> Posted by Joshua Goldstein, Principal Director for Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion, CFI

Over the last two years, the Center for Financial Inclusion has worked to develop a series of tools and trainings (a how-to guide) for MFIs that have decided to become disability inclusive but don’t know how to do so.

Through our strategic partnership with Handicap International, Fundación Paraguaya, and the Smart Campaign, we have now completed a comprehensive toolkit. And today, we are pleased to announce that we are making these tools and trainings available to the industry in English, Spanish, and French on the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) page on the CFI website. Everything is open source and available to any MFI or other financial services provider that wishes to use the tools.

The Center made inclusion of PWD an institutional priority because at 15 percent of the global population, PWD represent a very large vulnerable minority, and are largely unbanked – no more than 0.5 percent of current MFI clients worldwide are PWD.

In its Responsible Treatment of Clients principle, the Smart Campaign emphasizes the importance of non-discrimination. As the Smart Campaign’s principles evolve, MFIs are encouraged to broaden their scope of services to minorities like PWD and promote equal opportunity to financial services.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) stipulates in Article 27 on Work and Employment that countries that have ratified the treaty must level the playing field so that persons with disabilities have an equal right to employment. The Center’s White Paper “A New Financial Access Frontier: People with Disabilities” made the case for disability inclusion, drawing on the approaches used around the world to guide implementation of the Convention. Now we present the industry with practical implementation guidelines for those institutions seeking to close the financial inclusion gap for persons with disabilities.

The problem is that while it is easy to pay lip service to these lofty principles, it is hard to know what concrete steps to take to put them into practice. Even with the best of intentions, an MFI may not know where to begin, how to allocate scarce resources in a prudent way, and what kind of timeline it needs to make real and lasting change.

So through work on the ground in Paraguay, the Center and its partners developed and tested an actionable set of tools and guidelines. These generic tools are designed to be customized to meet the needs of a particular country or region. They include: 1) sensitivity training for staff, 2) codifying nondiscrimination into a company’s mission statement, 3) how to partner with disability organizations, and 4) how to train field managers and loan officers, among other things. They were developed and tested at Fundación Paraguaya with the help of Handicap International and other partners.

How is the success of the trainings and tools ultimately measured? The answer is simple: Over time, the number of clients with disabilities increases, as the institution becomes more disability friendly. We’re striving for incremental, not overnight change. Moving from one half of one percent to 1 percent in a country like India could mean livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of people. And that would be a pretty big deal.

Image credit: © Nicolas Axelrod/ Handicap International

Have you read?

Disability Inclusivity and the Smart Campaign at Fundación Paraguaya

A Call for Disability Inclusive Development at the UN

Combatting Exclusion for Persons With Disabilities in India and Mexico