On June 7, 2019 the Disability-Inclusive Development Initiative (DIDI) Fellows at the University of Washington to traveled downtown Seattle to hold a workshop on disability inclusive policies and practices for fifty of Global Washington’s members. Global Washington is an association of NGOs, research institutions, foundations, and businesses with offices in the Greater Seattle area, who are dedicated to the promoting humanitarian aid and international development around the world. The not only heard from DID’s undergraduate and graduate fellows, but also from keynote speaker Alessandra Aresu of Humanity & Inclusion (HI). Welcome remarks were made by USAID’s Disability Rights Coordinator Katherine Guernsey, Global WA’s Executive Director Kristen Dailey, and DIDI faculty co-leader Stephen Meyers.
The object of this workshop was to educate leaders in the international development field, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on the necessity of disability inclusion. Over 800 million persons with disabilities live in the Global South, a target region for the majority of all international development organizations. Though persons with disabilities exist in every society and region where international development work takes place, only 1% of foreign aid actually reaches them. This is because development actors rarely ensure that their projects and programs are accessible, inclusive, and ensure the participation of persons with disabilities. To address this exclusion, the 2015 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were designed to “Leave No One Behind” and the 2006 Convention on Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted in 2006 and ratified by over 180 countries specifically mandates the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international cooperation. Yet, many donors and NGOs remain unaware of these international norms nor know what disability inclusion looks like in practice. The workshop’s goal was to begin changing that by engaging “mainstream” (i.e. not disability specific) to begin thinking about how the schools they build, vaccinations they distribute, and income-generating activities they promote can include persons with disabilities, who are often the least likely to have access to education, health care, and jobs.
Prior to the keynote speaker, the audience heard from four members of the DIDI working group, two of which presented on their research on disability-inclusion among local NGOs. The first two DIDI Fellows, Jennifer Wood and Rebecca Andrews, provided a comprehensive background on disability inclusion in the international development field, followed by Shannon Pierson and Jessica Niewhoner, who presented on their research findings on disability inclusion among local small and medium-sized development organizations. The majority of survey respondents had little to no familiarity with the CRPD nor had disability inclusion policies for their in-country work. Keynote speaker Alessandra Aresu of Humanity & Inclusion presented on HI’s work to integrate disability inclusion in nonprofit and philanthropic work, with a specific focus on the framework provided by the SDGs. Ms. Aresu spoke from decades of experience in international development, and provided audience members with tools to improve their practices on a large scale. Ms. Aresu spoke about multiple processes of inclusion that H&I has identified which can be used by organizations to begin this process of change and create a more effective and fully inclusive international development field.
The workshop concluded with a panel discussion and Q&A session from two of the DIDI group’s graduate researchers, as well as keynote speaker Alessandra Aresu. Finally, DIDI graduate fellows Shixin Huang and Anisa Proda spoke of their research on disability inclusion in China and Albania, respectively.
The DIDI group wishes to thank Global WA for facilitating this event, and Alessandra Aresu of HI and Katherine Guernsey of USAID for their participation.