Introduction to disability and development

Disability inclusive development recognises that persons with disabilities have a right to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from development. Disability inclusion is relevant to all development program sectors and is core to international and humanitarian commitments, including those outlined in Article 32 and Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Disability inclusive development strives to ensure that persons with disabilities benefit from the same opportunities for participation, contribution, decision making and improving economic well-being as others.

The World Report on Disability estimates that approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population has a disability, including one in five people in developing countries. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in development frameworks and programs is therefore central to the key themes of equity, poverty reduction and development effectiveness.

The inclusion of persons with disabilities in development is legally underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). It recognises that persons with disabilities have the same human rights as every other person across all spheres of life and should be included in all aspects of society. The UNCRPD obliges governments of all countries who are States parties to it to provide (on the basis of progressive realisation) the necessary access and range of supports needed, so that persons with disabilities can realise their potential and contribute to the social, economic and cultural life of their community and the development of their nation. The UNCRPD through Article 32 also obliges governments who are donors of development aid to ensure that that all of their actions within the framework of international cooperation, including development programs, are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities.

The UNCRPD, as an international legal instrument and benchmark for disability inclusion, has strengthened the call for disability inclusive development. Persons with disabilities have often not been considered or included in the design, implementation, monitoring or evaluation of development programs. For example, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not include any specific targets about persons with disabilities.

There is however a growing momentum by governments, donors, international agencies and other civil society actors to implement disability inclusive development strategies. This is evident in the Sustainable Development Goals, which include specific references to disability in seven targets and a more general focus on 'leaving no one behind' which requires a focus on disability inclusion. Supporting and partnering with Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) is a critical component. This is discussed further in the sub-theme Participation of persons with disabilities.

Resources below include key UN papers and frameworks, reports, introductory publications (including those which explain the 'twin track' approach to disability inclusion), resources on the links between disability and poverty, advocacy guides, manuals, fact sheets, and websites and video resources.

CBM (2017) Disability Inclusive Toolkit PDF

This toolkit has been developed by CBM to be used within CBM and by partners and development agencies. The toolkit provides a disability-inclusive development basic information – chapter one outlines what disability is, the varying models of disability, appropriate language, disability-inclusive development and end the cycle. The other chapters cover disability-inclusive development approaches, disability as a cultural issue and understanding the complexity of development within the context of disability.

Lorraine Wapling (2015) The Value of Mainstreaming: Why disability-inclusive programming is good for development PDF

This brochure outlines very succinctly the value of mainstreaming disability in poverty, school attainment, WASH, livelihood and employment, and gender and equality. The brochure provides simple facts and figures and provides 5 tips on becoming a more disability-inclusive organisation.

Devandas C (2016) Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar HTML with link to accessible Word version (PDF 104 KB)

This report seeks to provide guidance to States and other actors on how to develop disability-inclusive policies that conform with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and which can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It notes that policies should include non-discrimination, accessibility and support service requirements. To ensure the effectiveness of such policies, it further proposes that States must adopt a clear policy framework for the inclusion of persons with disabilities across all sectors of society and for these to be matched with budget for implementation. The report promotes the use of the Washington Group Questions for disability disaggregated data. It provides recommendations that are relevant to State actors and to donors working to achieve disability inclusive development.

United Nations Secretary General (2013) The way forward: a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond- Report of the Secretary-General (A/68/95) (Word 117 KB)

This report prepared for the High Level Meeting on Disability and Development reviews good practices and existing approaches to disability inclusive development. It draws on experiences of the UN system in mainstreaming cross cutting issues. It concludes by recommending steps to include disability as an integral part of all development efforts.

CBM Australia End the cycle (regularly updated with new material)

This website provides fact sheets, personal stories from the field and online videos from persons with disabilities in developing countries, well known disability advocates and Australian NGOs. The purpose of the site is to explain the links between poverty and disability, how disability inclusive development is relevant to a range of development sectors, and what practical responses are needed by development actors.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list on International Cooperation (updated regularly)

This website includes resources on disability and the MDGs, disability policies of institutional international cooperation stakeholders and donors, links to United Nations and World Bank initiatives on disability.

UN General Assembly (2013) Outcome document of UN High Level Meeting on Disability and Development

This document, the full title of which is Outcome document of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities: the way forward, a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond, UN General Assembly, 68th session outlines the importance of including persons with disabilities in the future development goals. It is useful to inform advocacy and policy on this issue.

United Nations (2006) UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The UNCRPD sets out the treaty obligations to which States Parties agree, and around which development assistance can be based. Articles of the UNCRPD deal with a broad range of issues including e.g. access to health, education, infrastructure, services and the full range of economic, social, cultural and political rights.

CBM (2013) Advocacy for all PDF (1.12 MB)

This practical guidance outlines key messages to advocate for disability inclusive development and the importance of including persons with disabilities. This document may assist those responsible for policy to identify where and how to address disability inclusion throughout their own policy content and how to effectively advocate (including with partners).

Lord J, Posarac A, Nicoli M, Peffley K, McClain-Nhlapo C and Keogh M (2010) Disability, Development and International Cooperation: A review of policies and practices - A review of policies and practices World Bank Social Protection Discussion Paper 1003 (Word, 676kb)

This review examines and summarises policies of major multilateral and bilateral agencies to include disability in development aid. It provides examples of their programs and identifies five emerging trends on disability and development.

World Health Organization and World Bank (2011) World Report on Disability (PDF 10.4 MB)

The first ever world report on disability provides the best available evidence on incidence, prevalence and the situation of persons with disabilities globally. It includes recommendations to governments and partners on how to overcome barriers that persons with disabilities face in accessing health care, rehabilitation, education, employment, and support services. It also provides guidance on how to create environments which will enable persons with disabilities to flourish.

CBM Australia (2012) Inclusion Made Easy (Complete Guide) (PDF 4.9 MB, Word 1.1 MB)

This manual is designed for program staff in international development organisations. It is a brief, practical guide on how to ensure programs are disability inclusive. Part A focuses on principles of disability inclusive development and Part B on disability inclusion across a range of development thematic sectors (which are downloadable as discrete chapters). It offers basic inclusion principles, practical tips and case study examples.

UNDP (2012) Guidance Note: Applying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in UNDP Programming (PDF 376 KB)

The main objective of these guidelines is to provide guidance on how to contribute to realising the rights of persons with disabilities through the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) policies, projects and programs. It deals with why and how to use the UNCRPD and how to include persons with disabilities as stakeholders. It serves as a reference for government or non-government national partners and other development partners – i.e. how an agency can apply the UNCRPD to all elements of programming.

There are no case studies available

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 a girl from Fiji seated in a wheelchair, shaking hands with a woman representative from the Fiji Disabled Persons Federation.

Photo: Soloveni Vitoso, 2013

Without access to a wheelchair, this Fijian girl, who has Down Syndrome and a mobility impairment, had rarely been able to leave her home due to poor access around her village. Through the involvement of the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation, a DPO, she has received a wheelchair and now attends village meetings, goes to church and visits relatives, improving her engagement with her community. Copyright: Pacific Disability Forum