Supporting people with disabilities during COVID-19

Find out about our disability-inclusive COVID-19 work in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and supporting the UK government.

August 2020
Two women and a baby wear face masks in a house in Bangladesh.


In Kenya, we work with businesspeople with disabilities to link them up with bigger companies and improve their supply chains.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated movement restrictions have had a dramatic impact on these microentrepreneurs, leaving them with no income. In some cases their closed shops have been robbed of their stock.

We’ve supported them to safely keep their businesses open and teamed up with other organisations to reduce the impact of COVID-19 measures on people with disabilities.

In the coming months we’ll be helping entrepreneurs to build more resilient businesses, including developing marketing materials, building their online presence and pivoting their businesses to meet customer demands, so they have greater protection from the impact of crises like COVID-19.

Stories from Kenya

Two men wearing face masks have a discussion outside a shop.

Ahmed, a refugee from Somalia, lives in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya with his wife and nine children.

Inclusive Futures partner Humanity & Inclusion provides him with training and mentorship on business skills. This supports him to grow his retail shop and improve his livelihood. It has also given him access to rehabilitation services and equipment, including crutches for his post-polio paralysis.

He sells common products that are frequently used by residents in the zone and dreams of having many branches of his business in the camp.

“Movement has been affected in and out of Kakuma, so products from suppliers that I used to get from Nairobi at a cheaper cost now have to be bought locally which is expensive.”

Ahmed has been supported by Humanity & Inclusion with information and advice about COVID-19 to keep his business safe and open, including putting hand washing facilities in place for his customers.

A group of people wearing transparent face masks.

Wairimu has a speech impairment and limited hearing, and communicates through sign language and lipreading. She is the official sign language interpreter in her community.

The masks worn by people to protect themselves from COVID-19 prevent lipreading and muffle voices so Wairimu struggles to hear and communicate with others, including the deaf community around her. She was having to ask people to lower their masks when they spoke so she could read their lips, making her (and them) more susceptible to catching the virus.

Inclusive Futures partner Light for the World and Tuleane Africa collaborated with Limuru Cheshire Home for girls with intellectual disabilities and Ear Trek to make an inclusive mask. This has a clear transparent rectangle patch in the centre to enable lip reading and more visible facial expressions, making communication possible again for Wairimu and other hearing-impaired people.


We’re making sure that people with disabilities are included in public service broadcasts about COVID-19.

Radio programmes run by Inclusive Futures partner BBC Media Action have exposed the discrimination people with disabilities face, including someone who was attacked while he helped to distribute essential items to people with disabilities.

People with disabilities have also featured on programmes about COVID-19 to normalise their involvement in discussions as equal members in society. For example, the chairman of the Nigerian Association of Lawyers with Disabilities featured on a panel programme and highlighted that guidance about COVID-19 is often inaccessible for people with disabilities, especially people with visual or hearing impairments.

BBC Media Action has worked with disabled people’s organisations to produce and broadcast 10 episodes of two weekly radio magazine programmes: Talk Your Own, an English-language programme broadcast on 138 radio stations; and Mu Tattauna, in the Hausa language, which was broadcast on 44 radio stations, reaching about 40% of the Nigerian population in seven states.

Training about disability inclusion with 130 media professionals from 53 local TV and radio stations has led to 46 programmes being produced.

A man in a wheelchair is interviewed by a man holding a microphone and wearing headphones.
BBC Media Action in Nigeria interview a man with a disability

Posts about disability inclusion by BBC Media Action on Facebook have reached 7.5 million people

This videos featuring Sightsavers' disability inclusion specialist Razak Adekoya talking about how blind people can take measures to prevent contracting COVID-19 has been watched by more than 34,000 people.

Supporting the UK government: Disability Inclusion Helpdesk

The Disability Inclusion Helpdesk, run by Inclusive Futures partner Social Development Direct, provides a research and advice service about disability inclusion for the UK government, including the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The helpdesk has been an important resource for FCDO throughout its COVID-19 response. It has provided specific evidence and tailored technical assistance to busy teams working on research and programmes for economic development, inclusive education and social protection.

A helpdesk paper on the likely impacts of COVID-19 on people with disabilities has been used by FCDO and the wider government, as well as being cited in reports by Unicef and the UN.

External links


Supporting the UK government: secondments

Inclusive Futures secondments into the Department for International Development (DFID) support teams to monitor and develop work to meet the department’s Disability Inclusion Strategy.

Through the pandemic the secondees, who are based in the UK and Kenya, have been providing technical support on inclusive COVID-19 responses to DFID partners, sharing information about disability inclusion and developing resources to assess disability inclusion.

Secondee Shikuku Obosi wrote a piece published by Devex about how harmful some language used in relation to the pandemic is to people with disabilities and underlying conditions.

External links