Participation of persons with disabilities

A central principle of the disability rights movement has been 'nothing about us without us'. This means that no policy or program about or potentially targeting persons with disabilities or the wider community in which they live should be designed, implemented or evaluated without the active engagement and involvement of persons with disabilities themselves at each step of the process. Disability inclusive development practice recognises the contribution that persons with disabilities can make as key stakeholders, not just beneficiaries of development, from the local community level to the international level. Persons with disabilities themselves must play a central and active role in all areas and at all levels in ensuring that their human rights are translated into concrete measures to effectively improve their lives. This reflects the general principle of the UNCRPD ("full and effective participation and inclusion in society"), in Article 3 and general obligation Article 4.3)

Intentionally supporting the genuine participation of persons with disabilities in development can assist in:

  • understanding and addressing the barriers and enablers to accessing development opportunities
  • identifying the most effective programming responses and improving development effectiveness
  • reducing stigma through demonstrating that persons with disabilities are capable, contributing members of their community.

Investing in the leadership and capacity of persons with disabilities helps increase participation and often takes place through support to Disabled People's Organisations, employing persons with disabilities and building people-to-people links through scholarships and volunteer programs.

Supporting participation at an organisational level: Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs)

Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) are organisations made up of persons with disabilities and which exist to represent the interests of their members. The UNCRPD recognises the role of DPOs and requires governments to consult with them in the development of legislation and policies to implement the UNCRPD and also in all decision-making processes. Some DPOs represent people with all impairment types, while others may focus on a particular impairment type or sectoral issue, or represent geographical areas (local, provincial, national, regional or international). See the Links page for links to DPOs.

Resources below include policy papers and donor guides to supporting DPOs, and reports on capacity building. Case studies and good practice guidance will be added when these become available.

See also: Governance

CBM (2014) The Future is Inclusive: How to make international development disability-inclusive PDF

This document outlines key facts and figures on the situation of women, men, girls and boys with disabilities living in low income countries and presents the reasons why development and humanitarian actions must be disability-inclusive. There are five chapters which outline key concepts in disability-inclusive development; why inclusion is important for effective development and humanitarian outcomes; key issues which cause barriers in development and provides good practice examples; and concludes with key messages.

CBM Australia (2018) Creating a new business as usual DPO engagement in development

This paper, prepared by CBM Australia under the DFAT-CBM partnership, examines lessons learned on DPO engagement in development programming and humanitarian action from the perspective of the Australian Aid Program. It examines the roles DPOs are currently undertaking in mainstream programs, and provides reflections and recommendations on effective DPO engagement for donors and funding agencies. It also includes more practical considerations and recommendations for program implementers seeking to meaningfully engage with DPOs to support disability inclusive programming. It is supported by 5 case studies which can be found in the case studies section. The paper was originally prepared to support a presentation at the Global Action on Disability (GLAD) Network Meeting 31 January – 2 February 2018, Helsinki, Finland

Humanity & Inclusion (2011) Support to organisations representative of persons with disabilities (PDF 1.9 MB)

This Policy Paper is based on the practice and extensive experience acquired by Handicap International in their work providing support to DPOs. It provides principles, rationale for support to DPOs, and a range of possible intervention methods. These include capacity development; promoting changes to attitudes practices and policies; monitoring; and supporting the empowerment of individuals with disabilities. It also includes brief case study examples.

Wapling L and Downie B (2011) Beyond charity: A donor's guide to inclusion. Disability funding in the era of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Word 117 KB, PDF 1.23MB)

This resource provides guidance to donors on promoting disability rights through international cooperation from a human rights perspective, based on the UNCRPD. It outlines inclusive funding in action, and practical mechanisms to support representative organisations of persons with disabilities or disabled persons organisations (DPOs).

Disability Rights Fund

This is a grant making body that supports DPOs to advocate on issues around UNCRPD ratification globally. Persons with disabilities are actively involved in its governance and running. It is an example of a mechanism by which donors can efficiently support multiple small projects by DPOs to advocate for their rights in a diverse range of countries.

International Disability Alliance (IDA)

This body was established in 1999 as a network of global and, since 2007, regional DPOs. It aims to promote the effective and full implementation of the UNCRPD worldwide, as well as compliance with the UNCRPD within the UN system, through the active and coordinated involvement of representative organisations of persons with disabilities at the national, regional and international levels. The IDA s provides links to global and regional DPOs as well as position papers on disability rights and information on policy and projects.

