Each month CIP invites an expert to pose an important question dealing with some aspect of inclusive policies.

We then invite all of you to participate in an on-line written discussion. At the end of the month, our expert will summarize the main results of that discussion in a blog. If you would like to pose a “question of the month” please write to us on our contact page.


What is the gap between policy and practice in disability rights and access in low and middle income countries and what can be done to close it?


Leslie Swartz


Viewing 5 reply threads
  • Author
    • #9152 Reply
      Leslie Swartz
      • Participant

      Globally, disability rights are more clearly on the agenda than they were before.  We have important international agreements and policies such as the UNCRPD, and the transition from the Millenium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals has gone along with much greater emphasis on disability inclusion.  Many countries have progressive policies and laws on disability inclusion. Study after study especially from low- and middle-income countries, however, shows that despite excellent policies, the practices on the ground do not match the policy provision.  To some extent, this situation mirrors a more general gap between policy and practice (for example, a number of countries have practices on environmental issues which are at odds with environmental policies), but is there something particular to disability issues which makes disability more vulnerable to the policy-practice gap?  Is disability-related stigma a particular issue, for example?  Is disability viewed (without evidence) as expensive to include?  What are the issues and what can be done to address them?

    • #9163 Reply
      Pradeep Bagival

      Thanks again to CIP for this thought provoking question . There is indeed a clear gap between the policies and practices in disability inclusion. From the perspective of low and middle income countries ( LMIC) , the role of government is critical in translating these policies into action.  As rightly mentioned by Leslie Swartz, LMICs  do have excellent policy and legal frameworks and there is so much of quality research done and tools developed to support policy making processes. As seen in many developing countries, either the government do not use these tools or they are not properly administered resulting in poor evidence-based planning. To cite and example from Lao PDR which is one of the least developed countries, the government is  preparing for conducting the next round of Lao Social Indicator Survey and there is no attempt made to collect data on children with disabilities using UNICEF Child Functioning Module . The reason behind this is that there is no budget made available for collecting disability data.  So also for the next population census to be held in 2025 , though  decision is being made  to use WGSQs , there is no budget for training the enumerators on administering the questions and this is  one of the reasons that despite using WGSQs in some of the LMICs , we notice  that the  prevalence of disability is lower when compared to other surveys conducted and notably by  the NGOs.

      Governments are constitutionally obliged to promote inclusive development and it becomes their primary responsibility to ensure disability inclusion. We need champions amongst the decision -makers in LMICs to promote disability  inclusion by bridging the gap between policies and practices. We need persons with disabilities in the civil service so that they can lead the process of disability inclusion by putting into practice the policy and legal frameworks.

      The national and sub-national legislatures have an important role here and we need legislature oversight over the executive so that policies developed for inclusion are being implemented. For instance , the national disability law of India has made provision for the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities to prepare an annual report on the implementation of the law and to be submitted to the parliament so that both the houses of the parliament debate and discuss the report regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. We need members of parliament to ask questions on the floor regarding disability inclusive policies and how they are being implemented.

      UN is a technical partner to governments in LMIC and they have an equal share of responsibility to ensure governments put into practice policies for inclusive development. It is imperative that disability inclusion is practiced across all pillars of the UN system. I would like to quote Asako Okai, UN Asst. Secretary General and Director, UNDP Crisis Bureau “It is critical to embed disability inclusion across all our operations and programming: in leadership, in policy and programming, communications, and importantly, in how we as a UN system walk the talk as inclusive employers.”

      Donor’s financing development projects need to have disability markers to ensure relevant projects/programs address the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities and their families. Key findings from Dan Walton’s paper  indicate aid projects targeting disability inclusion was US$3.2 billion between 2014 and 2018, representing less than 0.5% of all international aid. Even the five most disability-inclusion-focused donors target just 3% of their aid to this purpose.

      OPDs have a paramount  role in transforming inclusive policies into action by their  governments and other disability stakeholders. Their capacities have to be further strengthened to engage specially with the national and sub-national  governments to promote disability -inclusive development.  I would like to cite a good practice from one of the lead INGOs in Lao PDR extending support to OPDs  to jointly organize an Annual Disability Policy Dialogue in which key ministries, UN entities, INGOs and Donor agencies came together to discuss disability inclusion in the national 5 year socio-economic development plan.

      Last but not the least,  it is interesting to note that LMICs that have a better compliance to rule of law have shown better results in reducing the policy -practice gap. There is also more scope for OPDs to amplify their voice in countries that have higher global ranking in terms of rule of law and to engage with government in realization of their rights .

    • #9170 Reply
      Aloyo Lillian


      • Barriers to communication for people with disability involve anything that affects reading, writing, hearing, speaking, and understanding. In most cases, the disabled are left out in the visual, audio, interpretations of messages, signing, mobility which hinders their performance to the day to day activities.
      • Physical barriers point to any objects or structures that prevents or blocks mobility and access by the disabled.
      • Social barriers to disability are related to where someone grows up, learns and works – their employment, education, income and safety in the homes.
      • Attitude (perception, stigma, stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice) of what its like to live, work with a disabled person always makes it difficult for someone with disability to be able to participate in everyday life.

       Addressing the barriers:

      • Advocacy in the different sectors etc for implementation of the policy set in place as a method for inclusion for the disabled
      • Dissemination on the category of disability as a meaningful term of identity
      • Additional targeted and specific programming needs to be put in place to address and reduce the equity gap experienced by the people with disabilities.
      • Intervention strategies must consider that inequity between disabled and non-disabled populations is not static but dynamic. Intervention must work towards closing the existing gaps
      • #9171 Reply
        Leslie Swartz

        Thank you for this excellent response showing the many levels with which we need to engage with this question – lots to think about.

