Advancing Disability Inclusive Development

At Chemonics, we have long aimed to advance disability inclusion and accessibility, and in 2023, Chemonics earned a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” from Disability:In for the third consecutive year. We recognize that the equitable participation and representation of persons with disabilities in development programming, including access to education, employment, and justice, and the advancement of disability rights leads to increased innovation and impactful programs that benefit all. We are committed to building disability-inclusive and accessible development programming around the world and supporting our global workforce and partners to deliver inclusive development outcomes in the communities where we work.

The learn byte below, created by our Disability Inclusion Technical Working Group, highlights why development practitioners should care about disability inclusion and accessibility.

About Chemonics

Founded in 1975, Chemonics is one of the world’s leading sustainable development consulting firms for one reason: our people. We are 6,000 experts in more than 100 countries around the globe, and 90% of us are working in a community we have long called home.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Showcasing a prototype prosthetic arm, developed by Cure Bionics, a 100% Tunisian-owned medical technology start-up that is developing and producing advanced bionic arms with multi-grip functionality for below elbow amputee adults and children aged 8 and above. USAID’s Tunisia Jobs, Opportunities, and Business Success (JOBS) Activity, implemented by Chemonics, provided support to the company in implementing the ISO13485 international certification related to medical devices. (Photo credit: USAID Tunisia JOBS Activity.)

Our Services

Chemonics’ Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Practice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Team, Disability Inclusion Technical Working Group; and ChemABLE (an employee resource group) work to advance disability inclusion and accessibility at a corporate level and through the implementation of our projects. The GESI Practice does this by partnering with proposal teams and supporting projects throughout the project cycle, from the work planning stages through to project closeout. DEI and ChemABLE uphold corporate commitments to building an inclusive and accessible workplace for employees with disabilities. Our Disability Inclusion Technical Working Group, made up of employees in our various corporate and project offices, builds innovative resources to assist project teams in recruiting employees with disabilities, building accessible communications approaches in training and in digital campaigns and events, collecting disability data, integrating disability inclusion and accessibility in procurement processes, and safeguarding employees and participants with disabilities. Highlights of our work include providing deaf children access to language and persons with disabilities access to employment opportunities, and bringing together development practitioners around the world to share knowledge and best practices on implementing disability-inclusive activities.

TOP: Niyifasha Sonia, a child who is deaf, practices sign language vocabulary as she interacts with an accessible digital Andika Rwanda storybook. (Photo credit: Emma-Claudine Ntirenganya, USAID Soma Umenye), BOTTOM LEFT: Maryam Abdullah, a person living with a disability, with other beneficiaries at a distribution point in Bununu Ward, Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, Bauchi State. Maryam is giving her net card to a distribution point official who will provide her with bed nets that will protect her and her family from malaria. (Photo credit: Maryam Sadiq from USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program Procurement and Supply Management project, Nigeria), BOTTOM RIGHT: The USAID North Macedonia Support Initiative co-hosted an event where the Office of the Ombudsman in North Macedonia presented on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities disability. They spoke about the latest research conducted by the team regarding the inclusion of children with disabilities in primary education, with a focus on provision of educational and personal assistants in primary schools in the Skopje region. (Photo credit: EDEN NA EDEN DOOEL SKOPJE)

Building Equal Access to Education for Deaf Children

The USAID Soma Umenye activity opened the door to deaf children’s access to language by supporting the development of a Rwandan Sign Language (RSL) Dictionary, which the Rwandan government required before it would consider making RSL an official language of Rwanda. Soma Umenye formed an RSL Dictionary Steering Committee and, through collaboration with the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD), the steering committee developed, reviewed, and validated approximately 2,000 signs. Even though Soma Umenye has ended, NCPD and RNUD have continued the effort to get RSL recognized as an official language of Rwanda.

ABOVE: Sample signs in the RSL Dictionary, a component of an accessible reader.

Providing Equal Employment Opportunities to Persons with Disabilities

The USAID Jordan Water Governance Activity’s National Water Internship Program, launched in 2023, included interns with disabilities in different aspects of water governance like accounting, soil testing, and human resources. Some interns already have university degrees but struggled to gain employment. The internship program finally gave them an equal opportunity to be employed in the water sector. Interns with disabilities worked on the construction of water facilities, finance, and accounting or human resources. They acquired new skills in communication, financial auditing, and soil testing. Project staff without disabilities received disability awareness and management training on how to address unconscious bias and create an accessible and inclusive recruitment process and work environment.

“I graduated from university eight years ago with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I never had the opportunity to find employment, whether in the public or private sectors. Either the work environment wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities, or there wasn’t enough awareness on how to interact with people with disabilities. After the internship, I’m considering specializing in the field of human resources because it’s broad and [an] enjoyable field, and so we truly start employing people with disabilities, and get the public to perceive them as active members of the society.” — Hiba AlEhewat, intern, Aqaba Water Company
“Despite my extensive experience in supervising employees, I felt nervous about supervising people with disabilities. However, after participating in the training provided by the Water Governance Activity, I gained knowledge and expertise in working with people with disabilities.” — Tamer Almasri, mentor, Water Authority of Jordan

Sharing Knowledge and Experience

Chemonics advances disability-inclusive development by bringing together a vibrant group of development practitioners around the world who have first-hand experiences living with disabilities or implementing disability-inclusive technical activities. The Disability Inclusion Technical Working Group (see Our Services for more information) provides a platform for members to exchange lessons learned and best practices. Members have created a wealth of knowledge products designed to raise awareness about underrepresented groups often excluded from development efforts, and educate development practitioners on subjects such as how to tackle the challenges of implementing disability inclusion and accessibility in technical activities and collect disability data.

In the learn byte below created by the Disability Inclusion Technical Working Group, we share seven actionable steps that development practitioners can take to include persons with disabilities in project implementation.

The resources below were also created by our Disability Inclusion Technical Working Group, and are freely available to all development practitioners:

Contact us for more information on disability-inclusive development at Chemonics: