Solutions to address the challenges raised in the Bridging the Gap research

12 March 2018

By Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo

Charlotte McClain-NhlapoBridging the Gap: Examining Disability and Development in Four African Countries’ — a three year research project across Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia — has revealed wide gaps in access to vital opportunities and support.

This included healthcare, education, livelihoods and social protection for people with disabilities, with access not increasing at the same pace experienced by their non-disabled peers.

The study reveals that despite alleviation of poverty as a result of economic growth, disabled people are still being left behind. 

There are many solutions that can be used to address the challenges highlighted in the Bridging the Gap research.  Designing projects that focus on leaving no one behind within the various social and economic domains studied, and targeting the specific gaps that persons with disabilities experience, are key priorities. We can also develop disability indicators that can work towards diminishing the gap. 

It is hugely important that we share these research findings with policy makers, policy influencers including Disabled People’s Organizations, as well as with bilateral donors and multilateral donors.  Using this research will aid us in influencing policy dialogue and development, and crucially reach service delivery at local and national level. 

Mainstreaming and empowering persons with disabilities

The mainstreaming of people with disabilities within all policies and programming is a solution that needs to be addressed. Mainstreaming is a strategy we must adopt to achieve disability inclusive development.

One of the key successes of this is having sufficient baseline data. This makes it possible to measure the impact of mainstreaming and determine if policies and programming are impacting on the lives of persons with disabilities. 

Relatedly, having disability indicators and impact evaluations is important. For us to ensure disability mainstreaming, it is critical to have disability inclusion baked into all activities, and not allow disability to be a disjointed standalone activity that is not sustainable and not scalable. 

It is important to note that while disability mainstreaming is happening in research and policy development and in service delivery, there is a continued need to ensure that persons with disabilities, including disabled women, are empowered to complement mainstreaming and monitor its effectiveness in their lives. 

Targeted initiatives

Efforts need to be made to enable adults and children with disabilities to catch up with their non-disabled peers in countries where there are already efforts to ensure inclusion. These efforts include targeted initiatives that provide enabling frameworks to create opportunities for persons with disabilities.

This could mean tax cuts for families and households with a family member with a disability.  Access to services in their communities to reduce travel time to and from service delivery points would also help these efforts. Social protection measures, that keep persons with disabilities and their families out of poverty and support efforts for jobs and skills development, are another example.

Importantly, making schools and institutions of learning more inclusive and ensuring that children with disabilities receive a quality education is a crucial step. This needs to be done in collaboration with persons with disabilities.

Finally, this process requires changing the mind-set of society at large about how disability is viewed and how we co-create cohesive and inclusive societies.

Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo is a Global Disability Advisor to the World Bank.

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