Pacific Disability Forum and Australian Pacific Islands Disability Support (2012) Final report- Capacity development for effective and efficient disabled persons organisations in Pacific Island Countries (PDF 466 MB, Word 318 KB)

This report presents the findings of research undertaken by Pacific Disability Forum (the regional umbrella body for Pacific DPOs) and its partner, APIDS, in 2011-2012 on the capacities and journey of Pacific DPOs, to contribute to ongoing capacity development processes of Pacific DPOs. Provides a helpful example of a participatory process, where DPOs are able to identify their own capacities and opportunities for future growth.

Engaging with DPOs to implement disability inclusive WASH programming: Learning from the Australian Aid-funded Civil Society WASH fund PDF

Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) have successfully engaged in five water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects being implemented by World Vision Australia and WaterAid through the Australian Aid-funded Civil Society WASH Fund. Working in very different contexts, each project was able to engage with local DPOs to support disability inclusion within WASH programming, across the program cycle. The roles that the DPOs played varied according to interest, capacity, geographical proximity and scope of the program. Engagement between DPOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) has not only strengthened project outcomes, but has brought benefits for all partners for achieving disability inclusion, and for broader capacity building and networking.

Creating a new ‘business as usual’: Reflections and lessons from the Australian Aid program on engaging with Disabled People’s Organisations in development programming and humanitarian action Accessible Word Document

Many donors and international development agencies are familiar with funding DPOs; however engaging DPOs to help design, implement, monitor and evaluate programs and portfolios of programs, especially within mainstream development programs, is less common. This paper provides some perspectives from the Australian Aid program and Australian development sector more broadly. The paper seeks to answer the following questions: • What has DFAT done to encourage and enable DPO engagement in development programs, which could be replicated by other donors and funders? • What roles are DPOs fulfilling in order to help make programs more disability inclusive? • What issues should program managers and implementers consider and address to maximise effective and meaningful DPO engagement in programs? The paper addresses the three questions sequentially. It is supported by case studies that illustrate the roles DPOs can undertake in programs, as well as more detailed lessons arising from these.

Creating a new ‘business as usual’: Reflections and lessons from the Australian Aid program on engaging with Disabled People’s Organisations in development programming and humanitarian action PDF

Many donors and international development agencies are familiar with funding DPOs; however engaging DPOs to help design, implement, monitor and evaluate programs and portfolios of programs, especially within mainstream development programs, is less common. This paper provides some perspectives from the Australian Aid program and Australian development sector more broadly. The paper seeks to answer the following questions: • What has DFAT done to encourage and enable DPO engagement in development programs, which could be replicated by other donors and funders? • What roles are DPOs fulfilling in order to help make programs more disability inclusive? • What issues should program managers and implementers consider and address to maximise effective and meaningful DPO engagement in programs? The paper addresses the three questions sequentially. It is supported by case studies that illustrate the roles DPOs can undertake in programs, as well as more detailed lessons arising from these.

DPO engagement within DFAT disability inclusive development capacity development Accessible Word Document

A range of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have been involved in short-term disability inclusive development capacity development visits to Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Posts, as co-facilitators, speakers and advisors. Involving DPOs in disability inclusion trainings and meetings: supports the ‘nothing about us without us’ principle; upholds DFAT’s own strategy principles; ensures that training and advice is contextually relevant; and contributes to establishing and strengthening relationships between DPOs, DFAT, governments and implementing partners. DPO involvement in visits also helps to build DPO capacity and create momentum for DFAT and partners to identify opportunities to support DPOs or involve them in their programs.

Engaging a DPO to assist with providing disability advisory services to a health program Accessible Word Document

DFAT recruited a disability advisor to support implementing partners develop and implement disability inclusion strategies within the health program in Timor-Leste. By stipulating that these services must be provided in partnership with a national DPO, DFAT was able to ensure DPOs were strongly engaged, but also supported, in providing advisory services. Through this engagement, the DPO developed new relationships with government and non-government partners and increased its capacity to provide advice on disability inclusive health.

