Asian Development Bank and Disability Inclusion

Do the ADB's commitments to disability inclusion go far enough?

In July 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed the Global Disability Summit Charter for Change and announced that it had adopted nine additional commitments to promote disability-inclusive development:

  1. Undertake an assessment and define a strategic framework for ADB on disability to support the new corporate Strategy 2030 (2019)
  2. Engage in coordinated advocacy for disability-inclusion via membership in the Global Action on Disability Network (2018 onwards)
  3. Actively participate in intergovernmental meetings related to the implementation of the Incheon Strategy (ongoing)
  4. Conduct a review of existing education portfolio, to identify the gaps and potential to more effectively support inclusion of the most marginalized children in society, including out of school girls and boys with disabilities (2019)
  5. Support innovations to expand the quality, scope and range of accessible materials and teaching approaches for learners with disabilities, and make their physical environment more accessible via universal design (2019)
  6. Invest in accessible vocational training programs for people with disabilities, and in building the capacity of both government and private training institutions (ongoing)
  7. Conduct research on developing inclusive insurance markets to make available risk management products which cover low-income households in case of death or serious disability (2020-2022)
  8. Undertake an analysis of data on social protection coverage for persons with disabilities in the Asia and Pacific region from ADB’s social protection indicator database (2019)
  9. Incorporate disability inclusion in universal health coverage strategies and reforms and design of “future” hospitals and health facilities (2019 onwards)

The ADB also released its Strategy 2030 last July, which sets out ADB's priorities for the next decade. Persons with disabilities are included among the vulnerable groups discussed in the Strategy, and the Strategy commits to "seek to improve access of the poor, women, and vulnerable groups (including the elderly and people with disabilities) to basic energy, transport, clean water, and sanitation."

While these commitments are a positive first step, persons with disabilities and disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs) must be meaningfully consulted throughout the process of designing and implementing the road map to achieve the commitments. Without the input of the disability community, it is all but guaranteed that there will be gaps in the policies and practices put into place by the ADB, resulting in the continued exclusion of persons with disabilities from ADB project benefits.

In addition, the ADB does not have a full-time disability advisor to provide expert guidance on disability inclusion in ADB-financed operations, and disability is not mentioned in ADB's Safeguard Policy Statement. Just as at the World Bank, in many sectors there is quite a long way to go--students with disabilities are left out of many education projects, and many public transportation projects are not designed using principles of universal access and are therefore not accessible for persons with disabilities. In order to improve inclusion, the ADB should hire disability experts and produce a good practice sourcebook on disability inclusion in projects. In addition, the upcoming safeguards review must result in the adoption of binding requirements to address the risks and impacts of projects on persons with disabilities and ensure that persons with disabilities share in project benefits.