• One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.

    Persons with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.

    Barriers to full social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities include inaccessible physical environments and transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, non-adapted means of communication, gaps in service delivery, and discriminatory prejudice and stigma in society.

    Poverty may increase the risk of disability through malnutrition, inadequate access to education and health care, unsafe working conditions, a polluted environment, and lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Disability may increase the risk of poverty, through lack of employment and education opportunities, lower wages, and increased cost of living with a disability.

    Global awareness of disability-inclusive development is increasing. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) promotes the full integration of persons with disabilities in societies. The CRPD specifically references the importance of international development in addressing the rights of persons with disabilities. To date, 177 countries have ratified the CRPD, which carries the force of national law. In recent years, an increasing number of bilateral donors have also developed disability policies to guide their international aid. Similarly, at the national level, the number of disability discrimination laws and constitutional provisions have increased significantly.

    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programming and the realization of human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework includes seven targets, which explicitly refer to persons with disabilities, and six further targets on persons in vulnerable situations, which include persons with disabilities. The SDGs address essential development domains such as education, employment and decent work, social protection, resilience to and mitigation of disasters, sanitation, transport, and non-discrimination – all of which are important areas of work for the World Bank. The New Urban Agenda specifically commits to promoting measures to facilitate equal access to public spaces, facilities, technology, systems, and services for persons with disabilities in urban and rural areas. 

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2018

  • Including people with disabilities and expanding equitable opportunities are at the core of the World Bank’s work to build sustainable, inclusive communities, aligned with the institution’s goals to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.

    Specifically, the World Bank integrates disability into development through its analytical work, data, and good-practice policies. The Bank also integrates disability issues into its operations across a wide range of sectors, including promoting access to infrastructure facilities and social services, rehabilitation, skills development, creating economic opportunities, and working with disabled people’s organizations, focusing on the most vulnerable among people with disabilities, such as women and children, and influencing policies and institutional development.

    To strengthen these efforts, the World Bank Group (WBG) appointed a Disability Advisor in December 2014, and is preparing a new disability-inclusion and accountability framework for mainstreaming disability across World Bank Group projects and practices. Priorities include:

    • Building staff skills for scaling-up interventions and identifying additional entry points in projects and programs; and
    • Addressing disability issues in business processes and developing guidance notes.

    The World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) includes a strong provision designed to make sure that the interests of persons with disabilities are protected and included, requiring the borrower to look specifically at disability as part of any social assessments. Disabled Persons’ Organizations and experts on disability inclusion participated actively in the consultations on the safeguard reform.

    The ESF makes several direct references to safeguarding the interests of persons with disabilities and protecting them from unsafe working conditions. It encourages borrowers to undertake reasonable accommodation measures to adapt the workplace to include workers with disabilities, as well as to provide information in accessible formats. Furthermore, the ESF also requires borrowers to undertake meaningful consultations with stakeholders to learn their views on project risks, impacts, and mitigation measures.

    In addition, the World Bank has issued a Directive on addressing project risks and impacts on disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, which also addresses the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

    Partnerships play a critical role at the strategic level, by developing policy and institutional frameworks, and at the project level, through joint implementation with civil society and disabled people’s and community-based organizations to promote inclusion of people with disabilities. 

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2018

  • Analysis, data, and good-practice policies:

    • The World Bank has initiated the Disability-Inclusive Education in Africa Trust Fund with funding from USAID. The trust fund expends $3 million from 2017-2020 to increase inclusion in education and improve learning outcomes for children with disabilities.
    • In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank published the World Report on Disability in 2011 – the first of its kind – which has significantly contributed to the international discourse on disability and development.
    • The World Bank produces independent empirical studies on poverty and disability in developing countries, disability and education, and disability and labor markets (e.g., Disability and Poverty in Developing Countries: A Snapshot from the World Health Survey).
    • The World Bank was part of the expert group established by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop a Background Paper on Disability Inclusive Education ahead of the Education for Development Summit (Oslo, July 2015).
    • Regional work includes the World Bank’s operational resource book on Improving Accessibility to Transport for People with Limited Mobility in the Middle East and North Africa, and a study on income support for persons with disabilities in the same region.
    • The importance of disability inclusion within development is highlighted in the World Bank’s key engagement and dissemination efforts. The 2016 World Development Report: Digital Dividends underlined the importance of ensuring that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are accessible for persons with disabilities.
    • The World Bank is developing a knowledge series on Inclusive Education to build the staff’s capacity to assist countries in designing effective policies, systems, and practices to ensure equity in education and quality learning outcomes for children with disabilities.
    • The World Bank has developed a Guidance Note for staff on promoting disability inclusion and accessibility in Water sector operations.
    • Ongoing collaboration with the Global Facility for Disaster Response and Recovery (GFDRR) is leading to practical guidance for the World Bank’s operational staff on strategically addressing the needs of persons with disabilities in disaster risk management projects.

