Are Development Programs Achieving Disability Inclusion? If Not, What Next?

Posted on 4 September 2008. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, Cross-Disability, Inclusion, Reports, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

We cannot put all the world’s children into school, or eradicate global poverty and hunger, or stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, until and unless mainstream international development programs proactively include people with disabilities. The good news is that a slowly growing number of international agencies and organizations have written policies declaring their support for disability inclusion, otherwise known as disability mainstreaming. These include, as a few examples, the US Agency of International Development (USAID); the World Bank; The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD); and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

But, how well do these nice-sounding policies translate into practice? Do these programs actually reach poor people with disabilities in developing countries, or improve the quality of their lives, any better than before they wrote these policies? One DisabilityKar publication explores this question: Has Disability Been Mainstreamed into Development Cooperation? (Word format, 921 Kb)

One of the conclusions of this report is that the question is harder to answer than you might think: even the definition of what makes a “policy” a “policy” is apparently not always as obvious as it might seem. Then there are even trickier concepts to define, such as “inclusion,” “mainstreaming,” and “disability.” But ultimately the answer is mostly disappointing. Apart from some limited progress, many policies fail to go beyond pretty words on a page into pragmatic action in the field. If they are implemented, it is more or less haphazardly.

This conclusion in itself will probably not be especially new to close observers of the development field. What makes this study interesting, however, is that it is one of the few attempts to formally document what it terms a “disconnect between promise and results.” More importantly, it makes an attempt to answer why this disconnect happens, and what committed organizations can do to ensure that disability-friendly policies are carried out in practice. The study was published in July 2005, so some information has changed since then. But many of the underlying challenges are likely still similar today. Organizations and agencies that are serious about disability inclusion may wish to review this study with their own policies and practices in mind and consider ways they can help close the gap.

Has Disability Been Mainstreamed into Development Cooperation? (Word format, 921 Kb) analyzes policies and practice at USAID, the World Bank, NORAD, and DFID. The most common reason why disability inclusion policies fail include: lack of institutional support; failure to communicate policies; failure to break down traditional attitudes toward disability; failure to provide practical guidance in how to implement the policies; and inadequate resources.

Download the full 107-page report in Word format (921 Kb) at:

People interested in the DisabilityKar report may also be interested in reading a study of US-based organizations with an international focus on the extent to which they proactively include the concerns of women and girls with disabilities in their programs. This study, entitled Gender And Disability: A Survey of InterAction Member Agencies: Findings And Recommendations on Inclusion of Women and Men with Disabilities in International Development Programs (PDF format, 286 Kb), explores both policies and practice in dozens of relief and international development agencies and organizations. It also includes recommendations for how mainstream organizations can move forward in promoting genuine disability inclusion. Published by Mobility International USA, it is a few years older than DisabilityKar’s study, but covers more organizations and includes a gender focus as well as a disability focus. It can be downloaded in PDF format (286 Kb) at:

I discovered DisabilityKar’s study by exploring Handicap International’s new, on-line, free CD on Disability Rights and Policies. I encourage readers to explore the on-line CD on their own to find more publications and resources of interest. I first learned of MIUSA’s publication when I took my first course in international development and disability a few years ago at Gallaudet University.

Subscribe to We Can Do
Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do (

Other Resources at We Can Do
Catch up with the news; explore resources, toolkits, or funding and fellowship opportunities; find research, reports, papers, or statistics; or look up conferences, events, call for papers, or education/training opportunities.

We Can Do Copyright
This blog post is copyrighted to We Can Do ( Currently, only two web sites have on-going permission to syndicate (re-post) We Can Do blog posts in full: and Other sites may be plagiarizing this post without permission.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )


    Ending poverty among and oppression toward disabled people in developing countries.


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


  • The Mwanza Computer Literacy Project

    The Mwanza Computer Literacy Project

    The Tusaidiane Disabilities Resources and Charity Organization of Tanzania (TDRCT) would like to improve computer literacy and self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Mwanza, Tanzania, and promote their empowerment.

    This organization is run by people who themselves have disabilities. I have known the man who founded this organization for some years. If his organization can quickly raise $5000 from 40 donors within a few days, then GlobalGiving will feature their organization on its website. This will enable them to attract more prospective funders. I have made a donation to them, I hope others will consider doing the same.
    Give Now

    Site Meter

  • Help the U.S. Ratify the Disability Treaty!

    Image of an hour glass overlaid on image of the Capitol building in DC. Text says, "Time is running out! Now is the time for the Senate to Act! Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities! #CRPD

    Learn why the CRPD matters and how to take action at!

  • Subscribe!

  • Bookmark and Share
  • Translate!

  • Connect to Andrea Shettle via Linked In

  • Archives

  • Topic Categories

  • Make WeCanDo Your “Favorite”

  • Stumble Upon It!

    Stumble It! Share this blog with other readers via "Stumble Upon"!
  • Follow We Can Do in Facebook!

  • We Can Do is in the GDRL!

  • Blog Stats

    • 738,765 hits
  • Map of Visitors

  • Meta

  • Facebook Networked Blogs

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: