How to include people with disabilities in work

Read our learning, expertise and advice from three years of testing innovative approaches as part of the Inclusive Futures employment programme.

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.

People with disabilities must have equal opportunities to get a job. But in low- and middle-income countries, as few as 12% of people with disabilities are employed.

Inclusive Futures has shown that systems can change to include people with disabilities in the workplace. But commitments and action from business leaders and governments, as well as investment to enable change, are essential to make it happen.

The Inclusive Futures employment programme, funded by UK aid, has piloted new ways to create job opportunities for people with disabilities. Since 2019, we’ve worked with more than 500 businesses and more than 2,300 jobseekers in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Bangladesh. Here’s what we’ve learned.


Watch our video to see what it's like to look for a job in Nigeria and Kenya when you have a disability.

Start being inclusive: how to act now

How jobseekers can be supported

1.It is essential to enhance jobseekers’ skills, knowledge and confidence to compete in the job market.

2.Jobseekers with disabilities face multiple barriers when they are looking for work, such as low self-esteem caused by previous discrimination, as well as additional vulnerabilities when in employment.

3.Employment readiness plans are individual, and need to adjust to the needs of individuals.

4.Training and interventions that include personal contact (such as mentorship or interaction with tutors) generally prove more successful.

5.Many jobseekers with disabilities are keen to be self-employed and seek support to develop business models and access financing.

6.It is necessary to simplify complex legal information about worker rights for multiple jobseekers with different literacy levels.

A staff member at a call centre wears a headset and sits at a computer. He's wearing dark glasses and smart clothes.

Useful resources

There is a business case and an ethical case for inclusion, and we can help you do it.

  • Contact us to learn how to partner with us

  • Inclusion expert Susie Rodgers on how to include people with disabilities in economic growth
  • How businesses can enact change

    1.Business leaders are essential to drive disability inclusion within their own organisations.

    2.Business and disability networks must be led by the private sector, with organisations of people with disabilities represented at board level, or active as experts who ensure a rights-based approach.

    3.Employers are willing to be inclusive of people with disabilities, but are hindered by a lack of awareness and knowledge on the right way to proceed.

    4.It is possible to raise employers’ awareness and support them to be inclusive, hire people with disabilities and make individual adjustments.

    5.To build good relationships, we must acknowledge that full inclusion may not happen immediately. But non-discrimination and reasonable accommodation must be embdedded from the start.

    6.Almost always, leveraging existing business partnerships, such as disability networks and employers’ associations, is more efficient than founding new ones.

    How governments have a crucial role

    1.Governments have a vital role to play in disability inclusion at work, particularly around the sustainability of interventions and holding the labour market system to account.

    2.Governments who have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are duty bearers, and it is imperative for them to act.

    3.Governmental institutions, such as ministries of labour, must be involved in programme activities as they fill key roles within the labour market system and facilitate its inclusivity, while holding it to account through regulatory framework.

    4.Programmes should encourage governments to have a holistic approach to disability inclusion. They should avoid focusing solely on labour markets, instead also working on areas such as inclusive education and accessible public transport.

    5.Incentives given to inclusive companies such as tax rebates tend to be more effective than punishment for non-compliance.

    6.National-level advocacy is key, as some high-level decisions must be approved before being implemented at a regional/local level.

    Genevieve and her mentees smile and link hands. They're al; wearing smart clothing.

    Useful resources

    Governments must support companies to help people with disabilities achieve their goals.

  • Read public finance expert Mokeira Nyagak’s blog

  • How to track public spending on disability inclusion
  • How organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs) can play a central role

    1.Organisations that represent people with disabilities should be supported to lead in providing expertise to businesses.

    2.Programmes should put OPDs at the centre of implementation so they can engage at all levels.

    3.Mutual respect, transparency and collaborative working between the private sector and OPDs are key. Meetings must be systematic and regular.


    Inclusive Futures has worked to empower and strengthen OPDs’ capacity and reinforce national disability movements to support their ongoing role in driving disability inclusive employment.

    How donors can advance and integrate disability programmes

    1.It has been proven that these systems can change, and they now need to be brought to scale.

    2.Donors and businesses need to continue to finance change and close the gap between people with and without disabilities participating in labour forces.

    3.Inclusivity programmes are expensive because they’re changing systems, but the rewards are permanent.

    4.This work is nation-building. If people with disabilities participate equally in labour markets, the return is astronomical. Our analysis shows that including people with disabilities can add $6 trillion to the global economy.

    Four professional people sit round a table having a discussion. They're all wearing smart clothing.

    Useful resources

    Donors are essential to make lasting change: learn how they can include people with intellectual disabilities.

  • Read the blog by data scientist Dean Breed
  • Okorafor helps Ayobami, who is blind. to open some packages while sitting at a table.

    Useful resources

    Programmes can tackle stigma by partnering with the media to change perceptions.

  • Five steps to shifting attitudes to disability
  • Covering disability in the media: why language matters
  • How the media can reduce stigma and discrimination

    1.It is important to continue to challenge negative attitudes and incorrect stereotypes about people with disabilities and their ability to work.

    2.Norms and attitudes can be changed, including through the media and by building relationships in communities.

    3.Training journalists has led to increased quantity and quality of coverage and a more empowering approach to portraying people with disabilities.

    4.Media outlets are now more willing to engage, and they are keen to know more about disability.

    What participants and partners say

    “What has been achieved is remarkable, especially for a programme that was the first of its kind. Bringing together the private and the development sectors is a great achievement, and shows that the system can change.”
    End-term programme evaluation
    Altai Consulting

    “The experience has been eye opening. It’s been a learning journey. Employees have challenged us on how our building looks [in terms of accessibility], and what we need to take care of in terms of systems and the processes.”
    Munyori Evans
    Standard Chartered Bank, Nairobi

    “One of the challenges before is that we didn’t know how to do it. But now we’ve found a credible partner, we are excited to roll this out: we’re looking at how to scale it up into a bigger platform and into the other markets we operate in.”
    Eric Kiniti
    East African Breweries, Kenya

    Some of the 500 businesses involved in the programme

    AB InBev Logo.
    Accenture logo.
    Access Bank logo.
    MTN logo.
    Standard Chartered logo.

    Find out more about Inclusive Futures

    Email us