Disability and Development

Around 15 per cent the world's population have some form of disability, at least 80 per cent of whom are estimated to live in poverty. For a long time this problem has been largely invisible in mainstream development discourse and practise. When people with disabilities are not included in development efforts, they can fall increasingly behind their non-disabled peers.

DPO Access Bangladesh Foundation, in Dhaka, supports an association of formers beggars turned street hawkers. Photo by Andy Isaacson. Australian Dept of Foreign Affairs - Flickr

As a result, the new SDGs pledge to leave no-one behind. We are concerned that people living with disabilities are usually amongst the most marginalised and experience multiple discriminations. Evidence indicates that this is a result of attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers. The exclusion of people with disabilities has significant social and economic costs.

Understanding the barriers faced by people with disabilities and their lived experiences is important for realising the potential of disabled people and creating a more inclusive and accessible society for all. We cannot succeed in reducing inequalities, accelerating sustainability and building inclusive, secure societies if we neglect to include people with disabilities.

Situating the IDS disability programme across IDS research clusters recognises that disability affects all areas of development. We have a strong emphasis on meaningful participation of people with disabilities and their families in the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of interventions and research.

At the moment the team has particular interest in:

  • Inclusive humanitarian and development responses: examining the policy and practice of inclusive program design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation
  • Participatory studies carried out by people living with disabilities on the dynamics of exclusion experienced within their localities
  • Anthropological and mixed method approaches to the interplays between kinship, mental health and violence
  • Economic opportunities for people living in poverty with disabilities
  • Understanding and combating the attitudinal barriers faced by people with disabilities
  • Gender, disability and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR).

Publication highlights

Photo credit: DPO Access Bangladesh Foundation, in Dhaka, supports an association of formers beggars turned street hawkers. Andy Isaacson, Australian Dept of Foreign Affairs - Flickr

Final External Review of the Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme

This independent external review aimed to determine the extent to which the three year Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme (CCDRP) in Nepal, India, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya, has met its expected impact, outcome and outputs. More details

Market Based Solutions for the Extreme Poor

Studies have shown that it is often wealthier people in a community who benefit from market approaches to combatting poverty – men more than women, non-disabled more than disabled. So how and to what extent can market-based solutions improve the lives of extremely poor people? More details

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IDS publications on international development research

Equality and Non-Discrimination (EQND) in Sanitation Programmes at Scale (Part 1 of 2)

Frontiers of CLTS 10 (2017)

A well-facilitated Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programme that pro-actively considers and involves people who might be disadvantaged has been shown to have many benefits. This issue of Frontiers of CLTS looks at who should be considered potentially disadvantaged, how they can effectively participate and what may be needed to address diverse needs in order to make processes and outcomes sustainable and inclusive. More details

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Report on the Deliberative Panel of the Market-based Solutions for the Extreme Poor Programme

This report describes the discussions held by a deliberative panel on disability in Uganda. The panel formed part of a wider research project on ‘market-based solutions for the extreme poor’ funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. More details

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Participatory Livelihoods Mapping with Persons with Disabilities in Uganda

Grey Literature (2017)

This report provides the livelihoods mapping analysis of persons with disabilities at two locations in Uganda. More details

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A Typology of Market-based Approaches to Include the Most Marginalised

Grey Literature (2017)

In recent years there has been a surge of interest in the role that markets and the private sector play in development, and interest to understand how development actors may most effectively support ‘inclusive economies’. What is missing, however, is a systematic analysis of what it takes for market-based approaches to include the most marginalised e.g. those with disability. More details

This is the cover to the report, 'Disability inclusion'.

Disability Inclusion

GSDRC Topic Guide (2015)

This guide summarises some of the most rigorous available evidence on the key debates and challenges of disability inclusion in development and humanitarian response. More details

IDS publications on international development research

'We can also make change' Piloting participatory research with persons with disabilities and older people in Bangladesh

This report presents the findings of the Voices of the Marginalised pilot research project. It draws on the real-life stories of persons with disabilities and older people, as told to researchers by persons with disabilities, family members of persons with disabilities and older people themselves. More details

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Policy Audit: Sexuality and Disability in Policies Affecting Chinese People with Disabilities

IDS Evidence Report 103 (2014)

This policy audit examines the cultural, political and economic spheres in China from the perspective of people with disabilities. More details

Promoting and Protecting Religious Diversity in the Middle East

Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Relief Efforts

IDS Rapid Response Briefing 8 (2014)

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or one billion people, have some form of disability. More details

Front cover of Frontiers of CLTS issue 3 by Jane Wilbur and Hazel Jones

Disability: Making CLTS Fully Inclusive

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 3 (2014)

Community-Led Total Sanitation aims at total sanitation. For that it has to be inclusive. There are ethical reasons for this, but the bottom line is that while any open defecation continues, all are affected. This issue of Frontiers of CLTS focuses on people with disabilities and particular needs for access to sanitation. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Intellectual Disabilities in Humanitarian Assistance Policy and Practice: The Need to Consider the Diversity Within Disability

This chapter examines the consideration and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in humanitarian assistance policy and practice. While this chapter will touch on many issues faced by all people with disabilities, there is a need to recognize the diversity within disability to ensure interventions are responsive to everyone’s needs, with ‘one size fits all planning unhelpful in overcoming discrimination’. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Disability Inclusion in Social Protection

While people with disabilities have higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities, many countries have tried to address this by providing social protection to poor people with disabilities and their households. More details

Non-IDS publication

'We Can Also Make Change' - Briefing Paper

This briefing draws on the real-life stories of persons with disabilities and older people in Bangladesh, as told to researchers in the Voices of the Marginalised project entitled 'We can also make change'. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Are Chronically Poor People being left out of Progress Towards the Millennium Development Goals? A Quantitative Analysis of Older People, Disabled People and Orphans

Journal of Human Development 5.2 (2004)

The most useful poverty profiles are those based on functional groupings defined in relation to key livelihood features. This paper considers three groups, sometimes called the traditional poor, which are commonly identified as being poor in participatory poverty assessments: orphans, people with disabilities, and older people. More details