The cycle of poverty and disability.

A trap for many.

Disability and poverty fuel each other in a brutal cycle of hardship and deprivation that is hard to escape. This is how it works:


1.  People experiencing poverty are more likely to become disabled.

People living in poverty often go hungry and have limited access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation or healthcare services. They are more likely to live in dangerous environments with low quality housing, in areas prone to natural disaster, dangerous traffic and/or higher rates of conflict. People living in poverty are also more likely to undertake high-risk work. All these conditions of poverty significantly increase someone’s chances of being disabled by malnutrition, disease or injury. 

2. People who are disabled are more likely to be poor.

Disabled people are more likely to stay trapped in poverty as they face multiple barriers to securing a livelihood and fully participating in society. Discrimination limits education, training, employment and income generation opportunities. Even in a household that may live above the poverty line, stigma can keep disabled family members in a situation of poverty if they are denied an education or to participate in decision-making. Additionally, disabled people have a higher cost of living owing to medical care and adjustment costs. Unless these extra costs are recognised in poverty line calculations the true number of disabled people living in poverty will remain invisible. 

The cycle of disability and poverty

Before joining ADD I was worried about my future. What shall I do? Will I be able work at all in my lifetime?


Kaddush a disability activist in Bangladesh

The poverty trap. A family thing.

The cost of living with a disability can increase household poverty, which means disability is not an issue limited to individuals. 

Exclusion and stigma, low incomes, and high costs of rehabilitation and care, all create a vicious circle that holds back not only individuals with impairments, but their families and children too.

Children are particularly affected as in a poor household there's a higher risk of disease and malnutrition - as such disability can trap people in poverty from one generation to the next. We often see a high concentration of disabled people within a single family. 

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5 children and their mother outside their home in rural Uganda

"Disability can trap people in poverty from one generation to the next."

Tim, ADD's Chief Executive:

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No one left behind.

Attempts to eliminate poverty will never adequately reach the people who are poorest and most marginalised until disability is mainstreamed in development work. The absence of disabled people from most mainstream development programmes has increased inequality, led to missed international targets, and is slowing economic and social progress in communities across the world. 

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Disability activists make change happen.

Right now, organisations of disability activists are working to fight discrimination and ensure every disabled person gets a fighting chance at living their best life. We partner with activists to help them access the tools, resources and support they need to build powerful movements for change. 

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Disability & Development.No one left behind.

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