Disability does not necessarily imply limited wellbeing and poverty. Many people with disabilities live fulfilling lives, have families, earn a living, and are successful. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that they also face attitudinal, physical and institutional barriers and intersecting inequalities, which can result in multi-dimensional poverty, exclusion, and marginalisation. Exclusion in one area of life can have negative repercussions in other areas.
People with disabilities are diverse, and not all people with disabilities are equally disadvantaged (WHO & World Bank, 2011, p. 8). Multiple and intersectional discrimination is slowly being recognised as a social barrier for people with disabilities (Schulze, 2010, p. 30).
- Gender: Women and girls with disabilities commonly experience double discrimination that can extend to all areas of life, including legislation and policies (DESA, 2011, p. 12; DFID, 2000, p. 5; Morgon Banks & Polack, 2014, p. 36; Ortoleva & Lewis, 2012; WHO & World Bank, 2011, p. 8; HRW, 2012, p. 3). Women with disabilities from minority groups or rural areas and other marginalised identities face additional disadvantages (Ortoleva & Lewis, 2012, p. 28).
- Age: Children with disabilities are amongst the most marginalised and discriminated against children in the world (HI & STC, 2011, p. viii; Trani et al., 2013, p. 404; UNICEF, 2013, p. 41; Trani & Cannings, 2013, p. 58). Very little is known about young people with disabilities, and programmes often overlook them (Groce & Kett, 2014, p. 3; Meyers et al., 2014). Older people with disabilities are disproportionately poor (Masset & White, 2004, p. 291).
Inequalities and the diversity of disability
People with different forms of impairment or acquirement can experience inequalities differently. The World Report on Disability finds that ‘people who experience mental health conditions or intellectual impairments appear to be more disadvantaged in many settings than those who experience physical or sensory impairments’ (WHO & World Bank, 2011, p. 8; Inclusion Intl., 2006). People with other invisible disabilities (such as debilitating pain or fatigue), often face significant discrimination (Yeo & Moore, 2003, p. 579). In some countries, people who have been disabled as a result of conflict enjoy higher status than those whose disabilities have another cause, as a result of the value placed on them as ‘war heroes’ or ‘innocent victims’ (Mitchell & Karr, 2014, p. 228; Kett & Twigg, 2007, p. 95; Meyers, 2014, p. 200).
- DESA. (2011). Best practices for including persons with disabilities in all aspects of development efforts. New York: UN. See document online
- DFID. (2000). Disability, poverty and development. London: DFID. See document online
- Groce, N., & Kett, M. (2014). Youth with disabilities (Working Paper Series: No. 23). London: Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre. See document online
- Handicap International & Save the Children. (2011). Out from the Shadows: Sexual violence against children with disabilities. Handicap International & Save the Children. See document online
- Human Rights Watch. (2012). Human rights for women and children with disabilities. New York: Human Rights Watch. See document online
- Inclusion International. (2006). Hear our voices: A global report: People with an intellectual disability and their families speak out on poverty and exclusion. London: Inclusion International. See document online
- Kett, M., & Twigg, J. (2007). Disability and disasters: Towards an inclusive approach. In World disasters report – Focus on discrimination. Geneva: IFRC. See document online
- Masset, E., & White, H. (2004). Are chronically poor people being left out of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals? A quantitative analysis of older people, disabled people and orphans. Journal of Human Development, 5(2), 279-297. See document online
- Meyers, S. (2014). The past dividing the present: Nicaragua’s legacy of war shaping disability rights today. In D. Mitchell & V. Karr (Eds.), Crises, conflict and disability: Ensuring equality. New York: Routledge.
- Meyers, S., Karr, V., & Pineda, V. (2014). Youth with disabilities in law and civil society: Exclusion and inclusion in public policy and NGO networks in Cambodia and Indonesia. Disability and the Global South, 1(1), 5-28. See document online
- Mitchell, D., & Karr, V. (Eds.). (2014). Crises, conflict and disability: Ensuring equality. New York: Routledge.
- 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
- Ortoleva, S., & Lewis, H. (2012). Forgotten sisters – A report on violence against women with disabilities: an overview of its nature, scope, causes and consequences (Northeastern public law and theory faculty research papers series no. 104-2012). Northeastern University. See document online
- Schulze, M. (2010). Understanding the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Handicap International. See document online
- Trani, J-F., & Cannings, T. I. (2013). Child poverty in an emergency and conflict context: A multidimensional profile and an identification of the poorest children in Western Darfur. World Development, 48, 48–70. See document online
- Trani, J-F., Biggeri, M., & Mauro, V. (2013). The multidimensionality of child poverty: Evidence from Afghanistan. Social Indicators Research, 112, 391–416. See document online
- UNICEF. (2013). The state of the world’s children 2013: Children with disabilities. New York: UNICEF. See document online
- WHO & the World Bank. (2011). World report on disability. Geneva: WHO. See document online
- Yeo, R., & Moore, K. (2003). Including disabled people in poverty reduction work: ‘Nothing about us, without us’. World Development, 31(3), 571–590. See document online