Gabriele Weigt

Inclusive Development is based on a human rights perception of disability and highlights equal opportunities for person with disabilities and their right to play a part in society. Community-Based Rehabilitation is a good way of promoting Inclusive Development. Gabriele Weigt studied special and therapeutic education at the Universities of Cologne and Frankfurt. She is director of the non-governmental organization Behinderung und Dritte Welt (Disability and Development) and spokesperson for VENRO AG, which works with persons with disabilities in developing countries. The article is reprinted from eins Entwicklungspolitik 1-2007, Dossier Behinderung und Entwicklung, p. IV-V.

Inclusive Development

The Right of Persons with Disabilities to Equal Participation

Although persons with disabilities in developing countries are among the poorest of the poor, too little attention has been paid to them so far in major development programmes. It is vital that they should be taken into account in poverty reduction programmes since there is a close connection between poverty and disability. The Millennium Development Goals themselves (MDGs) cannot be attained unless persons with disabilities are taken into account. A fifth of the people living on less than one US dollar a day are affected by disability. Persons with disabilities are therefore one of the main target groups for the MDGs.

This has become increasingly recognised in recent years, and has led more and more donor countries, multilateral organizations and institutions, to revise their development policy guidelines to ensure that they include persons with disabilities.

BMZ Policy Paper "Disability and Development"

The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Association for Technical Cooperation and Development (GTZ) issued a policy paper on "Disability and Development" in December 2006, containing new guidelines for taking persons with disabilities into account in German development cooperation. In the paper, the BMZ refers to the international debate and makes a commitment to an Inclusive Development approach based on human rights. Inclusive Development aims at a "society for all" in which everyone is able to develop his or her potential and can both contribute to public well-being, and play a part in the life of society.

This goes hand in hand with a perception of disability based on human rights and the rights of persons with disabilities, and leads at the same time to a long overdue change of paradigm. This change means moving away from a clinical, charitable model of disability which focuses solely on the individual and emphasises rehabilitative, compensatory measures. This charitable model gives way to a social, rights-based perception which promises persons with disabilities the right to equality of opportunity and participation in society. Disability is defined as a social question, as lack of opportunity to play a part in society.

Hence, a person is to be regarded as disabled if he or she is unable to play a part in the life of the community because of restrictions and obstacles in the environment (infrastructure, communication, legislation, behaviour, etc.).

The right of people with disabilities to equal opportunities and equal participation was recognised in international law with the adoption in December 2006 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 32 of which calls for Inclusive Development.

A Twin Track Approach

The international community is largely in agreement that a "twin track approach" is needed for the implementation of Inclusive Development. This means, first, ensuring that persons with disabilities are included in all relevant development projects and programmes. And secondly, continuing support is to be given to special measures which empower persons with disabilities, i.e., which enable them to be independent, to take responsibility and to make decisions about their own affairs, and allow them access to general programmes. For example, children may need to be fitted with orthopaedic aids so that they can attend their local primary school. Or a programme to expand and strengthen disabled people's organizations may be required so that they can articulate their interests in the context of poverty reduction strategies.

The implementation of Inclusive Development calls for rethinking in a number of areas. In the context of projects specifically for persons with disabilities, care should be taken that these do not become special projects that lead to separation rather than participation in society. In future, for example, there should be an assurance that children with disabilities are able to take part in general educational provision, or that programmes in the area of HIV/AIDS also take into account the needs of persons with disabilities. All public and private infrastructure programmes should be planned so that they can also be used by persons with disabilities. What is the point of an Inclusive Development programme if the schools that are built are not accessible to children with disabilities?

Another crucial aspect of implementation is the involvement of persons with disabilities and their organizations in all stages of the project or programme (planning, implementation and evaluation).

Community-Based Rehabilitation

How can general projects and programmes be planned so that they take the interests of persons with disabilities into account? One suit-able model is Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR), developed by the World Health Organisation in the late 1970s. This approach is based on involving the local community and shifting rehabilitative activities into the community, largely using volunteers working with simple methods. According to the WHO, about 70 per cent of the rehabilitation that is required can be delivered locally by trained volunteers; specialists are only needed at national or regional level for more complex activities. In CBR, clinical and therapeutic rehabilitation is structured so that it can be combined with basic medical services.

In the field of school education, UNESCO has developed the concept of "Inclusive Education", which provides for the teaching of all children in regular local schools (not just children with disabilities). UNESCO has produced a number of written guidelines on this, and the Enabling Education Network ( also provides information on how to achieve Inclusive Education. In the area of vocational training and support for income-generating activities, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) also adopts a community-based approach. Instead of creating training centres for persons with disabilities, training opportunities have been found locally for persons with disabilities since the mid-1980s. In the case of income-generation, local demand is investigated and appropriate income-generating opportunities are created.

One feature common to all the areas mentioned is that support is generally provided for persons with disabilities in their communities, and is attached to existing structures. It is important to network with existing projects and programmes specifically concerned with disability so that resources can be used for the benefit of a larger number of persons with disabilities.

If Inclusive Development is to succeed, it needs not only a change of paradigm in favour of a human rights perspective, but also a willingness on the part of all those involved in development to open their projects and programmes to persons with disabilities.


Important notice: If you click on this link, you will leave the websites of DVV International. DVV International is not responsible for the content of third party websites that can be accessed through links. DVV International has no influence as to which personal data of yours is accessed and/or processed on those sites. For more information, please review the privacy policy of the external website provider.