The World Bank and the World Health Organization estimate that people with disabilities represent approximately 15% of the global population, or about 1 billion people.¹ Of this population, 80% live in developing countries and 20% live in extreme poverty.² People with disabilities are over represented among the people living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 per day.³


Disabilities can exacerbate poverty by increasing the costs incurred by a household for care and treatment, and negatively impacting earnings if the person with a disability is dependent on others for day-to-day support. In turn, living in poverty can increase the likelihood of disability due to hazardous living and working conditions, inadequate access to treatment, and malnutrition, especially in childhood. However, people with disabilities are underrepresented in development programs, and for this reason face incredible barriers in accessing employment, education, health care, social protection, and the skills needed to perform in labor markets.4 For financial services, the situation is particularly dire: it is estimated that less than 1% of the poor served by microfinance organizations are people with disabilities.5


Families that include a member with a disability face enormous economic challenges as access to affordable services, support and education can be beyond reach. Often, looking after a family member with a disability can require the time and support of someone who otherwise would be earning. Furthermore, people with disabilities often face stigma and are socially isolated within their communities, thus compounding the challenges of living in poverty.


of the global population is affected by a disability.6


of people with disabilities live in extreme poverty worldwide.7


Less than 1% of microfinance clients are persons with disabilities.8

Our Work with People with Disabilities

We’re proud of our commitment to include people with disabilities in our work. We work directly with people with disabilities themselves, who pursue livelihood activities with Trickle Up support, and women who support a family member with a disability. Our work with people with disabilities began with a collaboration with Mobility International USA, and our experience has grown with strong support from USAID. We built a strong alliance with CBM, a disability-focused international organization, to explore integrating a strong livelihood component to their Community-Based Rehabilitation projects through the Graduation Approach.


We work with community development organizations and municipal governments to build their capacity to include people with disabilities in their programs. We also partner with Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) to leverage their expertise and, where appropriate, build their capacity to implement livelihood programs. We actively seek opportunities to increase our outreach to people with disabilities and to partner with organizations that share our commitment. To share our learning about disability inclusion globally, we developed Disability, Poverty, and Livelihoods: Guidance from Trickle Up in English and Spanish.


Our commitment to inclusion enabled us to receive the Disability Inclusion Award from InterAction, a network of US-based poverty organizations, in 2009 and again in 2014, making Trickle Up the first organization to win the award and the only organization to be honored twice.

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