Bridging the Gap
Over the course of this three-year project, research teams in four countries (Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia) set out to better understand the relationship between disability and development in each country across four domains (education, health, labour markets and social protection). These countries were chosen as they demonstrate a range of socioeconomic stages of development. All have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
We wanted to explore the hypothesis that as socioeconomic development improves access to healthcare, education, employment and social protection, people with disabilities are at risk of being left out or left behind, creating a disability and development gap. Our aim was to identify where the gap exists, see whether it widens as development progresses, and understand the mechanisms needed to close the gap.
Methodology: This mixed-methods research used a range of interrelated components, including policy and secondary data analysis, a household survey of 4,839 households (13,597 adults and 10,756 children) and more than 55 focus group discussions, 65 key informant interviews and 130 in-depth interviews across the four countries.
1. A disability and development gap exists.
It exists even in countries where comprehensive policies are in place to support inclusion and equity. While there are variations across all countries and all domains, evidence suggests that as socioeconomic development increases, this gap increases. Adults and children with disabilities are thus at risk of being left behind in education, employment, healthcare and social protection compared to their non-disabled peers.
2. The disability and development gap also exists at the
People with disabilities may be left behind compared to other members of their households as development progresses, for example in access to employment. The gap may continue to exist even in more advantaged households.
3. Accountability mechanisms are missing. Even where policies are in place, a consistent finding across all the countries was weak implementation due to a lack of monitoring, specific budgetary allocation and accountability mechanisms. This limited the effectiveness of existing policies.
4. Mainstreaming people with disabilities is a necessary, but
not sufficient, condition for equity.
While current mainstream development efforts go some way towards addressing disability and poverty, they will not close the gap alone. Evidence shows that additional targeted and specific programming needs to be put in place to address and reduce the equity gap experienced by people with disabilities.
5. Inequity is not static. Intervention strategies must consider that inequity between disabled and non-disabled populations is not static but dynamic. Ongoing effective interventions must work towards closing gaps and ensuring that they remain closed.