Incorporating Disability into the International Development Curriculum: Exploring Students’ Exposure to Disability in International Development Studies


As a result of physical and social barriers, people with disabilities have experienced and continue to experience disenfranchisement, extreme poverty and discrimination worldwide. Despite declarations and standards introduced by the UN, USAID and the World Bank, evidence suggests that the issue of disability remains a low priority for many international development organizations. The following study was designed to examine the origins of this gap in development policy and practice.

The purpose of the study is to explore how students who are preparing to enter the field of international development are exposed to the issue of disability in their academic curriculum. Three methods of data collection were employed in the study: content analysis of syllabi, interviews with professors and a questionnaire circulated among recent graduates of masters programs in the field of international development. Findings indicated that, although disability was addressed tangentially in some courses there is very little in-depth exposure to the issue of disability outside of a health-related context in the majority of international development programs surveyed. Very few professors formally incorporate the issue of disability into their courses in a significant and purposeful manner.

Results of the study indicate the need to incorporate disability into the international development curriculum in a consistent and practical manner; to increase the number of people with disabilities entering the field of international development, both as practitioners and academicians; to establish funded research in the area of disability and development; and to provide technical assistance to international development organizations on how to include people with disabilities in their organizations and programs.


Education | Sociology

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