    • #9241 Reply
      Leslie Swartz

      I am wondering whether others have suggestions to deal with this very important gap between policy and practice?

    • #9242 Reply
      Twinomugisha Edward Bills

      I really appreciate the article on this forum. I wanna keep updated on new articles.

    • #9249 Reply

      The gap between policy and practice in disability rights and access in low and middle income countries is a multi-stakeholder and multi-factored effect. Effective and efficient collaboration between the interest groups or stakeholders like organizations of persons with disabilities, social welfare departments of local government structure like districts, ministry of health and education (in the case of Ghana), persons with disabilities ourselves, our belief systems and others are very much key in the gap between policy and practice. Subsequent paragraphs, throw more light on few of the things that causes this gap.

      1. Responsible education from Pre-Natal and Post-Natal Care: Ideally, during pre-natal and post-natal care women, must be taught to appreciate the various types of disabilities at that very time where they are yet to give birth or has recently given birth to new born babies. Besides teaching them these, the social welfare department must also be around to educate them (the women) on the rights and benefits (support) that are in place for persons with disabilities. This would help the women appreciate that they would not be having such babies as burdens but there would be community support from the social welfare department and ensure the well-being of their new born babies with disabilities. As such, killing and abandoning babies or kids with disabilities would be a thing of the past. Also, other women would have now accepted that babies or persons with disabilities are a part of human diversity and would not make their children stigmatize children or persons with disabilities but would rather support persons with disabilities as a moral and civic responsibility. Quoting Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, “If you educate a man, you educate only an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate an entire nation.” Women spend a lot of time with kids and train them in their childhood days more than fathers. As such, if the above is applied with the other factors below, from 20 to 30 years from now, we would have closed the gap between policy and practice especially for Africa since most of our population are youth who are the productive part of our population. Therefore, now is the ideal time to start inciting and creating change to bridge the gap.

      2. Misconceptions: This is one of the key challenges existing as a gap between policy and practice. As a result of misconceptions about disability and persons with disabilities, there are a number of behavioral implications and effects towards persons with disabilities. These misconceptions start at an early age from the way we are raised up, the things we see, how we see people treat persons with disabilities in our communities, negative belief systems and others. All of these blur our sense of support and perception about persons with disabilities, but if the immediate above solution in regards to pre-natal and post-natal care training for women is applied or achieved, there is no doubt that we can build a very much inclusive society in 20 to 30 years from now. This is because, negative misconceptions would have been nullified to enhance a better sense of support and perception for persons with disabilities and this would help bridge the gap as a better sense of support and perception for persons with disabilities would be seen as a moral and civic responsibility. Also, most of the books I read since early childhood never talked about persons or children with disabilities nor identified them as good people (in most scenarios). As such, the should be more books or at least each and every author for children’s books, must include positive and realistic things about persons with disabilities to ensure that these children would have a better sense of support and perception for persons with disabilities.

      3. Effective education and resourcefulness of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities: In some areas of my country, some leaders of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities do not even know of the constitution of their organizations together with the policies and rights concerning persons with disabilities. As such, the are not able to claim what they deserve to empower themselves and improve upon the livelihoods of people whom they lead. Therefore, effective education and resourcefulness of the leadership of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities, must be looks at critically and continuously improved upon to empower Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and persons who are within them.

      4. Effective education, resourcefulness, effective supervision and accountability of social welfare departments in the various districts: Social welfare departments are very much needed when it come to the issues of persons with disabilities. As a matter of fact, some disabilities can be mitigated at an early age, but due to financial constraints, parents are not able to carry these out to help their babies and children with disabilities. With established funds like the 3% of the District Assembly Common Fund in Ghana and others, such issues could be mitigated at a very early age. Also, most of the social welfare departments do not work at all on issues of persons with disabilities. As such, effective education to continuously improve upon their resourcefulness coupled with effective supervision and accountability would ensure that all the above explained solutions would be practicalised to bridge the gap between policy and practice. In regards to the solution concerning pre-natal and post-natal care training for women, officers in the social welfare departments in 20 to 30 years to come would see doing this as a moral and civic responsibility and not merely a job requirement.

      5. Frequent review, improvement and timely implementation of policies concerning persons with disabilities: Changing times and increasing population densities or sizes result in different livelihood conditions for persons with disabilities. Therefore, bridging the gap between policy and practice is not always enough, but also frequently reviewing and improving upon policies and actions plans (practice) coupled with timely implementation and current statistical data would ensure that the right results or objectives are achieved whilst bridging the gap between policy an practice. As such bridging the gap between policy and practice would be made efficient and effective anywhere, at any time, and including other variables.

      In correspondence to this question and my submission above, I have applied to this year’s CIP Fellowship to carry out intensive research to resolve these challenges. Also, the 20 to 30 years used above implies a duration within which the effect of the above objectives or solutions would have been achieved above 95%, in terms of rating.

Viewing 5 reply threads
Reply To: What is the gap between policy and practice in disability rights and access in low and middle income countries and what can be done to close it?
Your information:

  • Oh, bother! No topics were found here.

Latest POSTS

How can we best provide community supports in low- and middle-income countries?

For many people with disabilities, access to support services -such as personal assistance, communication support, supported living arrangements and support for mobility- is a precondition to participate in society and live with dignity. While the UN Convention on the Rights…