Chapter 9. Recommendations and Future Directions

The foregoing chapters have analyzed the application of U.S. federal disability law and policy in foreign assistance. Research has explored the implications of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, especially in the context of overseas foreign assistance. The review examined the application of disability inclusion in the following realms of U.S. foreign assistance programming: (1) employment opportunities for people with disabilities; (2) access and inclusion of people with disabilities in U.S.-funded development programs; and (3) accessibility for people with disabilities to U.S.-funded construction and infrastructure projects. This chapter sets forth concrete recommendations flowing from the study and charts a strategy for the future. If followed, strategic implementation will position the United States to maintain a leadership role in disability inclusion in U.S. Government-funded overseas programs, facilities, and employment opportunities.

NCD Recommendations Directed to Congress

  • Apply Federal Disability Standards to Overseas Programs and Employment

NCD recommends that Congress instruct USAID, DOS, DOD, and other U.S. Government agencies operating overseas that Sections 501, 503, and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 apply to overseas programs and employment opportunities operated by the U.S. Government. This will ensure that Americans with disabilities working for the U.S. Government are afforded the same protections abroad as in the United States. It will also foster disability inclusion in U.S.-funded overseas development programs.

  • Ensure Respect for Domestic Disability Laws in the Implementation of Overseas Programs in Host Countries

NCD recommends that Congress instruct USAID, DOS, DOD, and other U.S. Government agencies operating overseas to promote greater comparative knowledge and understanding of local disability law and policy frameworks, including the status of CRPD ratification in countries receiving foreign assistance. Enhancing understanding of local disability law and policy frameworks can foster opportunities for Rule of Law assistance and, importantly, foster compliance with host-country requirements, particularly in countries that have ratified the CRPD.

  • Limit Accessibility Waivers and Exceptions in Infrastructure to Avoid Future Redevelopment Costs

NCD recommends that the waivers and exceptions currently outlined in the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and regulations for building temporary structures in time of emergency be narrowed. The current exceptions are overly broad and create a gaping loophole for U.S. Government agencies and their contractors. Qualifications for exceptions must be narrowed in order to promote accessible construction and to avoid future redevelopment costs in barrier removal. In addition, further clarity must be given to defining “emergency” and “temporary” pursuant to these exceptions.

  • Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

NCD recommends that the Senate, upon receipt of the ratification package, consider and expeditiously provide its advice and consent to ratification of the CRPD.

NCD Recommendations Directed to USAID, DOS, and DOD

  • Promote Employment of People with Disabilities in Overseas Offices and Programs

USAID, DOS, and DOD should promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities in missions, embassies, consular offices, and overseas programs. Americans with disabilities have the right to equal access to employment opportunities and are entitled to reasonable accommodations to perform their job duties. This should include the opportunity to work in U.S. embassies, missions, and U.S. Government-funded programs abroad. It is therefore important for U.S. Government agencies to ensure that Americans with disabilities are afforded the same protections and remedies overseas as in the United States. Further, where local nationals are utilized, local nationals with disabilities should be hired to work in U.S.-funded overseas programs and facilities.

NCD Recommendations Directed to USAID

  • Revise the USAID Disability Policy

NCD recommends that USAID review and update its 2004 Disability Policy. The current policy, drafted in 1997, is outdated and provides little to no guidance as to how USAID programs can be made inclusive across all sectors of its development portfolio. The emergence of disability-inclusive policies by numerous bilateral and multilateral donors, spurred by the adoption of the CRPD, makes such a review timely; it also offers an opportunity for USAID to emerge, once again, as a preeminent leader in disability-inclusive development. The Disability Coordinator at USAID, placed within the newly (re)established Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning, is well positioned to undertake such a review.

  • Provide Adequate Resources for the Coordinator on Disability and Inclusive Development

NCD recommends that USAID provide ample resources for the Coordinator on Disability and Inclusive Development to advance implementation of the USAID Disability Policy. USAID should provide proper staffing and finances for this work and should promote agency-wide coordination. Additionally, USAID should promote interagency coordination between this office and DOS to promote disability inclusion in all international diplomacy and development work.

  • Introduce Mandatory Training in Disability Rights and Disability Inclusion in Development

NCD recommends that USAID, DOS, and DOD implement mandatory disability rights and disability inclusion in development training sessions for employees at all missions and embassies. The findings of this report indicate that personnel around the world are unfamiliar with strategies for disability inclusion in facilities, programs, and employment opportunities. Ensuring the participation of people with disabilities, DPOs, and inclusive-development experts should be a core component of any training strategy. Currently, USAID encourages employees to take the e-learning course. Introducing mandatory training would enhance participation across USAID. In addition, disability training should relate directly to inclusion strategies across specific sectors of development (e.g., economic development, democracy and governance, humanitarian assistance, public health, education) and connect to the specific responsibilities of various personnel (e.g., cognizant technical officers, budget officers). The development of any e-training course materials should be reviewed by inclusive-development experts and periodically updated to incorporate emerging best practices.

  • Require Disability-Inclusive Guidance in Statements of Work

NCD recommends that USAID issue a policy directive for RFAs and RFPs that requires meaningful disability inclusion in solicitation statements of work. The current practice under AAPD 04-17—burying the Disability Policy in the “Special Contract Requirements” section—is unlikely to draw more than the superficial attention of applicants and offerors. Crafting statements of work to more meaningfully include a disability dimension—for example, including people with disabilities as program beneficiaries or requiring a detailed plan for inclusion in relevant programs—is far more likely to yield offeror responses. There is a ready model for this type of approach in gender statements in statements of work.[1]

  • Incorporate Disability Inclusion in Technical Evaluation Criteria in USAID Solicitations

NCD recommends that, in order to foster meaningful disability inclusion in program design at the proposal stage, technical evaluation criteria must specify disability inclusion and must include a point allocation. Such an approach will compel applicants and offerors to emphasize their technical approach to disability inclusion and implementation of the disability policy. Disability inclusion in the technical evaluation criteria currently serve as the standard against which technical approaches are evaluated and indicate to applicants and offerors issues of significance for USAID. This could be accomplished in various ways, for example, through a disability-specific criterion of inclusion or as a component of the technical approach criteria. Consideration could also be given to the formulation of disability-specific criteria under the monitoring and evaluation criteria, for instance, by specifying disaggregation on the basis of disability in criteria concerning the clear definition of targets and relevant target populations.

  • Develop Disability Indicators and Strengthen Monitoring of Inclusion

NCD recommends that USAID require applicants and offerors to develop and outline disability indicators for use in performance monitoring plans. Given the commitment to strengthening USAID’s monitoring and evaluation, as underscored in the QDDR, such an approach seems timely and readily achievable.

  • Provide Specifications for Costing Reasonable Accommodations

NCD recommends that USAID provide specific instructions for applicants and offerors in the preparation of the cost proposal in all USAID solicitations for costing of reasonable accommodations and modifications for people with disabilities. A line item in the cost proposal for proper costing of reasonable accommodations should be specified in these instructions and in accompanying charts.

  • Strengthen the Capacity of DPOs

NCD recommends that USAID fund capacity building for DPOs as a part of its civil society strengthening program within the Democracy and Governance Sector. Consistent with USAID’s work to mobilize constituencies for reform through CSO development, USAID should redouble its efforts to provide funding to DPOs to build their capacity to undertake disability law and policy reform, collaborate with partner organizations, manage funds, research funding opportunities, and draft proposals, among other skills that are essential to sustain inclusive development programs. Such results can be achieved through programming that targets DPO capacity building and as a component of larger-scale CSO capacity building.

NCD Recommendations Directed to DOS

  • Issue Policy Statement on Rehabilitation Act Compliance

NCD recommends that DOS issue an official policy statement on compliance requirements for Sections 501, 503, and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. DOS must make it clear to all federal employees that Sections 501, 503, and 504 apply to all U.S. programs, facilities, and employment opportunities overseas.

  • Provide Adequate Resources for the Office of the Special Advisor on International Disability Rights

NCD recommends that DOS provide ample resources for the Special Advisor on International Disability Rights to effectively promote disability inclusion across all DOS work. To this end, DOS should provide proper staffing and finances for this office and should promote agency-wide coordination. The office is situated in the DRL bureau and DOS should advance the work of this office across all DOS bureaus. Additionally, DOS should promote interagency coordination between this office and USAID to promote disability inclusion in all international diplomacy and development work.

  • Improve Embassy Accessibility

NCD recommends that all embassies, consular offices, and missions be made accessible to people with disabilities. Entranceways, meeting rooms, bathrooms, and other areas must be accessible. Further, information and materials must be accessible and available to people with disabilities. This includes visa applications, websites, and informational pamphlets and brochures, among other materials distributed to the public by embassies, consular offices, and missions. Embassies, consular offices, and missions should provide sign language interpreters, readers, or other services as requested by people with disabilities who visit these facilities.

  • Deepen Disability Rights Coverage in Country Human Rights Reports

NCD recommends that DOS strengthen its disability rights coverage in its Human Rights Reports. Human Rights Officers should be encouraged to consult with local DPOs when drafting Country Reports within its Human Rights Reports. Facilitating the participation of DPOs in information gathering for the Country Reports on human rights will add depth and breadth to the content of the reports and help ensure coverage of the human rights situation of people with disabilities.

  • Enhance Access to Information on Cultural Exchange Programs

NCD recommends that DOS support trainings for staff of cultural exchange programs on the inclusion of people with disabilities and consider adopting specific disability inclusive mission statements or policies that encourage qualified people with disabilities to apply. NCD further recommends that DOS undertake measures to ensure that all information on programs is in accessible alternative formats (website materials, print, and in person) and that accessible housing options are available for participants with disabilities, along with individualized accommodations.

NCD Recommendations Directed to DOD

  • Limit Accessibility Waivers and Exceptions in Infrastructure to Avoid Future Redevelopment Costs

NCD recommends that DOD limit the number of waivers and exceptions permitted under its newly adopted ABA Accessibility Standards for DOD Facilities. Waivers and exceptions have been used throughout the world to build inaccessible infrastructure that later must be retrofitted to provide accessibility at a very high cost to American taxpayers. DOD should closely review waivers and exceptions prior to authorizing them to ensure they are used only in narrowly defined circumstances and only where necessary.

  • Provide Clear Accessibility Guidelines for New Infrastructure in Developing Countries

NCD recommends that DOD provide clear guidance to contractors on the application of the ABA Accessibility Standards in developing countries. At present, the standards state they apply “worldwide,” but there is a gap in the standards that allows for contractors to apply for waivers or argue for an exception in developing countries. These standards must clearly indicate that DOD infrastructure projects in developing countries are subject to the same provisions as other DOD infrastructure projects.


[1] USAID Sudan, Strengthening Governance Project (GOSS GOV Project), December 3, 2010, Draft Solicitation 650-11-002.

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