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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?”

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.

UK Disability History

UK Disability History – Leadership, Resistance and Culture

[embeddoc url=”http://www.dwanetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/UKDHM-2019-Broadsheet-final-A4-1.pdf” download=”all”]

If you are having trouble reading the article, you can read it directly from the UKDHM website here: https://ukdhm.org/v3/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/UKDHM-2019-Broadsheet-final-A4-1.pdf

UK Disability History Month takes place on:
Monday 18th November 2019
6 pm for 6.15 – 8.30

Website:  www.ukdhm.org

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

A Brief History of Disability in Wales and Africa

On December 2nd 2010 a group of interested people met in the Jasmine Centre, Ely in Cardiff, to look at how disability issues could be better included within the activities of the Wales Africa sector.  Over the next year, a fluctuating group of people met under the auspices of Diverse Cymru, to discuss the development of DWA (Disability in Wales and Africa).  In January 2012, a Steering Group was formed and this later became a Management Committee.  DWA is an unincorporated association and is currently looking into becoming a charity. 

DWA does not have any direct African partners but, rather, works with and through organisations that do.  It seeks to influence, primarily, Welsh organisations who have African partners, encouraging them to adopt disability-inclusive approaches in their work. As such DWA aims to position itself as “core” to the Wales Africa sector, developing better understanding of the need to include disabled people and their families within the development process.  In 2014 DWA received a Training Award from the Wales for Africa Office.  Its Coordinator was also recognised for his work regarding Inclusion.

 In 2015 DWA invited organisations to share their logo on its website in response to a declaration that the then forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should ‘Leave No One Behind’.  More recently, partly due to the increasing general awareness of disability as a major development issue, DWA’s focus has shifted from the broader concept of disability inclusion, specifically, to the involvement of disabled people and their organisations.   This is summed up through the statement ‘Disabled people say “Nothing About Us Without Us”’.

Training, information and the promotion of good practice have always been important within the work of DWA.  It regularly contributes to the Wales for Africa Health Links Conference, as well as to the International Development Summit.  In the past, DWA also contributed to Wales Africa Community Links activities.  It has produced newsletters and written articles as part of this agenda.  Additionally, DWA has played a role in assisting and encouraging new and old Wales Africa Links that have a disability focus, to establish and develop.   


In 2013 DWA launched a campaign known as Getting Disabled Children to School.  This culminated at the end of September that year with a sponsored bike ride around Lake Vyrnwy, supported by 4 Links, which raised approximately £1,000 to help disabled children in Africa to attend school.  The event was also visited by Mark Williams, MP for Ceredigion and then co-chair of the Cross-party Parliamentary Committee for Global Education.

To celebrate the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UNIDPD), on December 3rd 2013, DWA hosted a photographic display in the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay.  This illustrated life for disabled people in both Wales and Kenya and was sponsored by Rebecca Evans AM.  The UNIDPD is held on this date annually across the world and is always prominent in the DWA calendar.  It illustrates the international solidarity of disabled people that the organisation seeks to promote.

In 2013/14 DWA conducted a Survey of the Wales Africa sector regarding the inclusion of disability within its activities.  Several issues were highlighted and one of particular note was the identification that, if disabled people are involved at the Welsh end of a Link, there is more likely to be engagement with disability issues in Africa.  This was followed, towards the end of 2014, by a piece of research looking at how disability work had increased within the sector since 2010.  Reports are available upon request.

In 2014/15 DWA supported a Welsh based research programme, looking into the benefits and usage of Appropriate Paper-based Technology (APT) devices for disabled children.  This method uses cardboard, newspaper, and other local and readily available materials in the making of, for example, standing frames and seats for children with cerebral palsy and similar conditions.  DWA’s contribution to this programme was to bring together five Kenyan communities, all of whom had links with Wales, to, firstly join a three day Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) workshop (October 2014), followed by a 2 week training in APT (February/March 2015).  DWA was also involved in a follow up visit to establish how the communities had managed to use their new skills (March/April 2016).  Although the technique has been used for twenty years, or more, in various parts of the world, particularly Africa, to develop devices to assist disabled children, there has not  previously been research as to how effective it is both therapeutically and socially. 

