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My name is Paul Lindoewood and I have worked for three decades with the Disability Movement in both Britain and East Africa. During this period I have been interested in the connection between disability, how a society develops, and how we understand a generic objective of inclusion. The current Paralympic Games in Tokyo were opened with the age-old cry for greater inclusion. I find myself repeatedly asking if the idea that inclusion can be reached by demonstrating what a handful of disabled people can achieve is essentially flawed?


IPC President Andrew Parsons called for a more inclusive society in his speech at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Opening Ceremony ©Getty ImagesAndrew Parsons, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President, helped open the Tokyo 2020 Games with a call for greater inclusion of disabled people within general society. In doing so, he highlighted a fundamental weakness in the Paralympic Movement as a force for change, and indeed in how we often understand inclusion. Parsons identified three important drivers behind his call:

  1. “The Paralympic Games are for sure a platform for change.”  
  2. “But only every four years is not enough.”
  3. “It is up to each and every one of us to play our part, every day, to make for a more inclusive society in our countries, in our cities, in our communities.”

As we identify with the successes and failures of respective athletes, the hypothesis that this will encourage society to become more inclusive of disabled people is at best questionable. By putting a person on a pedestal and showing the potential, are we knocking down other people? Is this really a mechanism to promote inclusion?

In Britain as in so much of the world, we frequently develop “centres of excellence”, which are meant to demonstrate how to overcome problems. This is particularly so within the world of disability. Providing the centre is accessible to all concerned and gives effective advice, this may seem a good way to move an agenda forward. Despite the resources absorbed by the centres, society justifies this by saying, “it is there for everyone to use”. The key question is, is this always the case?

In Britain, where we have a high level of communication (e.g., social media and internet access), we still have a great number of people who don’t access the help and support they need and whose participation in social and economic life is subject to other peoples understanding. In other parts of the world such as Africa, there has been a tradition of creating ‘flagship’ projects to demonstrate what can be achieved. So often these ‘flagships’ appear to be out of reach for the rest of society, so disabled people get good support in these areas, but no support in a neighbouring county or over a regional border.

Such is the nature of vertical development and very often our understanding of inclusion. Vertical development assumes that we assist an individual or a cohort of people, often in a specific area, to get on in life. It is, by definition, limited and focussed and can be justified by measuring the needs of an individual or group and their progress towards a defined aim.

Alternatively, there is horizontal development which says we will facilitate discussion and debate between people who are facing similar or related issues. Individuals, communities, and countries are all at different stages in their understanding of how things should and could progress. There is no assumption that people are going to be on the same road or want to get to the same destination. We can learn from each other and how we have overcome our respective barriers.

I want a world to develop where disabled people are full, equal, and participating members of their society. An important part of this process is to encourage disabled people to discuss their lived experience and how they have achieved their respective goals. The focus of this debate will not be on what a handful of individuals have achieved, but rather on how disabled people have managed to secure participation within their respective settings. As disabled people learn from their global, as well as local partners, they can experiment with new ideas in their own context.

Horizontal development is complimentary to, not instead of, vertical development. It can share the achievements of projects and make information more accessible. Proponents of vertical development have recognised this for years. This has evolved into international professional conferences to which, more recently, disabled people have been invited. A question maybe, who is being invited and on what justification? However, for horizontal development to be truly effective the information flow needs to be at all levels of the system – from top to bottom.

Andrew Parsons’ call for more inclusive societies around the world was no doubt meant as a wake-up call on one of the few occasions when the needs and achievements of disabled people take centre stage. Even within the Covid bubble system of the Tokyo gamers, perhaps the Paralympics’ potential to promote an inclusive world is not by demonstrating what disabled people can achieve. It is rather by bringing them together to discuss and encourage each other through their ideas, experiences, and expertise. This flow of information can enable them to go back to their respective communities and countries with a stronger hand to negotiate with governments and development agencies.

As we watch the Paralympics on TV and cheer on our respective athletes, let us not go away with a view that this has somehow increased inclusion. For inclusion to happen, disabled people need to be actively involved in their societies, starting at the grass-roots level. Inclusion cannot be achieved by a few individuals achieving incredible feats. It can only be achieved by the mass of disabled people participating within their respective contexts. Indeed, we need to move away from the idea of congratulating disabled people when they achieve participation and towards asking, when disabled people are not there, “where are they?”

Community Health Support for Disabled Children

DWA supported the Community Health Support for Disabled Children (CHSfDC) project, initiated by Brecon Molo Community Partnership, used a Train the Trainers model to develop the capacity of Community Health Workers to identify, support and signpost disabled children within their area.

