How can the World Bank better support persons with disabilities? Send us your ideas


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As part of the World Bank Group Annual Meetings that took place in Lima last October, we organized a Wikistage event to discuss the corrosive effects and the social and economic implications of exclusion. The World Bank Group has two corporate goals: to support developing countries in the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030, and the boosting of shared prosperity. The main message of the Wikistage event was simple: it is impossible to achieve these goals if countries and societies do not tackle the root causes of exclusion.

One of the statements that has stayed with me from the event was from Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled. He said: “Disability does not discriminate. Each and every one could, at any point, fall into disability. It’s the only minority group that everybody can join” We are an accident away to join a group that is commonly excluded by societies around the world.

Fortunately, the development community has begun to realize the critical role of exclusion, and in particular exclusion of people with disabilities. This has been a year of fundamental change for the recognition of peoples with disabilities in the development agenda through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The Post-2015 Development Agenda clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programs. The new framework is audacious. It unequivocally bolsters equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in access to education, vocational training, jobs, transportation, public spaces, human settlements, and political life.

The SDGs include seven targets that explicitly refer to persons with disabilities; and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities.

These targets alongside the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, now ratified by 160 countries provide both the moral imperative and clear milestones to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully participate in and benefit from poverty reduction and development efforts.

Our research in the World Bank shows the many ways in which persons with disabilities are ignored, stereotyped, and stigmatized in the countries where we work. The rising attention to issues of social inclusion is based on the realization that, while great strides have been made in reducing extreme poverty, in country after country, entire groups remain excluded from development gains.

Our social inclusion flagship report – Inclusion Matters – highlights the importance of societies to provide the ability and the opportunity to excluded populations to access services, markets, and spaces. Furthermore, our research shows that without a sense of dignity, providing the ability and opportunity to excluded populations is not enough to achieve a transformation of their well-being.

Eliminating exclusion is not only the right thing to do, it is beneficial to economies. Inclusion of persons with disability can reduce or even eliminate many important costs to society:
  • Between 15% to 20% of the world’s population have a disability; 80% live in developing countries; 80% live in poverty; and ongoing conflict, natural and man-made disasters, inequities in food distribution and nutrition, migration- all contribute to increase the prevalence of disability.
  • While on a more positive note, our lifespans have increased, this also means that a higher aging population will add to individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities face higher rates of poverty as compared to persons without disabilities.
  • Estimates suggest that 1/3 of children out of school have disabilities, and the rates of school attendance and completion of children with disabilities are 40%-60% lower than children without disabilities, especially in low and middle income countries.
  • The employment rates of persons with disabilities are 1/3 to 1/2 the rates for persons without disabilities in developed and developing economies, and there are wage disparities between persons with and without disabilities.
  • The lower rates of economic and labor market participation, in turn, impose a higher welfare burden on governments, and recent figures show that existing social protection schemes in many countries fail to appropriately respond to the needs of persons with disabilities.
When persons with disabilities are not explicitly included in development programming, they often are left out. Their exclusion is frequently marked by high costs to the person with a disability and their households.
  What can be done? In partnership with countries around the world, we have supported many good examples of effective disability-inclusive practices and innovative solutions in place. These include projects on access to education, transportation, social protection, influencing policies and institutional development. They are based on cost-effective solution to inclusion of people with disabilities. Change is possible!

But much still needs to be done. We need to collect better disability data; bring more evidence to show that inclusive development is good for businesses and the economy; and expand programs that incorporate cutting-edge knowledge and innovations. We need to learn, replicate, and scale up.

The World Bank welcomes the excitement around the SDGs to ensure that all persons, including persons with disabilities, benefit from the 2030 agenda. As we approach the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, we would like to hear your ideas on how we can work together to realize the SDGs for persons with disabilities and integrate disability in development programs. What proposals do you have – big or small – for the World Bank Group to be more effective in supporting countries design and finance policies and programs that are more inclusive, in particular of people with disabilities?

