Ade Adepitan (center), a British television presenter and wheelchair basketball player, meets with the Ugandan national wheelchair team. The U.K. Department for International Development has promised to release more concrete announcements and actions on including disability in its programs. Photo by: Michael Haig / DfID / CC BY

Disability groups will be keeping an eye on the U.K. Department for International Development over the next few months after the British aid agency promised to put out more concrete announcements and actions on including disability in its programs.

Aid groups are pleased that DfID, in response to the International Development Committee’s report on disability in April, has committed to work on a disability framework to be finalized by November, make data disaggregation on disability a requirement in humanitarian funding proposals, and beef up staff and experts focused on the issue within the department, with a senior level “disability champion” to be appointed in September — points that organizations working on disability like Sightsavers have been calling out for.

This is a big step for the aid agency and long overdue for people with disability, Aleema Shivji, Handicap International’s U.K. director, told Devex.

But the work is not yet done, and disability groups are certainly watching out for how these latest commitments will play out in the coming months, particularly the disability framework, which Shivji hopes “won’t disappoint.”

The framework, DfID said, will set out the agency's commitment, approach and actions in strengthening disability in its policies and programming. It will lay out the terms on how DfID will strengthen its capability to address the issue of disability, and how it plans to influence partners to do the same — basically, more concrete actions that would move their response to practice.

Shivji said it's crucial for the framework to have concrete, time-bound targets and a set of accountability measures, while WaterAid U.K. program manager Louisa Gosling underscored the framework should have "teeth."

"I think the main concern is that previously [DfID has] published documents that are like a framework, very good guidance notes that are very comprehensive that say all the right things, but they haven't been acted upon. And they haven't been enforced; they sort of remained as kind of a guidance document without any teeth," Gosling told Devex. "There's a danger that a framework just remains as a document that has all the right things in it, but nobody has to apply it."

Leonard Cheshire International Director Tiziana Oliva argued her organization would want a framework "robust enough to work in the same way as is being achieved by DfID on the gender issues in its strategy," and added mainstream NGOs should be part of its development and implementation to ensure its success.

Humanitarian funding

Disability groups welcome DfID's commitment to require organizations to include disaggregated data on old age and disability in their funding proposals, although they are concerned that many mainstream organizations may not have a system in place to ensure people with disabilities are included in their emergency response.

But Shivji suggested this shouldn't really be hard to do.

"Different NGOs are in different places on that. Some are taking steps and proactively coming to us and say we really want to include disability can you help us to do it? And there are others who aren't there yet. What we're hoping is that, with a little bit of a push from DfID as a donor, they will sort of recognize that if they want to implement quality, equitable programming that needs to include the most vulnerable in the community that they work in, then they need to include disability as part of their matrix," she said.

Guidelines already exist on how NGOs can ensure their programs take into account people with disabilities, and Handicap International along with several other organizations are working on a new guideline on shelter which will be coming out soon.

In most humanitarian contexts, they have available funding specifically to assist mainstream NGOs in this area, so Shivji said "it's a matter of the organization just asking us." They also conduct sessions back in London, although for more "complicated" assistance, some sort of agreement may be necessary.

DfID's commitments on data disaggregation, though, currently apply only to humanitarian proposals, and disability groups hope they will be extended also to long-term development programs.

DfID is planning a joint technical conference with the United Nations and the Leonard Cheshire research unit (reportedly over the summer) to look at global best practices to strengthen data on disability. Oliva said the the conference’s details have yet to be finalized, but her organization will be working with DfID to ensure it pushes through.

True test

DfID also underscored it will continue to ensure no one gets left behind as the international community drafts the post-2015 development agenda and the next disaster risk reduction framework, remain committed to influence its partners — including multilateral and bilateral ones — and engage more aid groups in its disability work by inviting them to be part of the agency’s disability advisory group. In addition, the agency is currently redesigning its Global Poverty Action Fund to ensure it would be open to more organizations, including DPOs.

These are all welcome points, but groups note the end goal is to make sure all of these will work.

"It is easy for us to say we're doing this and we're doing that to make it more accessible, but unless you have disabled people saying yes I can use this service, yes it's better than before, yes they are listening to my opinion, then it's not gonna make a difference," Gosling said.

What other commitments made by DfID will you be looking out for in the coming months? How can DfID encourage more organizations to make data disaggregation on disability part of its work? Please let us know by leaving a comment below or sending an email to 

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.