Be inclusive: employment and livelihoods

Four women smile while standing ni the reception area of Letshego Microfinance Bank, with branded logos on the blue and yellow walls behind them.

There are between 180 and 220 million young people with disabilities worldwide and nearly 80% live in developing countries.

If you’re a young person who has a disability, finding a job which delivers a fair income, rights, social protection and career prospects can be a huge challenge.  And if you’re a young woman with a disability in a developing country, the barriers can be even higher because of societal prejudices based on disability and gender.

Watch the video. In 2021, we asked young people with disabilities how inclusive job opportunities could be improved. 

A young woman and man are photographed as they're in discussion with others on their table.

Why should disability inclusion be at the top of the agenda when discussing economic opportunity for young people?

  • Under Sustainable Development Goal 8, the global development community has committed to promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.  Unless the barriers that young people with disabilities face in accessing employment are addressed, this goal won’t be met.
  • When young men and women with disabilities can access decent jobs and career paths, it creates wider benefits for individuals, communities and societies, including improved education, health and wellbeing outcomes.
Elizabeth Ombati.

“Many people think they’re left out because of the impairments they have, but they’re left out because the workplace is not accessible for them.”

Elizabeth Ombati.

Liz Ombati, disability rights advocate, Kenya

A young woman sitting behind a desk and computer, smiles at the camera.

“For me, reimagining economic opportunity means investing in young people with disabilities to pursue broader career paths.”

Grace, Nigeria

A practical tool for inclusive economic empowerment

Through Inclusive Futures, we work with young people with disabilities to build their confidence and skills, enabling them to compete in the employment market and fulfil their career aspirations. We also work with employers to provide them with training and guidance to become disability-confident, and attract, hire and retain people with disabilities.

But we don’t have all the answers. By engaging young people with disabilities in our planning and decision making, we’ve learned that we can tap into their perspectives, knowledge, and insights to make our programmes more effective and inclusive.

We asked some of the young people we work with to develop an assessment tool to ensure our economic empowerment programmes meet their expectations. The tool is open-source and freely available for anyone working in the development sector and economic opportunity or livelihoods programming to use.

Are your employment programmes disability-inclusive?

Try our self-assessment
A woman wearing a green colourful headscarf and dress smiles at the camera.

“Before, I didn’t know much about financial management or record keeping. Now I’ve been given a partial grant, which I’ve used to add stock to my shop, and I've been able to support my family.”

A woman wearing a green colourful headscarf and dress smiles at the camera.

Mary, South Sudanese microentrepreneur living in Kenya

Learning and resources on disability inclusive livelihoods

A man shows a young person how to solder some electrical equipment.

Inclusive vocational skills training

Under Inclusive Futures, BRAC adapted its successful Skills Training for Advancing Resources (STAR) programme to provide inclusive training and work placements for young people with disabilities and people who are deafblind.

Over three years, the project supported more than 1,150 people with disabilities (including 609 women and 543 men) to complete skills development training. These learners are now generating income through job placements.
Read the project's recommendations for improving employment opportunities in the informal sector

A woman and a woman stand outside. A woman is showing the man something on her phone.

Disability Inclusive Graduation (DIG)

With support from Inclusive Futures, BRAC adapted its DIG programme in Uganda to be disability inclusive. The project gave training on enterprise management, financial literacy, and inclusion in village savings and loans associations.

Working with OPDs, the programme reached more than 500 people with disabilities living in extreme poverty. They received assistive and prosthetic devices, community advocacy, legal consultation, coaching and mentorship.
Download the toolkit
Watch the video

Coffee farmer Sasmita crouches down to tend to her crops.

Inclusive coffee value chains

A boom in domestic and international demand for Nepalese coffee, presented the perfect opportunity to build opportunities for farmers with disabilities and their families within a growing value chain.

Led by Light for the World, this project improved opportunities for small-scale farmers with disabilities to supply coffee to markets, ranging from local cafes to global value chains. It also trained young people with disabilities to become baristas.
Learn more about the project’s impact

Two woman are wearing blue hair nets and are working at a computer and reading receipts.

Inclusive livelihoods

This project supports micro and small enterprise owners with disabilities in western Kenya to grow, develop or sustain their businesses. By influencing government policy, it aims to create a more inclusive business environment.

The project also links entrepreneurs to market and procurement opportunities in the public and private sector. It has a particular focus on supporting women, refugees and people who are deafblind.
Read the baseline research and learning summary

A man using a wheelchair operates a small machine in a factory to make plastic manufacturing pieces.

Disability Inclusion Helpdesk

Social Development Direct runs the Disability Inclusion Helpdesk and shares research and learning from Inclusive Futures.

Our Helpdesk provides research and advice to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and other UK Government staff on disability inclusion in policy and programming.
Read the report on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries

Front covers of the employers' toolkit.

The disability-confident employers’ toolkit

Grounded in best corporate practice, our toolkit offers a roadmap for business leaders, human resource executives and building property managers on creating inclusive workspaces.

“[The toolkit] was the missing piece that came at the right time and will certainly add value to many organisations as we ensure we don’t leave anyone behind.” Paul Kasimu, Chief Human Resources Officer at Safaricom
Download the toolkit

Maren Atieno, a sorghum farmer, is carrying leaves to feed her cow.

Inclusion and labour rights in value chains

The USAID-funded Global Labor Program – Inclusive Futures promotes and protects labour rights, particularly those of people with disabilities. Nine consortium partners help to build inclusion in the supply and distribution chains of East Africa Breweries Limited and Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Kenya.

As well as businesses, the programme brings together national and international NGOs, working with organisations representing people with disabilities, and trade unions.
Research: how gender and disability limit the participation of women with disabilities in value chains in Kenya

Two chefs, both wearing masks, prepare food in a professional kitchen. One is writing on a pad of paper, the other is looking at a cake that is being prepared.

Inclusion in formal employment

Inclusion Works, our consortium-led employment programme funded by UK Aid, piloted new and innovative ways to create job opportunities for people with disabilities. Over four years, it worked with more than 500 businesses and more than 2,300 jobseekers in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh.

It produced valuable learnings on the role of businesses, donors, governments and OPDs and society in advancing inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
About Inclusion Works

Watch our disability inclusive livelihoods webinar.

Hear from speakers from Inclusive Futures consortium partners including BRAC, Humanity and Inclusion, Light for the World and United Disabled Persons of Kenya, as they share experiences and lessons learned from adapting livelihoods programmes to be disability inclusive in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Uganda.