled people around the world.

The goal of the first-ever high-level General Assembly meeting was to spur international action to ensure that the disabled can contribute to the global economy.

"Far too many people with disabilities live in poverty (and) too many suffer from social exclusion" and are denied access to education, health care and social and legal support, Ban said.

Monday’s meeting is the prelude to the annual U.N. gathering of presidents, prime ministers and monarchs, which starts Tuesday.