The CHSfDC project aimed to;

  • Train 10 Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs)
  • These CHEWs were then to train 100 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs)
  • Between the CHEWs and CHVs it was planned to reach 1,000 disabled children
  • The CHSfDC project was rolled out in 5 communities – Molo, Elburgon, Sachangwan, Turi and Marioshoni (and Keringet)


Fighting COVID-19 through hygiene

The COVID-19 Hygiene Hub is a free service to help actors in low- and middle-income countries rapidly share, design, and adapt evidence-based hygiene interventions to combat COVID-19.

Maintaining good hygiene is one of the most important things in fighting the spread of COVID-19. The Hygiene Hub brings together governments, international agencies, and NGOs along with key researchers in public health, behaviour change, and implementation science to enable effective hygiene programmes that curb human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for COVID-19 in homes, communities, schools, health care facilities, and other public spaces.

Jane Wilbur’s has written a Summary Report on considering disability in COVID-19 hygiene programmes.

DWA pays tribute to Dr Mike Oliver

DWA wishes to pay tribute to Dr Mike Oliver who was a leading disability academic, who is most well known for his work developing the Social Model of Disability. His model has influenced thinking around how services for disabled people are developed and provided and has stimulated the disabled people’s movement worldwide.

Read more about Dr Oliver, on Unite magazine’s website here.

DWA Response to Accusations of Government Discrimination in 2018

The equality watchdog is examining claims that the government has discriminated against UK disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) by excluding them from the delivery of a new £29 million international development programme. Read the full story here. Below is DWA’s response.

A statement from Disability in Wales and Africa in response to the article – ‘Government discriminated against DPOs in awarding £29m development programme’ 

Disability in Wales and Africa (DWA) is an organisation which has developed from the Wales Africa initiative.  DWA wishes to encourage the greater inclusion of the UK Disability Movement, both as organisations and individuals, within the Disability and Development Sector.  To this end, it has worked with Disability Wales and Hub Cymru Africa to start a research programme to look at how and why disabled people are not more prominent within Wales Africa activities.      

DWA has a strap-line of ‘Disabled People’s Participation Should Be Expected, Not Just Accepted’. It is concerned and disappointed to read about the debate highlighted in John Pring’s Disability News Service feature ‘Government discriminated against DPOs in awarding £29m development programme’. The 6 year programme is from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) and its purpose is to support disabled people in some of the poorest countries of the world.  However, in not encouraging UK Disabled People Organisations (DPOs) to be part of the consortium DWA believes the UK Government and the Disability and Development Sector are missing out on the skills and experiences that UK disabled people can bring to the table.  For example DWA wishes promote and demonstrate the importance of global solidarity amongst disabled people.  Disabled people around the world have a common interest in monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

DWA wishes to promote a culture, specifically here within the Wales Africa sector, the global community, and the international development movement which does not stop at saying to disabled people “you are very welcome” if they turn up.  We want people to ask, when disabled people are not present, “where are they” and how can we increase their participation?       

Paul Lindoewood


Disability in Wales and Africa

Introducing the Team: Gemma

Gemma joined DWA in 2013 as a Researcher and subsequently joined the Management Committee in 2014.  Gemma has been involved in development since the 2004 and has extensive project and programme management experience.

Gemma’s portfolio has spanned delivering mental health services for refugees and asylum seekers; education and health provision for women and children living in poverty; and holistic HIV/AIDS services. 

Gemma has also served as an organisational development advisor in Kenya for the national hospice and palliative care association.

Currently Gemma works with GSMA Mobile Money Programme, transforming the financial lives of underserved people; enabling greater financial inclusion, economic empowerment and driving economic growth in emerging markets.

Gemma holds a BA in Sociology and Development Studies from Sussex University and an MSc in Poverty Reduction with Management from SOAS, University of London.

Introducing the Team: Su

Su Njogu is a member of the DWA Management Committee. She is also the coordinator and founder of the Kenya Disability Resource (www.kenyadisabilityresource.org). Su brings to the team a wealth of experience in academic research, project management and bid writing related to different aspects of Health and Social Care, Health policy, public health and life sciences in general. Before working in disability and development she worked as a researcher in Higher Education and at an International Research Centre in Nairobi Kenya for over 25 years. She has authored, co-authored and contributed to several scientific articles and policy reports.

Her interest in disability started 30 years ago when she got a child with complex disabilities -who was born in Africa and spent his first 14 years experiencing the medical and social difficulties that most disabled people in Africa still go though today. Su is currently involved in inclusive development projects, advocacy & others and is committed to eradicating stigma.