Disability inclusion: How to overcome the barriers to a career in global development

A participant using a braille laptop during the tenth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Photo by: Manuel Elias / United Nations

Across all industries, people with disabilities can face physical and social barriers to employment. The development sector can, however, be particularly challenging, explains Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, advocacy and policy researcher for the National Federation of the Blind. While he has always been up front in telling potential employers that he is a blind person, Hedtler-Gaudette acknowledges that doing so can result in fewer call backs.

“Misperceptions about the capacity and capabilities of people with all kinds of disabilities” are commonplace, Hedtler-Gaudette says. “In the development space, it’s even more pertinent.” He notes that there is an “attitude that people with disabilities can’t be out in the field or they can’t do certain things,” but he points out that these assumptions are often false.

Despite many employers referencing disability and inclusion policies, often mandated by law, there is a lack of job opportunities for people with disabilities. Legislation is one thing but the practicalities of it are another, explains Mosharraf Hossain, director of global policy, influencing and research with ADD International.

One of the main challenges for the disabled community is that “the disability cause tends to be looked at as an individual issue” and it lacks the media recognition that other causes receive, according to Robin Marcato, management analyst at U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Information General. People with disabilities or mental health issues also face issues in advocating for disability issues because they are “very often terrified to speak about accessibility; they don’t want to be targeted,” she says.

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About the author

  • Emma smith

    Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.