Guiding Principles for Excellence in Development & Disability Inclusion

Are you including people with disabilities in your international development organizations and programs? If “yes,” are you using a rights-based approach, rather than perpetuating outdated ideas about disability? Get started here.

Inclusion is not the same as simply “not excluding”. Inclusion is proactive. Inclusion is intentional. It takes some initial investment to ensure that people with disabilities are being reached and participating fully in your organizations and programs.

The guiding principles below were developed for MIUSA’s Excellence in Development and Disability Inclusion (EDDI) initiative to assist international organizations to enhance their disability inclusion. They serve as a starting point to think about disability inclusion. Share them with your staff and with potential grantees, and mandate that grantees abide by these guiding principles.

Next, learn more about how your organization can join EDDI for individual consultation.

The Principles

Language note: When we say “disability,” we are referring to people with all types of disabilities, including but not limited to: physical, intellectual, developmental, psychosocial, chronic health, learning, sensory, and other types of disabilities. Some disabilities are apparent, while others are non-apparent.

Human Rights Model of Disability

Disability is a natural part of the human experience. People with disabilities are rights holders and social structures and policies restricting or ignoring the rights of people with disabilities often lead to discrimination and exclusion. Disability in and of itself is not necessarily a tragedy or cause for suffering. 

Disability Leadership

Inclusive development makes use of the strengths and potential of people with disabilities as partners and contributors to your programs – not solely as beneficiaries.

Disability as a Cross-Cutting Issue

There is no program or topic that would not include people with disabilities. To implement inclusive development effectively, you must ensure that people with disabilities can and do access your broad range of programs alongside non-disabled people. Whether the program focuses on food security, emergency response, education, health, livelihood, disease prevention, or worker’s rights, thoughtfully include disability in your program’s design, outreach, participation, and evaluation.

The Twin-Track Approach

In addition to ensuring that people with disabilities can access all of your programs, there may be well-founded reasons to implement programming that is specific to people with disabilities. Disability-focused programs are sometimes created in order to build a sense of community, empowerment and pride, or to focus on disability-specific resources or considerations. Implementing a combination of programs open and accessible to all while also offering disability-specific programs as needed is known as the “twin-track approach.”

Infiltration is the New Inclusion

It takes some initial investment to ensure that people with disabilities are being reached and participating fully in your organizations and programs. Begin a new strategy of working toward inclusion by practicing “infiltration”, a more proactive and intentional approach. This means infiltrating the disability community’s events, sharing information with disability networks, and inviting members of the disability community to your events and programs. By infiltrating, we accelerate inclusion and form partnerships with other organizations and movements so that we all move forward together.

Disability is Diversity

Inclusion of people with disabilities is fundamental to enacting a commitment to diversity.  In addition, many people with disabilities have identities other than their disability identity. For example: a person with a disability may also be a person of color, indigenous, a woman, LGBTQ, etc.

Budget for Inclusion

Unlike other types of diversity, disability inclusion may require additional and proactive strategies to ensure that dedicated financial resources are available to remediate or remove environmental, communications and other barriers to access. Learn more about budgeting for inclusion here.

Applying a Human Rights Lens to Disability Services

It is possible to provide disability-related services without communicating harmful messages about the lives and potential of people who live with those disabilities. Whether it is offering a program focused on cure or prevention, rehabilitation, disability equipment, or psychosocial support, organizations can partner with or work alongside disability rights advocates. These types of services and programs can be provided while simultaneously promoting disability pride and equal rights for people with disabilities.