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, on average as a group, 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.

A country’s economic, legislative, physical, and social environment may create or maintain barriers to the participation of people with disabilities in economic, civic, and community life. Barriers include inaccessible buildings, lack of transport, lower access to information and communication technology (ICT), inadequate standards, lower level of services and funding for those services, as well as too little data and analysis for evidence-based, efficient, and effective policies.

Poverty may increase the risk of disability through malnutrition, inadequate access to education and health care, unsafe working conditions, 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, 165 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.

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.

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2016

Including people with disabilities and expanding equitable opportunities is 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 WBG projects and practices. Priorities include:

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

The World Bank’s new 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 around the safeguard reform. The new framework 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 all information in accessible formats. Furthermore, the new 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: Sep 21, 2016

Analysis, data, and good-practice policies:

  • 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 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.

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 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).
  • 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 especially 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.
  • Additional projects addressing issues of disability through a social inclusion lens are being implemented in Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Grenada, Lebanon, and Morocco.

In addition to World Bank financing, the Japanese Policy and Human Resources Development Fund (PHRD) has 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 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.
  • In Moldova, a project supported improvement of access to education for children with disabilities.

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2016

  • In recent agreements, the World Bank and ONCE Foundation are joining forces to advance the social and economic development of persons with disabilities through education, employment, skills development, training, and universal design and accessibility for all.
  • The World Bank has signed an agreement with the Nippon Foundation to collaborate on activities related to disability, including the creation of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, promoting inclusion through the use of ICT, and actively sharing know-how on disability-inclusive development.
  • The World Bank and Leonard Cheshire Disability are collaborating on a number of specific substantive areas including employment and inclusive education through joint research, capacity-building, and building on successful models.
  • As a member of the United Nations’ Inter Agency Support Group (IASG) on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Bank has signed a memorandum of understanding with Leonard Cheshire Disability to carry out activities conducive for persons with disabilities, placing them at the heart of social and economic development, contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The collaboration will focus on employment of persons with disabilities and inclusive economic growth, inclusive education, and building stakeholder capacity.
  • The Bank serves as an observer to promote mainstreaming of the CRPD into the work of UN agencies and also participated actively in the 9th UN Conference of States Parties to the CRPD in New York and co-hosted the Public Forum event on “Taking Action towards a Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) Framework (HFA2) and its Implementation” in Sendai, Japan.

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2016