    In-country work:

    • In Bangladesh, the Disability and Children at Risk Project supported expanding the network of services for children at risk (including children with disabilities) in alignment with the legal and policy framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), while strengthening the capacity of the institutions responsible for designing and overseeing programs for child protection.
    • In Bhutan, the Public Transport Access Project supported the Thimphu City Corporation in expanding access to transport services for persons with mobility impairments. This included a technical assessment of public transport accessibility for travel to hospitals, schools, and markets, as well as the development of designs and specifications for bus stop infrastructure and vehicles.
    • In Burundi and Rwanda, the Emergency Demobilization and Transitional Reintegration Project and the Emergency Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration Project provided targeted support for vulnerable groups, including children associated with armed forces and disabled ex-combatants. The projects provide housing for severely disabled ex-combatants and training activities to support their autonomy and general health.
    • In Egypt, the Cairo Airport Terminal 2 Rehabilitation Project supported improved accessibility measures, some of which were included in the final project design. Today, the new airport is disability friendly.
    • In India, several sectors have been active. For example, the Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project and the North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) enhanced economic opportunities for rural populations and the most vulnerable groups, including those with physical disabilities, though self-help groups. The Teacher Training on Inclusive Education initiative focused on inclusive education for children with disabilities including those with learning disabilities, while the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project focused on providing services for intellectual and developmental disabilities.
    • In Indonesia, the PNPM Peduli project works with civil society organizations to reach marginalized groups, and currently includes a pillar on disability that focuses on capacity building and grant financing for disabled people’s organizations (DPOs). The National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (PAMSIMAS AF II) has introduced a disability-inclusive approach into its operations, and focused on institutionalizing disability inclusion in the project cycle and mainstreaming disability in project policies.
    • In Iraq, the Emergency Disabilities Project supported the delivery of improved rehabilitation and prosthetic services for people with disabilities.
    • In the Kyrgyz Republic, the Bank supported the creation of community-based infrastructure services (including health clinics and schools), with a focus on accessibility of persons with disabilities.
    • As part of a Development Policy Loan, the Bank helped the government of Morocco elaborate an action plan on accessibility and urban transport with a specific focus on identifying priority interventions in select major cities, and review the construction code to promote accessibility. A national workshop was conducted to engage policy and decision makers at the ministerial level, and the recommendations of the national plan form part of the transport projects and interventions.
    • In Nepal, the Enhanced Vocational Education and Training project focused on strengthening technical education targeted specifically to disadvantaged groups, including persons with disabilities. This involved supporting a short-term training of youth between 16-40 years of age. While the project reimbursed 60% to 80% of the cost of the agreed training, the project covered 100% of training costs for persons with disabilities.
    • In Vietnam, persons with disabilities have been identified as specific beneficiaries in the Scaling up Urban Upgrading Project. This disability-inclusive project in several medium-sized cities implements technical standards for accessible infrastructure; universal design in urban environments, roads, schools, and public facilities; and transport accessibility.
    • Additional projects addressing issues of disability through a social inclusion lens are being implemented in Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Grenada, Lebanon, and Morocco.

    In addition to World Bank financing, the Japanese Policy and Human Resources Development Fund (PHRD) financed efforts to mainstream disability in World Bank projects around the world for a total of $23 million, for example:

    • In Jamaica, support was provided for improving services and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
    • In Moldova, a project supported the improvement of access to education for children with disabilities.
    • In Peru, a project focused on mainstreaming inclusive design and universal mobility in Lima.
    • In Romania, the focus was to improve policymaking and the institutional framework addressing people with disability. 

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2018

  • Last Updated: Mar 28, 2018


Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo

Global Disability Advisor

Additional Resources


Washington D.C.
Kristyn Schrader-King