Economic Inclusion

Black and white photo of people, including several women wheelchair users, sitting in a circle listening to a speaker.
People with disabilities in developing countries often represent the poorest of the poor, yet they are typically overlooked in the development agenda. Poverty reduction strategies must include people with disabilities to achieve development goals.

Poverty causes disabilities and can furthermore lead to secondary disabilities for those individuals who are already disabled, as a result of poor living conditions, health-endangering employment, malnutrition, poor access to health care and education opportunities, etc. Together, poverty and disability create a vicious circle.

Economic development programs such as microfinance have revolutionized efforts to fight poverty by providing financial services to people previously regarded as dependent on charity. Such financial services have empowered and enabled people, particularly women, to take control of their lives and contribute to their societies.

More importantly, in developing countries self-employment and microenterprise are often the most effective means for persons with disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Utilize the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); it clearly states that, “international development programs are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities.” Article 12 of the CRPD stipulates that States must ensure the equal right of persons with disabilities to control their own financial affairs and have equal access to bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit.

Five Beginning Strategies for Financial Inclusion

  1. Identify existing clients with disabilities using financial services – Work with these existing clients to educate others and to recruit new clients with disabilities.
  2. Build strong communication and understanding between Disabled People's Organizations (DPOs) and financial institutions – DPOs must understand the financial institution’s business model and the financial institution must understand the DPOs mission and activities.
  3. Mainstream clients with disabilities – Pilot studies indicate that special credit programs do not need to be created; rather, persons with disabilities can participate under the same conditions and be excellent clients (ACCION, 2010 – New Financial Frontier). Staff may need to be educated on how to successfully include persons with disabilities as clients. Likewise, financial institutions should be encouraged to create a human resource policy that actively recruits persons with disabilities.
  4. Create support programs – Rather than shifting financial program design to DPO professionals not trained to be specialized financial service providers, partner with DPOs to provide support programs that build the business capacity of persons with disabilities. Such programs complement vocational, technical, or educational programs addressing the right to employment.
  5. Advocate for equal access – Leverage Article 12 of the CRPD to change civil codes to grant persons with disabilities the legal capacity to make formal financial arrangements.

We encourage you to explore some of the key external resources on financial inclusion provided in the Documents and Related Links. The resources are provided in their original format. MIUSA strives to ensure external documents are accessible to the greatest extent possible. As the field of financial inclusion is developing rapidly, we also recommend doing web research for new resources.

Be sure to utilize MIUSA’s resource, Making Inclusive Development a Reality: Ten Essential Steps, which has disability inclusion tips relevant across all development sectors. This can be found in the Related Resources.