Disabilities

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Disabilities

As many as 7.7 million of the world's 51 million people displaced by conflict have disabilities.* People with disabilities are among the most hidden and neglected of all displaced people, excluded from or unable to access most aid programs because of physical and social barriers or because of negative attitudes and biases. They are often not identified when aid agencies and organizations collect data and assess needs during and after a humanitarian disaster. They are more likely to be forgotten when health and support services are provided. Often, refugees with disabilities are more isolated following their displacement than when they were in their home communities.

* This figure is based on global estimates that 15% [WHO] of the 51.2 million [UNHCR] people forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations may be persons with disabilities.

Key Reports & Resources

Read our most recent report: Disability Inclusion: From Policy to Practice in Humanitarian Action

Our Work

The Women's Refugee Commission's Disability Program seeks to advance the rights and dignity of refugees and displaced persons with disabilities through researching and advocating for initiatives that develop their capacity to lead full lives and to make meaningful contributions to their communities. We work to:

  • Promote change in practice through training and workshops with international organizations as well as with local, in-country disability organizations. These workshops have already been successfully implemented in India, Uganda and Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand and Kenya.
  • Support disabled people's organizations in target countries in working with both those agencies setting policies, like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and displaced persons with disabilities themselves.
  • Assist UNHCR in rolling out its global disability guidance by working with both the agency's headquarters in Geneva and country offices to consider issues faced by persons with disabilities as they are assessing current programs and planning new ones.
  • Analyze, document and share lessons learned with the wider humanitarian community. We are conducting research to assess how UNHCR's guidance is being implemented, the barriers and successes, as well as its impact on the lives of refugees and displaced people with disabilities.
  • Advocate for change globally with donor, policy maker and humanitarian workers. Lessons from countries where we have worked so far will be used to inform advocacy campaigns focused on improving access to services for persons with disabilities in crisis-affected areas throughout the world.
  • Support the voice of refugees with disabilities. Refugees and displaced persons with disabilities are at the center of our work, and we seek to facilitate their participation and voice in all our activities. Examples of such approaches include facilitating activities with refugees themselves to formulate ideas for change which they can then present to organizations and stakeholders in workshops, bridging the gap between persons with disabilities and the implementers of refugee programs.

Refugees and displaced persons with disabilities are at the center of our work, and we seek to promote their voices and participation in all of our activities. We support persons with disabilities to identify their concerns and possible solutions, bridging the gap between this group and those dedicated to carrying out assistance programs.

The Women's Refugee Commission played a key role in developing UNHCR's Conclusion on Refugees with Disabilities and Other Persons with Disabilities Protected and Assisted by UNHCR. We supported a coalition of organizations to advocate for specific language and issues that would help countries identify and serve refugees with disabilities. We also assisted and advised UNHCR in developing their operational Guidance on Working with Persons with Disabilities in Forced Displacement.

Learn More

Use the drop-down menu on the left side of the page to access this program's Research and Resources.