Certain resources can help women’s organizations and international development agencies better include disabled women in their program activities. Skip to the resource list.
Women with disabilities confront many of the same challenges that other women in developing countries face, such as gender-based discrimination. But they also face some additional challenges, such as discrimination based on their disability. Some women’s organizations would like to advocate for the needs of disabled women in the same way that they advocate for all women. And international development agencies also want to ensure that they meet the needs of disabled women in the same way that they strive to meet the needs of all the poor people in the countries where they work.
But sometimes mainstream organizations aren’t sure how to begin. What barriers might they unknowingly create that make it harder for disabled women to participate in their programs’ activities or to make their needs known to their organization? What further barriers exist in society that may need to be overcome before an organization can more effectively serve women with disabilities? How can women’s organizations and international development agencies remove these barriers?
Several resources, listed below, can help. Mainstream organizations may wish to use these as guides to make their programs more accessible. Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) may wish to use these when communicating with mainstream organizations to persuade them to make change.
MIUSA’s “Checklist for Inclusion”
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) has a free checklist available (PDF format, 10 Mb). This 19-page self-assessment guide is written for mainstream international development agencies. It provides a series of questions that women’s organizations and international development agencies can use to help them identify what they’re already doing right and what things could be improved upon. For example: when you choose a meeting location, do you make sure that it is wheelchair accessible (ground-floor location with doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, etc.)? Does your organization make its print materials available in non-print (Braille; diskette) and also large-print versions? Does your organization make qualified sign language interpreters available for its training, conference, and other program activities?
MIUSA’s International Development and Disability (IDD) Program
MIUSA’s International Development and Disability (IDD) program strives to bridge the disability community and the international development community in promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities as leaders and participants in development. It provides technical assistance and advice to both disabled people’s organizations and development agencies on gender and disability inclusion. In addition to their Checklist for Inclusion, organizations may wish to learn more about MIUSA activities, publications, videos, and other resources at MIUSA’s IDD web site:
In particular, note that the checklist on inclusion was originally written as part of a more comprehensive guidebook on disability inclusion entitled Building an Inclusive Development Community: A Manual on Including People with Disabilities in International Development Programs.
Can’t afford the book? Or want to supplement it with free resources? Consult MIUSA’s page of links to free resources:
Also, read some “best practice” stories (case studies) of other organizations that have successfully promoted disability inclusion in their activities:
Another item that might be of interest is an article written by Sarah Rosenhek at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) about her experience learning about gender and disability through participating in MIUSA’s August 2006 Gender Disability and Development Institute (GDDI). Her article, entitled “Strengthening Women’s Rights Organizations through Inclusion: Lessons Learned from the Gender, Disability and Development Institute,” includes pragmatic advice for other women’s organizations that Rosenhek learned at the institute.
VSO’s Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability
Volunteer Service Overseas has a publication available on-line for free entitled A Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability (PDF format, 2 Mb). This handbook guides mainstream international development organizations in finding ways to overcome the stigma that can be associated with disability; how to actively integrate more disabled workers in the workplace; how to integrate more disabled participants in program activities; and how to integrate disability into organizational policy. Each chapter has case studies that describe how other organizations have implemented the advice given in this handbook. Download the handbook itself at
(PDF format, 2 Mb)
The VSO’s Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability was previously featured at We Can Do, with an overview of its contents.
Siyanda On-line Database of Gender and Development Materials
Siyanda is targeted at development specialists who want to integrate gender equality issues into their work,whether or not they specialize in gender issues. This database makes iteasy to search for, and locate, full-length materials, that can bedownloaded for free. Its library of documents includes items in multiple languages including English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, and others. Try a key word search for “disabilities.”