One of the most notable DWA projects was towards the end of 2015 when, through one of its Welsh partners, Health Help International,  it was able to host an African disability activist, Jonah Sialumano from Zambia.  This visit to Wales fulfilled many purposes, as DWA enabled Jonah to visit a variety of Welsh linking organisations as well as members of the Welsh Disability Movement.  The visit culminated in a very successful 3rd December UNIDPD event, which included a presentation by Rhian Davies, Chief Executive Officer of Disability Wales,  at the Ty Hywel building, Cardiff Bay.  This was hosted by John Griffiths AM.  These activities helped to raise the profile of disabled people in Africa and the need for their inclusion in the development process, as well as to forge stronger links with the Welsh Disability Movement.

There is a real sense in which the inclusion of disabled people within the Sector starts as much in Wales as it does in Africa.  This is exemplified by an ongoing initiative to promote disabled people’s involvement within the Welsh side of Wales Africa Links.  The logic of this follows DWA’s earlier research identifying that greater participation by disabled people in Wales will promote more disability engagement in Africa.  Another initiative that DWA started to explore during 2016 is that of disabled people in both Wales and Africa sharing their stories.  Furthermore, the DWA Coordinator’s participation in the Cardiff Half Marathon, bearing the message ‘Disabled people say “Nothing About Us Without Us”’ in Welsh, English and 4 African languages (October 2016) was, in part, about raising awareness of the connectivity between disabled people in both Wales and Africa.    

From May 2016 to May 2017 DWA has supported the Brecon Molo Community Partnership (BMCP) to manage a programme known as Community Health Support for Disabled Children.  This programme was funded by the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET).  It used Training the Trainer methodology to transfer information from Powys Local Teaching Health Board Volunteers to Community Health Volunteers in Molo.  The aim was to enable the latter to identify and signpost disabled children, and their families, to get the services and support they need.    

During 2017, DWA developed a disability inclusive development training day alongside Hub Cymru Africa (HCA), Disability Wales and the Disability Information and Support Network.  It has also played an advisory role to HCA, Pont Mbale and Bees for Development as they have put together an application to the Big Lottery.  An important aspect of this consultation role has been to encourage direct contact with disabled people and their organisations in Mbale. 

Fundamental to the DWA message is that disability is a global issue. After you have stripped away the economic and social contexts in which respective disabled people live, the problems they face are remarkably similar.  The development process, with regards the inclusion of disabled people, needs to take place in Wales as well as Africa.  This is highlighted in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the SDGs.  The obligations under the UNCRPD apply both to the Welsh Government, through the UK’s signature and ratification, and to those African countries which have taken the same actions.  The SDGs take a universal approach to international development with many goals, targets and indicators applying to both the Global North and the Global South.  DWA hopes that, whilst it seeks to focus its impact on Africa, disabled communities in both Wales and Africa will benefit from its work. 

DWA plans to continue its focus on training, information and advisory work.  The slogan ‘Disabled people say “Nothing About Us Without Us”’ will continue to underpin our values, encouraging the engagement of disabled people in international development, particularly within Wales and Africa.  DWA promotes greater solidarity between Welsh and African disabled people, and their organisations, and their active inclusion in all walks of life.  It also promotes south to south linking between disabled people of Africa. 

When DWA first started, disability was a comparatively little-addressed subject within the Wales Africa sector.   Several years later, with the SDGs building on the foundations laid by the UNCRPD, and with the higher profile promoted by HCA of inclusion, disability is now recognised as an area that warrants far greater attention.  The Welsh Government recognises the importance of the SDGs in developing and progressing the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015.  DWA, with its focus on disabled people and their organisations, is in a prime position to support the Wales Africa sector in developing its disability inclusion agenda and looks forward to the opportunity to play a more central role.