Disability & Blindness


  • Scholarships for Poor Students
  • Provide books, resources and equipment for people, adults and children, with disabilities or visual impairment (blindness)
  • Establish Training & Education facilities
  • Raise awareness & understanding about relevant issues


The linkage between poverty and disability is strong and goes in both directions.

Poverty causes disability through malnutrition, poor health care, and dangerous living conditions.

Disability can cause poverty by preventing the full participation of disabled people in the economic and social life of their communities, especially if the proper supports and accommodations are not available. In fact, the qualitative evident suggests that disabled people are significantly poor in developing countries, and more so than non-disabled counterpart.

Disability is not easily conceptualized and it cannot be defined in any exhaustive way; it is influenced by differing cultures, social institutions, and physical environments. An individual with limited mobility could be at a great disadvantage in an agricultural subsistence farming society yet if that same person lived in a society with advanced services, supports and technology, he/she might encounter only few challenges. Disability is caused by a wide range of interacting aspects like communicable diseases, genetic factors, injuries, aging and many more. Each disability has its own range of possible causes; the list of disabilities itself is very lengthy, including physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, vision and hearing difficulties, and mental health disorders, such as depression.

To alleviate poverty, economic development programs and policies must embrace the entire population, including vulnerable groups like those with disabilities. Without integrating the disabled population, economic development efforts can not be effective since disabled people face a higher risk of poverty and poor people experience a much heightened rate of disabilities. Excluding disabled people from the development agenda would undermine meeting the overall goal of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Reported disability prevalence rates vary widely. Overall, a worldwide estimate of about a 10-12% rate of disability seems reasonable.Isaar Trust supports disabled people developing their own language, and recommends asking individuals with disabilities for his/her preference. For ease of understanding and to acknowledge multiple viewpoints on this site, both terms ‘persons with disabilities’ and ‘disabled people’ are used, which is the most common terminology in the English language. Some prefer the term ‘persons with disabilities’ to emphasize the person first and the disability as secondary, while others promote the term ‘disabled people’ to emphasize the role society has in their disability.

Disability affects hundreds of millions of families in developing countries. Currently around 10 per cent of the total world’s population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability. In most of the OECD countries, females have higher rates of disability than males.

Having a disability places you in the world’s largest minority group. As the population ages this figure is expected to increase. Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, according to the UN Development Program (UNDP). The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people have some kind of disability, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged. Statistics show a steady increase in these numbers. The reasons include:

  1. Emergence of new diseases and other causes of impairment, such as HIV/AIDS, stress and alcohol and drug abuse;
  2. Increasing life span and numbers of elderly persons, many of whom have impairments;
  3. Projected increases in the number of disabled children over the next 30 years, particularly in the developing countries, due to malnutrition, diseases, child labour and other causes;
  4. Armed conflict and violence. For every child killed in warfare, three are injured and acquire a permanent form of disability. In some countries, up to a quarter of disabilities result from injuries and violence, says WHO.

In countries with life expectancies over 70 years of age, people spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5 per cent of their life span, living with disabilities.

The two-way link between poverty and disability creates a vicious circle. Poor people are more at risk of acquiring a disability because of lack of access to good nutrition, health care, sanitation, as well as safe living and working conditions. Once this occurs, people face barriers to the education, employment, and public services that can help them escape poverty.

Studies indiates that there is evidence of the impact of visual impairment on multiple dimensions of poverty. Research shows that visual impairment affects indicators of material well-being (such as income, employment and consumption), access to and effective use of services (such as education and health), and social and psychological status (such as marriage prospects and decision-making power). These different aspects are closely interlinked, and characteristics such as gender and urban or rural location have an important effect on the disability-poverty relationship.

Studies indicate that:-


  • Poor people themselves see disability as a key cause of poverty and describe people with disabilities as among the most excluded ‘poorest of the poor’.
  • Individuals and households affected by disability are more likely to be below the poverty line, and disability increases the risk of becoming poor.


  • Disability often leads to loss of employment, change to a less rewarding occupation, or reduced productivity.
  • People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, and tend to have lower salaries.
  • Among people with disabilities, those with visual impairments are most likely to unemployed, and women are more likely to be jobless.
  • Restoring sight often enables people to resume work.
  • Disability of one household member limits employment for other relatives, particularly women, through time needed for assistance.
  • Restoration of sight can reverse this pattern and enable other family members to find work.

Material wealth

  • Average income is significantly lower for households affected by disability,and there is some suggestion that income loss is most severe in the case of visual impairment.
  • Households affected by disability face considerable additional direct costs, for example, medical expenses and assistive devices.
  • As a result of the loss of income and increased costs, households affected by disability often have lower savings and higher debts, and lower levels of land and asset ownership.
  • Households affected by disability are more likely to suffer from hunger and food insecurity.
  • People with disabilities tend to have a lower standard of housing and related amenities.


  • Children with disabilities are less likely to enter, remain in and succeed in school, and literacy levels are lower among people with disabilities.
  • Disability has a greater impact on school participation than gender, rural/urban residence, or household economic status.
  • Levels of school participation and literacy are lower among girls and women with disabilities.
  • Access to education is particularly limited for people with sensory disabilities (including visual impairment).
  • Disability can limit education indirectly, as the responsibility of assisting disabled family members often falls on school-age children.
  • Vocational training for people with disabilities does not meet demand, and may be limited to a few low-profile occupations.


  • People with disabilities encounter numerous barriers to healthcare, and access to services for rehabilitation and assistive devices is particularly limited.
  • Children and adults with visual disabilities have greater risk of accidents and higher mortality rates.
  • Intervention to reverse blindness or provide rehabilitation can lower the risk of mortality.
  • People with disabilities are at equal or increased risk of exposure to HIV and are often excluded from HIV/AIDS outreach and treatment services.

Poverty alleviation and development assistance

  • People with disabilities have more limited access to development assistance and poverty relief.
  • There is some indication that exclusion from these schemes is particularly severe for people with visual impairments.

Social wellbeing

  • People with disabilities, and their families, experience low self-esteem and social stigma, often linked to capacity to contribute to the household and community.
  • People with disabilities are often socially isolated due to community attitudes, institutional segregation and physical barriers.
  • Intervention to reverse blindness can restore social contacts.
  • People with disabilities (and their siblings) have reduced marriage prospects, with less choice of partner, higher dowries and a lower bride price, and greater risk of abandonment.
  • People with disabilities, particularly women, encounter higher rates of violence and are less able to seek assistance in the case of abuse.
  • People with disabilities have more limited decision-making power, both within and outside the household.
  • Restoration of sight can restore social authority.

Public cost

  • Blindness has a significant public cost, both directly in terms of medical and related expenses, and indirectly through missed income-earning opportunities and the long-term impact on productive potential.
  • Estimates of the cost vary, but all indicate substantial sums. For example, 5.5% of productivity may be lost at community level due to disability, and visual impairment could lead to costs of 0.5% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia by 2020.
  • Interventions to eliminate avoidable blindness are cost-effective, with one estimate of an internal rate of return of 20%.

The different aspects of poverty detailed above are closely interlinked. For example, education can affect employment prospects, income and social status. Characteristics such as gender and urban or rural location influence the impact of disability on poverty.

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