Disability inclusion in market systems development

Literature review

Published by
Adam Smith International

The concept of disability inclusion is still new to most MSD programmes and practitioners, including ÉLAN RDC, and considered by some a task not well suited to market system programming because of the presumed small market share and additional costs of serving this segment.

This is the first in a series of three papers aiming to increase understanding and applicability of disability inclusion in MSD and disseminate practical tools, frameworks and guidance.

It summarises the modest body of existing literature and examples of social and or disability inclusion in MSD and identifies key insights for practitioners interested in disability inclusion. 

Key insights:

  • Disability is not a question of yes or no, but rather should be viewed on a spectrum ranging from more to less.
  • Promising inclusion approaches helped individuals take advantage of existing opportunities and in parallel sought to create better opportunities and more inclusive markets by addressing the underlying barriers such as power imbalances, adverse social norms, and lack of enabling regulation.
  • Inclusive models require flexibility and a willingness by businesses (and practitioners) to accept some trade-offs between profit  maximisation and poverty reduction.
  • Universal Design is about reaching out to the large pieces of the market by making the product more relevant to them.
  • It is important to recognise how neglected market segments like people with disabilities are already active market actors in economic sectors, because they are often in hidden or less visible roles, and they can contribute significantly to the sector vision the programme wants to achieve.