Chapter 2. Research Methodology

In the development of a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge, attitudes, and practices toward people with disabilities in U.S.-funded overseas facilities, programs, and employment opportunities, the study was designed to elicit information from a range of stakeholders who work in the field of international development. The research methodology included key informant interviews, focus groups, in-country assessments, and extensive desk-based document review. The research design also included a legal analysis of the extraterritorial application of U.S. federal disability laws and the implications of the CRPD for U.S. foreign assistance programs. While the research was focused on compiling information on whether and how U.S. Government agencies ensure accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in foreign assistance, it does not attempt to provide a comprehensive review of the multitude of U.S. Government-funded foreign assistance efforts. The three primary U.S. Government agencies that were reviewed for the purposes of this report were USAID, DOS, and DOD. The scope of research had slight variations for each agency in an effort to review the broad array of U.S.-Government funded foreign assistance work and develop concrete recommendations that are applicable to all U.S. Government agencies working overseas.

In the early stages of research, 20 countries[1] were selected for in-country assessments of U.S.-Government funded facilities, programs, and employment practices. The following criteria were used in the selection in order to achieve a diverse group of countries representative of where the United States currently invests in foreign assistance programming: (1) geographic diversity; (2) diversity in development programming; (3) the amount of U.S. Government foreign assistance funding; and (4) strength of local DPOs. While a limited number of countries were selected for the in-country reviews, the more general, sector-specific analyses included desk-based document review. Other research into many additional countries was conducted with the intention of generating as broad an overview as possible of current policy and practice.

Local disability rights advocates (local advocates) conducted in-country assessments in 14 of the 20 countries studied. The local advocates visited U.S. embassies and USAID missions, where they conducted interviews and accessibility assessments.[2] The interview questions were semistructured and geared toward learning whether and how people with disabilities are included in development programs, as well as gaining a sense of USAID and DOS employee knowledge about disability issues. There were separate questions for embassy and mission personnel. Furthermore, local advocates conducted brief assessments of embassy premises to determine how accessible they were to people with various types of disabilities. Accessibility assessments included coverage of, among other things, the accessibility of entrances, hallways, and bathrooms; the availability of sign language interpreters; and whether information and materials were provided or available in accessible formats.[3]

In addition to in-country research, a series of interviews, meetings, and focus groups were conducted in Washington, DC, to elicit additional information about disability inclusion and accessibility in the foreign development projects and policies implemented by the three agencies reviewed in this study.

This study examined four major sectors of international development funded by the U.S. Government: (1) humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; (2) democracy and governance; (3) economic growth; and (4) cultural exchange programs. In-country interviews of USAID personnel were specifically geared toward democracy and governance programming. The other sectors were reviewed through extensive desk-based research,[4] interviews with agency personnel in Washington, DC, and government contractors, and a roundtable event with inclusive development program implementers.


[1] Annex 1 lists the selected countries. Of the 20 selected countries, in-country interviews and assessments were undertaken in 14. Desk-based research and focus group conference calls were conducted for the remaining six.

[2] Note that it was difficult in some cases to set up interviews in-country. This in itself may be a reflection of the low priority given to disability issues and the fact that many staff felt a lack of expertise in this area. For example, the local advocate in Serbia noted:

The USAID contacts were identified quite quickly with the assistance/engagement of our initial contact, executive officer. USAID staff seemed very willing to cooperate and they even facilitated meetings with their partner civil society organizations. There were some problems with availability of the director of democracy and government program, but we managed to get an interview with him even though it took more than one month to schedule a meeting (because of his frequent travels outside of the country). Both identifying and arranging interviews with the U.S. embassy officials was far more complicated. The highest ranked officials were highly nonresponsive. It took us several email inquiries to deputy chief of mission to learn that she was leaving the mission at the time, but in three weeks of trying to establish correspondence with her (while copying her colleague who referred us to her in the first place) we never received this information.

-Lea Simokovic, Program Associate, Serbia Office, DRI.

[3] For the question set, see Annex 2. Note that only basic accessibility issues were examined. While the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were considered in developing the question set, the full checklist was not used.

[4] The extensive desk-based research included (1) programmatic review of USAID mission facilities and U.S. embassy websites for the 20 selected countries; (2) review of various DOD websites, with a particular emphasis on construction of infrastructure; (3) review of reports provided by USAID, DOS, and DOD personnel; and (4) review of USAID solicitations to determine compliance with the USAID Disability Policy and directives.

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