The Status of Disability Mainstreaming and Disability Inclusion in Development and Humanitarian Practice

By Jeni Flynn - Public Engagement and Communications Officer and Megan McElwee - Fundraising Manager, Sightsavers Ireland

01 Dec 2020

As we approach December 3rd and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Dóchas in collaboration with UCD and with contributions from 16 INGO’s in Ireland and Irish Aid launched their research report: The Status of Disability Mainstreaming and Disability Inclusion in Development and Humanitarian Practice. Dóchas (2020).

The research conducted by Charlotte Thumser, looks at how Irish international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) implement disability inclusiveness in their programme work.

The panel for the webinar consisted of:

The webinar opened with Suzanne Keating remarking on the resilience and courage of the Dóchas Disability in International Development working group for conducting the research in what has been such a challenging year. Suzanne observed how the research shows the importance of continuing to work together and that it’s  “the collective piece that will shift the dial and make visible things, that at the moment, remain hidden". Suzanne also highlighted how we can “see COVID-19 as a way to reimagine our world, including ensuring that the most marginalised and their carers play a full and active role in society”.

Charlotte Thumser presented the research and outlined the approaches used as well as the commitment and enthusiasm of the INGO’s that she spoke with. Charlotte summarised the findings, recommendations, challenges, and barriers that were identified through her research. Challenges included the invisibility of disability, lack of knowledge and resources, and diversity of disability. Charlotte shared recommendations from the research such as driving change through disability champions, shared learning, and the importance of data.

Osama Eid of Plan Jordan continued the webinar discussion to share their work in disability inclusion and the power of sport as a driver for inclusion. Osama presented the Plan disability awareness toolkit and spoke about the importance of challenging stereotypes. Osama also explained how mainstreaming in practice means ensuring that people with disabilities are included in all stages of programming (design, consultation, monitoring, and feedback).

Dóchas was especially pleased that Michelle Winthrop, Director of Policy at Irish Aid was able to join the launch event to reflect on the research. Opening with an African proverb “if you want to walk fast, walk alone and if you want to walk far, walk together", Michelle captured our need for collaboration to achieve the mainstreaming of disability in development and humanitarian practice. The importance and necessity of putting people with disabilities in the driving seat of change was a central theme throughout the webinar and Michelle questioned, “how do we really facilitate that and make that possible?” Michelle noted that an important topic from Irish Aid’s perspective is “to embrace the diversity of experience and couch our work in really solid contextual analysis”.

Michelle concluded her address to the group with thought-provoking questions, asking, “How can we think about how we can bridge that gap between progress at global level and the sometimes-sluggish progress in some countries? How can we really get to those 80% of people with disabilities living in developing countries (of the 15% of the global population experiencing some form of disability)? How can we get to those people and really make a difference in their lives and genuinely deliver results for that group that are furthest behind, perhaps the furthest behind of all?”.

Penial Rwendeire, of the Uganda Youth Network, partners of Oxfam closed the panel section of the webinar by introducing the group to a programme in Uganda that has had some successful results. Penial detailed the importance of people with disabilities being change makers through political means. He said “Don't define me by what you see me. Define me by my ability to create a change and address the challenge I am seeing in society”. “If I don't have the eyes, I have the ears. If I don't have the ears, I have the hands and I can speak. If I cannot speak, maybe I can write something down. I can write my mind, and somebody can get a point in what I am saying”. Having the voices of the disabled youth in Uganda heard, this is how we are able to use our influence”.

A lively Q&A session followed the panel discussion with questions around the topics of gender, policy, accessibility, embracing diversity, challenges for 2021 and how best to take forward the recommendations of the research into action.

You can access the research report here and the full webinar video can be viewed below.


What would like to talk about: