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U.S. Foreign Policy and Disability: Progress and Promise 2017

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Photo depicts concrete brick façade in front of gray windowed government building. The words “Embassy United State of America” is imprinted in raised brass lettering on the concrete brick wall in front of the building.

March 8, 2018

SUMMARY: This report provides a current assessment of the application of federal disability laws in U.S. foreign aid programs administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Corps. The report details the extent to which these agencies have developed new planning or programs to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities and removed the barriers to access to people with disabilities identified in NCD's prior reports. It also examines the policies and practices of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. NCD's study found that despite the potential for mainstreamed inclusion of disability in development programs, people with disabilities are still too often left behind in U.S. foreign aid programs. Across the agencies examined, NCD found:
  • Nonexistent or outdated formal disability policies;
  • Significant underrepresentation of employees with disabilities; 
  • Unclear recruitment and retention policies and supports for employees with disabilities;
  • Inadequate human and fiscal resources dedicated to the institutionalization of system-wide inclusion; 
  • Absence of accountability due to inadequate monitoring of the number of people with disabilities included in foreign aid programs from design to implementation and evaluation; 
  • Unclear public information related to disability access and inclusion on agency webpages;
  • Inconsistent physical accessibility to structures and programs overseas; and
  • Disparate implementation of international standards
The report concludes with recommendations aimed at strengthening the inclusion and accessibility of U.S. foreign aid programs.
SCOPE: This report follows-up NCD's previous foreign policy 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 reviews 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. It examines the effectiveness of the policies and/or programs made/implemented by these agencies as a result of NCD's prior recommendations. The report also examines the policies and practices of the Millenium Challenge Corporation to determine whether it applies U.S. disability laws and policies to its programs overseas. It concludes with recommendations for actions for improvement where weaknesses are identified.