Sajana with her friends at her school after her clubfoot operation.

Disability & Development

1 in 7 people around the world are disabled - that’s over 1 billion people.

Poverty and Disability

Why does disability cause poverty?

People with disabilities are often amongst the poorest in any society; disability contributes to and deepens poverty on an individual, family and community level. People with disabilities and their families face multiple barriers to earning a secure income, including:

  • lack of access to education and training;
  • discriminatory policies and negative attitudes;
  • inaccessible buildings or infrastructure.

When a person acquires a disability, their family often faces additional costs that cause extreme poverty. In most low and middle income countries there is little or no health and social service provision for people with disabilities, so families are often forced to sell property to pay for these new costs.

Why does poverty cause disability?

Poverty can be a cause of disability because people who are poor often do not have adequate nutrition or health care; they may also lack information, clean water and sanitation or safe housing and employment conditions. As a result, they are at greater risk of diseases, health conditions or injuries that can lead to disability.

Breaking this cycle of poverty and disability is critical to improve the lives of people with disabilities, their families and communities.

Disability-inclusive development

People with disabilities should have equal opportunities to realise their rights, achieve their full potential and live in dignity.

Our approach to disability-inclusive development seeks to ensure that people with disabilities are included and involved in development processes and emergency responses, and to remove the barriers that prevent them from actively participating.

There are four core principles of disability-inclusive development which are:

Awareness - The invisibility of people with disabilities in mainstream development has resulted in them being left behind. We need to have an awareness of the range of different barriers that stop people from actively participating in society and accessing basic services.

Participation – People with disabilities should be enabled to participate in all stages of development, and participate in and benefit from all programmes regardless of their impairment type, gender, age, ethnicity or any other characteristic.

Comprehensive accessibility – We need to remove barriers so that everyone, no matter their impairment, can participate. This includes physical accessibility but also goes beyond this to consider the different access requirements that people with different disabilities may have.

Twin-track approach – We need to provide disability-specific initiatives that support the empowerment of people with disabilities whilst also ensuring that mainstream policies and programmes include people with disabilities. The overall goal should always be to integrate and include people with disabilities in all aspects of society and development. To achieve this, there needs to be a balanced approach to including disability universally in all projects and programmes and the need also to respond to disability specifically.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

The CRPD was adopted in 2006, and since then has been adopted by 164 countries around the world.

The aim of the CRPD is to promote, defend and reinforce the human rights of all people with disabilities. By signing the Convention governments commit to making sure that people with disabilities are treated equally and their rights are upheld.

The Convention was a huge change in the way people with disabilities were viewed – from objects of charity to people with human rights. The UK Government is a signatory to the Convention which means that they have to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are upheld in the UK and overseas, as the Convention contains articles on International Cooperation and Humanitarian Action.

The Convention sets out a framework for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society and development – and provides a basis for the policy and advocacy activities of CBM and our partners.


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