Partnering with Disabled People’s Organisations to improve disability inclusive skills development and economic empowerment in Vanuatu Accessible Word Document

After successfully working together to deliver awareness raising activities regarding disability inclusive skills development opportunities in communities across Vanuatu, the Vanuatu Skills Partnership and Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) established a formal relationship. Through this partnership, the Vanuatu Skills Partnership and Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) support each other towards shared goals, by providing relevant technical advice and bi-directional capacity development support. Recognising the limited funding opportunities available to Pacific DPOs, Vanuatu Skills Partnership also funds an appropriate proportion of VDPA’s institutional costs. This joint work has resulted in increasing demand amongst people with disabilities for disability inclusive skills development, and improved supply of disability inclusive post-school education and training. The Vanuatu Skills Partnership is a joint investment between the Governments of Australia a

Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice: A case study on engagement with DPOs Accessible Word Document

The Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice has involved disability inclusion as a key strategy. This has been progressed through a range of approaches, including the participation of DPOs in organisational capacity building together with other CSOs, and core funding to organisations to strengthen their approaches. Outcomes, lessons and recommendations have been identified. Mainstream participation of key people with disability as both agents of change and beneficiaries of change was identified as a key enabler of success.

- Partnering with Disabled People’s Organisations to improve disability inclusive skills development and economic empowerment in Vanuatu PDF

After successfully working together to deliver awareness raising activities regarding disability inclusive skills development opportunities in communities across Vanuatu, the Vanuatu Skills Partnership and Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) established a formal relationship. Through this partnership, the Vanuatu Skills Partnership and Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) support each other towards shared goals, by providing relevant technical advice and bi-directional capacity development support. Recognising the limited funding opportunities available to Pacific DPOs, Vanuatu Skills Partnership also funds an appropriate proportion of VDPA’s institutional costs. This joint work has resulted in increasing demand amongst people with disabilities for disability inclusive skills development, and improved supply of disability inclusive post-school education and training. The Vanuatu Skills Partnership is a joint investment between the Governments of Australia a

- Engaging a DPO to assist with providing disability advisory services to a health program PDF

DFAT recruited a disability advisor to support implementing partners develop and implement disability inclusion strategies within the health program in Timor-Leste. By stipulating that these services must be provided in partnership with a national DPO, DFAT was able to ensure DPOs were strongly engaged, but also supported, in providing advisory services. Through this engagement, the DPO developed new relationships with government and non-government partners and increased its capacity to provide advice on disability inclusive health.

- DPO engagement within DFAT disability inclusive development capacity development PDF

A range of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have been involved in short-term disability inclusive development capacity development visits to Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Posts, as co-facilitators, speakers and advisors. Involving DPOs in disability inclusion trainings and meetings: supports the ‘nothing about us without us’ principle; upholds DFAT’s own strategy principles; ensures that training and advice is contextually relevant; and contributes to establishing and strengthening relationships between DPOs, DFAT, governments and implementing partners. DPO involvement in visits also helps to build DPO capacity and create momentum for DFAT and partners to identify opportunities to support DPOs or involve them in their programs.

- Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice: A case study on engagement with DPOs PDF

The Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice has involved disability inclusion as a key strategy. This has been progressed through a range of approaches, including the participation of DPOs in organisational capacity building together with other CSOs, and core funding to organisations to strengthen their approaches. Outcomes, lessons and recommendations have been identified. Mainstream participation of key people with disability as both agents of change and beneficiaries of change was identified as a key enabler of success.

Washington Group on Disability Statistics technical presentation

Jennifer H. Madans Ph.D., Associate Director for Science, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Mitchell Loeb,
Health Scientist, NCHS from the secretariat of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics delivered a technical session
on how to use the Washington Group questions in monitoring data systems and how to disaggregate data by disability
followed by a question and answer session at the University of Melbourne on Thursday, 30 April 2015. The presentation
was organised by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Presentation from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics
Picture of representatives from Fusi Alofa Association (Tuvalu), Te Toa Matoa (Kiribati) and from Nauru DPA at a conference wearing headphones to listen to the translation of a speech.

Photo: Soloveni Vitoso, 2013

The Pacific Disability Conference, held every two years, was held in New Caledonia 2013. At these conferences, DPOs from around the Pacific and other interested stakeholders meet to discuss progress on disability inclusion, learn from each other’s experiences and to plan future initiatives.Here, representatives from Fusi Alofa Association (Tuvalu), Te Toa Matoa (Kiribati) and Nauru DPA are listening to the opening address of the PDF General Forum from the New Caledonian Government representatives. Translation was provided from French to English and into local sign languages. Copyright: Pacific Disability Forum