Supporting people around the world

There are more than a billion disabled people around the world. Many are among the most disadvantaged and marginalised in society.

Supporting people globally has always been part of what we do. We were founded by Leonard Cheshire from small beginnings to become an international organisation, thanks to his vision to make the world a more equal place for everyone.

We generate research at our inclusive development centre at University College London, to inform our work and other organisations and governments. And we speak against injustice, to make society fairer and more compassionate.

We also work through our Global Alliance: a network of over 200 Leonard Cheshire Disability organisations, managed independently and working in 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. The Alliance is a movement that works towards a world where everyone has the chance to live a full and fulfilling life.

International infographic

Key facts

  • the Global Alliance is 200 Leonard Cheshire Disability organisations, working across 54 countries
  • we helped 7,839 children into primary education in five countries in Africa and Asia
  • we supported 1,500 more children into school
  • we trained 11,953 people and helped them into employment
  • over the next four years, we want to enrich the lives of 100,000 disabled people in Africa and Asia

What we achieved last year

We aimed to:

  1. Junior Onango playingImplement our international strategy, promoting independence for more than 100,000 people across Africa and Asia over the next five years. This new strategy aims to double our impact by creating more inclusive development programmes, undertaking world-class research, and by calling upon governments to promote greater inclusion.

    Launched in June, at a prestigious event in the House of Lords, three of our international campaigners greeted guests such as Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, and representatives from Comic Relief and Accenture.

    Our work in education

    Last year, we supported over 7,800 disabled children in primary education in Africa and Asia. As part of this, we ran a project in Zimbabwe that made huge steps to help over 1,500 children get into school.

    First, we trained teachers, improved the school building and arranged physiotherapy sessions. We also set up support clubs for parents and children, to help people share their knowledge and experiences. One head teacher told us: ‘Many people were suspicious whether integrating disabled children into mainstream education would be wise. But now, everyone knows it is the right thing.’

    The project has helped people support themselves. Now parents have respite, they can socialise, work and support the school. By keeping chickens and growing crops, the school can raise enough money to continue the initiatives we’ve started. We also identified low cost sustainable solutions to make it easier for children to get to school and back.

    Sustainable employment

    We continued our livelihoods programme, which focuses on helping disabled people in developing countries play a valuable part in their economies. As well as helping people learn new skills, the programme challenges local employers, policy makers and media to change their negative perceptions of disability and support us in our work. This year, we supported nearly 12,000 disabled people in eight countries across Africa and Asia, and helped them on their path into employment. This is twice as many as the previous year. Now, over 100 employers have embraced our inclusive employment approach.

  2. Raise our profile as a partner of choice in disability matters — and play a significant part as the agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals is finalised and launched by governments, donors and other organisations. Last year we played a bigger part in important coalitions. We co-chaired the Global Campaign for Education policy groups, as well as the Bond Disability and Development Group. We were also a board member of the International Disability and Development Consortium.

    We took part in many other coalitions, including Beyond 2015, the UN’s International Disability and Development Consortium and Inclusive Education. And we used our position in these networks to make the voices of disabled people heard on the national and global policy stage. We also spoke at an inter-governmental negotiation on the Sustainable Development Goals, and at high level conferences organised by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

    We’ve continued this work by partnering with the World Bank and UNESCO, strengthening our links with UNICEF, the International Labour Organisation and the international development sector. All of this is helping influential people to create a world that understands disabled people and helps them to thrive. And our work with Accenture has resulted in their helping us support 13,000 people in over 20 countries. This vital work will help thousands of people access employment or training in the future.

  3. Increase our research and learning capabilities. This will give us the evidence we need to influence policy and improve our programmes We launched new research in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia. This explores the extent to which disabled people, when they are not included in development efforts, fall increasingly into extreme poverty and experience increased exclusion. This research has the potential to influence the approaches of governments, donors and development stakeholders, by developing understanding of how this happens. It will also help us identify what can be done to bridge or avoid this.

    Rathna Menike lives in Thimbirsgasgatuwa, Sri Lanka. She has erythroderma, an inflammatory skin disease, and is partially blind. Her husband Peter Fernando is also visually impaired. When we met them, money was tight — although Peter worked weaving cane wires and repairing furniture, his lack of vision hampered his movement. The couple struggled to earn enough to support themselves and their two children. Through Access to Livelihoods, Rathna and Peter did some basic business development training. They were taught to make eakle broomsticks — something there’s demand for in their local area. The couple also received tools, so they could start making the broomsticks immediately.

    Now, Rathna earns a good income. She and Peter can earn enough to cover their household expenses, and are even saving some of her profits to pay for urgent family needs. They’re extremely grateful to everyone who supported them through Access to Livelihoods.

Our goals for next year

Next year we will:

  • Two visually-impaired Kenyan schoolchildren holding handsWork with the Leonard Cheshire Global Alliance partners to support 25,000 disabled people in Africa and Asia become more independent, through education, youth leadership and employment.
  • Raise our profile as a partner of choice in disability matters as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are implemented.
  • Create a culture of learning from our work and research, so we can continue promoting inclusion across Africa and Asia.
  • Over the next four years, we want to enrich the lives of more than 100,000 disabled people in Africa and Asia.