Much more evidence is available about the impact of the exclusion of people with disabilities than the impact of their inclusion, as exclusion is still so common. In addition, it should be noted that decisions on how to include people with disabilities can be inherently political. However, some evidence and estimates indicate that disability inclusion leads to the following outcomes.
Increased earnings and labour productivity
The economic benefits of adopting a disability inclusive approach to development are complex and difficult to quantify as a result of a lack of data (Walton, 2012, pp. 1, 2). One study in Nepal finds that wage returns to education for people with disabilities are very high, ranging from 19.3 to 25.6 per cent (Lamicchane & Sawadea, 2009; Lamicchane, 2015, p. 249). However, ‘at least 10 years of schooling are necessary for returns on the investment in education to turn positive’ (Lamicchane, 2015, p. 249). Further work in Nepal, the Philippines, and Cambodia, found that ‘people with disabilities who enjoy longer years of schooling tend to be engaged in full-time or white-collar jobs which are usually associated with greater income stability’ (Lamicchane, 2015, p. 247). In addition, a study across 13 low and middle-income countries found that ‘each additional year of schooling completed by an adult with a disability reduced the probability by 2-5 per cent that his/her household belonged to the poorest two quintiles’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. iii). It is estimated that in Pakistan, ‘rehabilitating people with incurable blindness would lead to gross aggregate gains in household earnings of USD 71.8 million per year’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. iii).
The inclusion of people with disabilities in work/employment can lead to greater economic self-sufficiency, which decreases demands on social assistance; although evidence from low- and middle-income counties is lacking (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, pp. iv, 44). Evidence from high-income countries also indicates that ‘with the proper job matching and the right accommodations, employees with disabilities can be just as productive as other workers and their inclusion may even increase overall profit margins’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. 45).
Increased tax revenue
It is anticipated that increasing labour force participation of both people with disabilities and their caregivers will increase a country’s potential tax base (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, pp. iv, 44). In the Philippines, for example, excess unemployment among individuals with unrepaired cleft lips and palates cost the government between USD 8-9.8 million dollars in lost tax revenue (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, pp. iv, 44). More evidence is available from high-income countries. In Scotland, evidence indicates that every £1 spent on a supported employment project led to a savings of £5.87, due in large part to decreased need for disability/welfare benefits and increased tax income (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. 44).
Improved individual and family well-being
Education can provide individuals with the skills, experience and empowerment to vocalise their opinions, and therefore ‘inclusion in education can be a first step towards increasing political participation and social justice for people with disabilities’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. 34).
A study of disability and equity at work finds that ‘work provides the material means through which to acquire adequate food, clothing, and shelter; access education, health care, and support services; and participate in the cultural, recreational, and social life of one’s community’ (Heymann et al., 2014, p. 2). Including people with disabilities in the labour market also reduces stigma and promotes inclusion (Heymann et al., 2014, p. 2). Gainful employment can have a significant positive impact on feelings of worth, ability, and self-determination for individuals with disabilities, as well as increasing their social and civic interaction (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. 46; Heymann et al., 2014, pp. 2-3; Lamicchane, 2015, p. 247; Burns et al., 2014, p. 30).
A quasi-randomised control trial in India found that community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programmes significantly improved the well-being and access to services of people with disabilities (Mauro et al., 2014). Compared to the control group, access to pensions and allowances, aid appliances, access to paid jobs and personal-practical autonomy for the people with disabilities involved in the CBR programmes increased by 29.7 per cent, 9.4 per cent, 12.3 per cent and 36.2 per cent respectively after seven years (Mauro et al., 2014).
A randomised control trial in China found that people with schizophrenia who received individualised family-based interventions worked 2.6 months more per year than those who did not receive the treatment (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. v). A study in Bangladesh found that ‘children who were provided with assistive devices (hearing aids or wheelchairs) were more likely to have completed primary school compared to those who did not receive any supports’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. v). A small study in Ethiopia found that the provision of wheelchairs led to a ‘significant time reallocation away from begging (1.40 fewer hours per day) and toward income-generating activity (1.75 more hours per day) and 77.5 per cent higher income’ (Grider & Wydick, 2015, p. 2).
Little evidence is available, but recent research on disability inclusion in gender-based violence activities in refugee camps found that including women and girls with disabilities, and their caregivers, fostered relationship building and trust among women and girls with disabilities, as well as with others in the community (WRC, 2015, p. 2). Inclusion also led to information exchange, skills building, and improved self-esteem. It enabled women and girls with disabilities to be recognised, not for their impairment, but for their roles as leaders, friends and neighbours, making positive contributions to their communities (WRC, 2015, p. 2). Women with disabilities and caregivers in the VSLAs also reported ‘increased independence and decision-making and greater respect and status within the family and community as a result of their newfound access to income-earning opportunities’ (WRC, 2015, p. 2).
More inclusive and accessible societies for all
Creating an accessible environment has benefits for a broad range of people, including older adults, pregnant women, parents with small children, people with less education or speakers of a second language (WHO & World Bank, 2011, p. 169). Efforts to increase the quality of education to ensure effective learning for children with disabilities arguably has the potential to improve teaching abilities overall (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. 34). Inclusive education and employment could encourage ‘greater acceptance of diversity and the formation of more tolerant, equitable and cohesive societies’ (Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, pp. 34, 46). Inclusive humanitarian responses would also be automatically accessible to older adults, children, pregnant women and people suffering from debilitating illness. (Kett & Twigg, 2007, p. 93).
- Burns, D., Oswald, K., & the ‘we can also make change’ team. (2014). ‘We can also make change’: Piloting participatory research with persons with disabilities and older people in Bangladesh. Sightsavers, HelpAge International, ADD International, Alzheimer’s Disease International, & Institute of Development Studies. See document online
- Grider, J., & Wydick, B. (2015). Wheels of fortune: The economic impacts of wheelchair provision in Ethiopia. Journal of Development Effectiveness. Advance online publication. See document online
- Heymann, J., Stein, M. A., & Moreno, G. (Eds.). (2014). Disability and equality at work. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Kett, M., & Twigg, J. (2007). Disability and disasters: Towards an inclusive approach. In World disasters report – Focus on discrimination. Geneva: IFRC. See document online
- Lamicchane, K. (2015). Disability, education and employment in developing countries: From charity to investment. Cambridge University Press.
- Lamicchane, K., & Sawadea, Y. (2009). Disability and returns to education in a developing country (READ Discussion Paper). University of Tokyo. See document online
- Mauro, V., Biggeri, M., Deepak, S., & Trani, J-F. (2014). The effectiveness of community based rehabilitation programs: An impact evaluation of a quasi-randomised trial. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 68, 1102-1108. See document online
- Morgon Banks, L., & Polack, S. (2014). The economic costs of exclusion and gains of inclusion of people with disabilities: Evidence from low and middle income countries. CBM, International Centre for Evidence in Disability, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. See document online
- Walton, O. (2012). Economic benefits of disability-inclusive development (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 831). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC. See document online
- WHO & the World Bank. (2011). World report on disability. Geneva: WHO. See document online
- WRC. (2015). ‘I see that it is possible’: Building capacity for disability inclusion in gender-based violence programming in humanitarian settings. New York: WRC. See document online