People With Disabilities

People With Disabilities

People with disabilities are of concern for aid, relief and development workers in three ways:

  • People with disabilities usually need special assistance in conflict, disaster, crisis and development situations
  • Conflict and disaster often create more people with disabilities
  • Aid, relief and development workers may be people with disabilities themselves, and therefore face particular challenges in their work.

In addition, many aid workers themselves are people with disabilities, and may face distinct challenges in their work because of such.
Negative attitudes toward people with disabilities abound, and not just in the developing world. One recent example: An official guidebook for Chinese volunteers at the Beijing Olympics referred to physically disabled people as a "special group," describing them as "stubborn and controlling." Many employers are reluctant to hire people with disabilities, preferring to pay fines rather than meet government requirements regarding hiring such people. Very few schools, clinics, government buildings and other structures in the developing world have wheelchair and other special access for the physically impaired. Some cultures teach that a family with a disabled person is somehow cursed by evil forces and, therefore, should be avoided. Aid, relief and development workers with disabilities may not be chosen for a job they are uniquely qualified for because the employer doesn't believe a person with a disability could do such work.

The physical world isn't the only place where people with disabilities find obstacles: many web sites, software and other technology tools are not built to be accessible by people with disabilities (someone who is blind or deaf, for instance) or for someone using an assistive technology tool. This can be especially dire for people who rely on a particular web site for critical information for their lives, their jobs, etc.

Below are links to various web sites that help aid, relief and development workers address these issues:

Handicap International

Handicap International is a well-known international NGO which supports disabled or vulnerable people. Its website (in French) is The UK-based office, with a website in English, is at


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) it also particularly well known for its work with disabled civilian victims of conflict. It has long experience in the fitting of prosthetic limbs and other services for the disabled. Its website is

Mobility International USA International Development & Disability program

MIUSA's International Development & Disability program promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities as leaders and participants in development. They have resources both for hiring and involving local people with disabilities, as well for involving international aid workers with disabilities. Read more about their inclusive development projects with various partner organizations, download their Human Resources Toolbox or the Inclusion Strategies Resource Sheets, see their recommendations for Including People with Disabilities in Iraq’s Reconstruction, and use their Searchable Database to find Disability Organizations around the globe.

World Wide Web Consortium - Web Standards

The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative promotes standards that help Web designers and developers create sites that better meet the needs of users with disabilities and older users.

Also see Disability Equality in Practice by Alison Harris and Sue Enfield

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Tags: Disability