Partnering to Promote Inclusion and Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities

June 9, 2016

  • More than 1 billion people –15% of the world’s population– experience some form of disability; between 110 and 190 million people have a significant disability.
  • Disabilities are more prevalent in developing countries.
  • The World Bank is building partnerships with the world’s leading disability groups to advance social and economic inclusion.

In Vietnam, nearly 15,000 children under the age of five find it “very difficult” or “impossible” to hear. Without access to early education and with little or no support for parents, these children risk being excluded from school and society at a very young age.

But thanks to an increased focus on persons with disabilities – and a host of new partnerships with leading global disability organizations – the World Bank is ramping up efforts to promote inclusion and opportunity in this area. During the past six months, the World Bank has launched three new partnerships, bringing to eight the number of world-class partners working with the Bank to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in developing countries.

Through three separate Memorandums of Understanding, the Bank has joined forces with Leonard Cheshire Disability in the United Kingdom, the Nippon Foundation in Japan, and, most recently, Spain’s ONCE Foundation.

These new agreements build on the current roster of partnerships around disability that the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice (SURR) is boosting with the help of the Foundations Program, part of the Global Engagement team in External and Corporate Relations. The Bank also regularly consults and shares knowledge around disability with leading philanthropic groups, including the Council on Foundations, Essl Foundation, the European Foundations Centre’s Disability Network, Open Society Foundations, and Wellspring Advisors.

“Disability can impact a person at any point across their lifespan, with multiple forms of exclusion and discrimination,” said Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo, the World Bank’s Global Disability Advisor. “The development challenges faced by persons with disabilities need to be addressed through a multi-dimensional approach with partners who have a proven track record of disability inclusion.” 

" Disability can impact a person at any point across their lifespan, with multiple forms of exclusion and discrimination. "

Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo

Global Disability Advisor for the World Bank

For Linh Nguyen and her brother, two Vietnamese children who were born deaf, this coordinated approach brought sign language training, deaf mentors as role models, and support for her family. The Vietnamese government now includes sign language as a tool for inclusive education.

“Teachers come to my house to teach me to sign,” she said. “They also teach my brother Tu, my grandfather, my father, and everyone else in my family. Now, we can all speak the same language.”

Ensuring inclusion and equitable opportunity 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 in a sustainable manner. But in many countries, persons with disabilities are excluded from fully participating in social and economic growth.

“A country’s economic, legislative, physical, and social environment can create barriers that preclude persons with disabilities from participating in economic, civic, and social life,” said Maninder Gill, Social Development Director for the World Bank's Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience Global Practice.

Carmen Nonay, Practice Manager for SURR’s Partnerships and Resource Mobilization Unit, said the new partnerships demonstrate the urgency and importance of the disability issue. “At the strategic level, these partnerships will help develop the necessary policies and frameworks to support the inclusion of people with disabilities. At the operational level, they play a pivotal role working with civil society and community-based organizations. The cumulative effect will take our disability work to the next level,” said Nonay.

In 2011, the World Bank and the World Health Organization published the first global report on disability and development – the World Report on Disabilities – which significantly raised the profile and increased the dialogue around the issue.

Since then, the World Bank has worked to advance the social and economic development of persons with disabilities, mainstreaming disability into its operations by bringing together its units on health, education, transport, social protection, fragility, conflict and violence, and public-private partnerships.

To help draw attention to the issue during its recent annual Spring Meetings in April, the World Bank hosted an event featuring the Finnish musician SIGNMARK and the obstacles he faced on his way to becoming the first deaf rapper to sign a record deal, as well as an event on inclusive education.

The Bank’s work on disability issues spans a wide range of sectors, ranging from access to infrastructure and social services to influencing policy to working with disabled people’s organizations. The World Bank has conducted independent analysis and studies on poverty and disability in developing countries, as well as research and operational work to improve access to transportation for people with limited mobility in the Middle East and North Africa.

Around the globe, the Bank is working on a wide variety of projects to help persons with disabilities, including:

  • Bangladesh: the Disability and Children at Risk Project helped expand the network of services for children at risk, including children with disabilities.
  • Nepal: the Enhanced Vocational Education and Training project focused on strengthening technical education targeted especially to disadvantaged groups, including persons with disabilities.
  • Kyrgyz Republic: the Bank supported the creation of community-based infrastructure services – including health clinics and schools – focusing on accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • Egypt: the Cairo Airport Terminal 2 Rehabilitation Project supported improved accessibility measures. Today, the new airport is disability-friendly.
  • Iraq: the Emergency Disabilities Project supported the delivery of improved rehabilitation and prosthetic services for people with disabilities.
  • India: the Education for All Project aims to provide relevant education to all children in the 6-14 years age group, training teachers to adapt the curriculum and make the necessary accommodations to meet the academic and social needs of children with disabilities.

To find out more about partnerships between the World Bank and foundations, click here. For more information please contact us at foundationsinfo@worldbank.org.