One year on from the first Global Disability Summit, a groundbreaking programme funded by UK aid is now underway to address the barriers that prevent millions of people with disabilities from accessing mainstream job markets.
The programme, called Inclusion Works, represents one of the world’s most comprehensive attempts to date to redress the underrepresentation of people with disabilities in formal employment in developing countries.
UK aid announced its funding for the programme last year as it co-hosted the first Global Disability Summit in London.
As Inclusion Works moves to its next phase, the programme will pilot new approaches that create job opportunities for over 2,000 people with disabilities in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh over the next three years.
Mary Wickenden, IDS research fellow says: “Having a job is an important part of being seen as a citizen who contributes and has status in the community. Many people with disabilities are denied this opportunity, so remain in poverty and not recognised as having anything to offer.
IDS’ research for the programme will use qualitative, participatory and inclusive methods to explore in-depth people’s experiences and perceptions of change as the programme progress. We are very excited to be able to contribute to knowledge and debates about people with disabilities’ wellbeing in poor settings and ultimately influence real and positive change”.
It is estimated that there are 800 million people with disabilities living in low and middle-income countries. In most countries around the world, people with disabilities face multiple barriers to employment, which means significant numbers remain unemployed.
Low and middle-income countries are estimated to be collectively losing somewhere between US$218 and US$510 billion in lost production because people with disabilities are being excluded (pdf) from the labour market. This is more than three times bigger than the total amount spent on global development, which in 2018 stood at 149.3 billion US dollars.
Vladimir Cuk from the International Disability Alliance says; “Reliable data about people with disabilities is often scarce and while we know employment rates are really low, most programmes tackling this have been on such a small scale that it hasn’t been possible to make a real dent on the wider system.”
“UK aid funding is expected to be game-changing in this respect. Inclusion Works is aiming to make a significant contribution towards greater compliance of the formal employment sector with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, changing the whole culture around recruiting and retaining people with disabilities to work and earn a living in equal conditions to others.”
Inclusion Works aims to work in partnership with over 100 employers to test new practices that are compliant with UN disability rights protocols. It will be designed to include people of a wide range of disabilities, including blind-deafness and intellectual disabilities.
The programme is being led by charity Sightsavers in a coalition that brings together the expertise of 11 partner organisations including ADD International, BBC Media Action, Benetech, Development Initiatives, Humanity and Inclusion UK, Inclusion International, the International Disability Alliance, the Institute of Development Studies, Standard Chartered Bank and the Youth Career Initiative.
This work is part of the Inclusive Futures initiative, a wider drive funded by UK aid to create an equal world for people with disabilities in developing countries.