23 February 2012
Approximately 10% of the world's population (650 million people) have a disability---80% of whom live in developing countries. Of the world’s poorest people, one in five has a disability. This demographic is less likely to access education, health, employment and social opportunities, which results in reduced income, poorer health and social exclusion.
However, lack of quality data about those with disabilities makes addressing their needs difficult. A collaborative project between Melbourne University of Australia and icddr,b aims to change that---starting now.
Meeting a need
“Unless international development programmes are inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities, achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is not possible,” claims icddr,b core donor AusAID. It granted a 2009 Australian Development Research Award to the University of Melbourne to develop a Rapid Assessment of Disability (RAD) Toolkit for use by governments, NGOs and other organisations.
The toolkit is an easy-to-use, comprehensive way to measure disability prevalence, quality of life, social participation, access to and effectiveness of related development programs. The university developed the toolkit as a four-part questionnaire in collaboration with Australian and Bangladeshi disability organisations and service providers.
Thanks to the university’s past collaboration with icddr,b on poverty eradication programmes involving the disabled, it chose icddr,b scientists Dr. Nafisa Lira Huq and Dr. MA Quaiyum to field test the toolkit in Bangladesh. In this way, the university hopes to gain an understanding of its efficacy in the developing world.
The toolkit will be tested through a survey of approximately 3,000 people in Rajshahi, a region in the northwest of Bangladesh, where very little work with the disabled has been conducted. The survey will be household-based and will be conducted in randomly selected clusters over three months. “The most encouraging thing for me, as part of this study, is to have a standard method for assessing disability prevalence in developing countries,” explained Dr. Huq.
Drs. Huq and Quaiyum will test the toolkit with the help of field research supervisors and data collectors who are disabled themselves. “Utilising a disability-inclusive development approach in research offers new, longer-term employment opportunities for people with disabilities within a mainstream organisation like icddr,b,” explained Dr. Quaiyum. “Such an approach also makes it clear that people with disabilities are part of everyday society and can be as accomplished as anyone else.”
Better research leads to better policies
Aside from determining the number of disabled people within a community and assessing their quality-of-life, the toolkit will measure other indicators related to poverty, social participation and services that should be provided by the community or other organisations. It also will gauge the barriers the disabled face in accessing these services.
“Many times, people with disabilities know that they should be getting a particular service from the place where they work, or from their neighbourhood, but are not. This toolkit, hopefully, not only will identify what those services and amenities are, but also will address the reasons why these services are not reaching the disabled,” added Dr. Huq.
The scientists are confident that the toolkit, once tested and validated, can be used outside the Asia-Pacific region in places like Africa and South America, as well. “This toolkit can meet a set of complex objectives in the developing world. There is talk of further collaboration with organisations in other countries that would enable us to measure how local policies or interventions are bringing about positive change in the lives of persons with disabilities,” explained Dr. Huq.
For more information, contact: Faruq Hasan