Join the Conversation

Daniel Mont
November 14, 2015

Help identify best practices by launching inclusive development interventions with rigorous evaluative components.

May 23, 2019

Thank you Dan for your useful suggestion and for raising the importance of rigorous evaluations. Identifying best practices is an essential part of learning, influencing policies and practice. Yet, disability inclusive development impact evaluations remain quite frankly-elusive. We know we need to do better at measuring impact regarding the inclusion of persons with disabilities in our projects. So we welcome your suggestion and hope to work with you to get these types of evaluations in place and part of business as usual.

Greg Johnston
May 23, 2019

We must spend more money on "orphan ďisabilites" the drug and medical companies can't make enough money to help cure. I have epidural fibrous and arachoindtitis, everyone I have take to said it is such a rare failed back surgery that there is we have to wait for someone famous before anything is done. I hope that all the world's medical world will share info on all these types of disability. It is very complicated issue, just because I can stand, walk etc.. it is only for short periods,because the rubbing of scare tissue against the spinal cord. I have since have 4 herniated discus, and more spinal issues,,that they can't fix due to the main problem . It is very painful, without end? Greg

Jorge Ortega Palacios
November 14, 2015

To create in every countries an special fund to finance
a) the imports of Power and manual wheelchairs to permit a major accesibility to PWD.
b) Studies to evaluate special facts of disability in developing countries
c) Projects to increase the participation of PWD in Labor market trhough technology of information; or its insertion in high education at the University.
d) Others
Jorge Ortega Palacios (PWD)
[email protected]

María Reina
November 19, 2015

Supporting data collection. The lack of data and information on disability and the situation of people with disabilities at the national level contributes to the invisibility of people with disabilities in official statistics, presenting an obstacle to achieving development planning and implementation that is inclusive

November 23, 2015

The World bank can frame guidelines for passing them on to the Education Ministries of Various countries to include chapters on Inclusive Planning and Disability in the basic education of students at the primary school and high school level so that the normal children right from the early age start thinking about the disabled children / CWSN as equal to them. My elder sister is a patient of cerebral palsy (aged 38 years, 100% dependent) and since childhood I felt that the normal children treated her as an alien and many gets scared and it all has happened because we failed to raise our children giving knowledge about this very deprived section of society ( the disabled people). We should give dignity and treat the disabled equal like other normal citizens and only then we can include them in our planning .
I also support the above mentioned viewpoint of MARIA that a strong database of Disabled people is a must before inclusive planning and policy formulation. In addition , I will also suggest that there should be a kind of International or National Social Security number for every disabled so they should not be deprived of any government facility in the absence of a substantial proof to prove their disability/ Residential/ work status. I have seen how thousands of wheelchairs got scrapped/ caught rust and broke down as they were kept lying in open ground for more than an year while the government kept searching for the disabled people.
Parul Sharma
([email protected])

Parul Sharma
December 19, 2015

Any update on what initiatives or research the Bank is planning to undertake.

Parul Sharma
January 24, 2016

The world bank can also send a set of guidelines to the various federal governments mentioning that not even a single rupee of the State or federal governments of any country shall be spent towards development projects unless the projects follow universal design guidelines and inclusion principles to promote accessibility for all.

cp chair
January 28, 2017

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
cp chair
Keep Posting:)

Social Media Intelligence and Publications
February 09, 2019

To create accessible awareness to the PWDs, seniors with limited mobility, we organized free events like SensAbility Expo to campaign for a #wheelchairfriendlyPhilippines, #accessibilityforall #notosocialisolation reuniting public or private companies, local government unit agencies, associations, etc. who have a major role in improving the life of Seniors with limited mobility and PWDs Moreover, we need also support in doing Film documentaries and joining international film festivals on Persons with Disabilities. Doing documentary films can initiate improvements, laws that must be implemented, a voice that can be heard by those who must be in concern to take actions and decisions.