Latest NCD Study Shows U.S. Foreign Aid Programs Often Leave People with Disabilities Behind

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March 8, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent, nonpartisan federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy – today released a study, U.S. Foreign Policy and Disability: Progress and Promise 2017, that reveals that the development programs of the Department of State (DOS), the Peace Corps, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Millenium Challenge Corporation often leave people with disabilities behind – despite their great potential for mainstreaming inclusion of disability and increasing the quality of life for people with disabilities in developing countries.

Approximately 800 million people with disabilities living in developing countries stand to benefit tremendously from U.S. foreign aid funded projects and programs that increase access to education, promote justice, and improve social and economic outcomes. Many of these individuals are aware of the U.S.’s longstanding commitment to inclusion of people with disabilities in its own country. Despite some progress observed, NCD’s analysis of several agencies’ policies and practices showed that efforts to date often suffer from a “silo effect” and lack sustained and coordinated engagement as well as accountability and evaluation.

“The United States invests billions of dollars each year into foreign assistance programs that foster international diplomacy and development directed toward improving the quality of life for people around the world,” said Joan Durocher, NCD’s General Counsel and Director of Policy. “The United States cannot effectively accomplish the goals of foreign assistance programs unless it undertakes measures to ensure that the programs are accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities.”

NCD’s study follows-up on its previous studies by providing a detailed and current assessment of the application of federal disability laws (both statutory and case law) to U.S. foreign aid programs. It reviewed the policies and practices of DOS, USAID, and the Peace Corps, and details the extent to which the these agencies have (1) developed policies and/or or programs to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities as recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, and (2) removed the specific barriers to access by individuals with disabilities identified in NCD’s prior foreign policy reports. The study also examined the policies and practices of the Millenium Challenge Corporation to determine whether it applies U.S. disability laws and policies to its programs overseas.

NCD’s report concludes with recommendations for each agency regarding future actions for improvement where weaknesses are identified.

The full U.S. Foreign Policy and Disability: Progress and Promise 2017 report is available for download at:

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