While persons with disabilities (PWD) make up 15 percent of the developing world's population it is estimated that they represent only 0.5 percent of current MFI clients. While some PWDs have challenges so severe that economic participation is not feasible and ill advised, the vast majority (80-85 percent) have the capacity to utilize and benefit from financial services. This means that literally hundreds of millions of PWDs who are viable microfinance clients are unserved. Making the impact we all seek at the base of the pyramid is fundamentally impossible unless we get better at reaching and empowering this vital and talented customer segment.
The Smart Campaign has joined forces with the Persons with Disability Program of the Center for Financial Inclusion and Fundación Paraguaya to create a set of how-to trainings and tools that will help MFIs become disability friendly and inclusive. The goal of this work is connected to and aligned with Client Protection Principle #5 -- Fair and Respectful Treatment of Clients -- in particular the section that addresses the critical importance of enshrining non-discriminatory practices.
Below are all the tools and trainings in English with a brief description for each of them and translated versions where available.
A Framework for Microfinance Institutions Seeking to Close the Financial Inclusion Gap for Persons with Disabilities. This Framework was developed with guidance from leaders in both the microfinance and disability inclusion communities and is being refined and tested at Fundación Paraguaya, in conjunction with our strategic partner Handicap International. It identifies seven core areas that MFIs need to address to achieve PWD inclusion:
- Universal Design and Reasonable Accommodation
- Partnership with Disability Organizations
- Human Resources Policy, Practices
- Disability Inclusion Staff Training
- Legal Framework
- Technology-Enabled Inclusion
- Financial Capabilities
This Framework integrates all our tools and trainings described in detail below into six pragmatic and actionable implementation steps--- a real "how to" guide. We recommend that it be read first as it gives context to the other documents and provides a cogent overview of the themes explored below.
Staff Training Materials:
This series of trainings designed by the Nobel Prize-winning Handicap International in partnership with CFI and Fundación Paraguaya are designed to help microfinance organizations embed disability inclusion into their daily operations and into their strategic plans.
This comprehensive training is divided into the following categories:
Awareness. Raising awareness about disability and the rights of persons with disabilities is the first critical step in training staff to become disability friendly and inclusive. At the same time it is equally important to educate persons with disabilities about microfinance and how financial services may be beneficial to them in starting and developing micro-businesses. This training curriculum is comprised of a two-day training that allows both the microfinance and the disability sectors to initiate the necessary dialogue for collaboration, and includes PowerPoints for all sessions as well as a trainerís guide. It is designed to be used without an outside consultant.
Field Manager Training. Microfinance institutions should further train its field office managers to be more mindful and welcoming of persons with disability in their operations, to look at them as an opportunity. Institutions should educate their field managers to reach out to persons with disabilities. This packet of trainings is directed at managers instructing them about Work integration, Disability and Prejudice, Behavioral Advice for Dealing with PWDs and how to follow up with clients with disability.
Focal Persons. Focal persons are staff members designated by senior management to spearhead the integration of persons with disabilities into the MFIís work plan. They should be trained to identify persons with disabilities as future clients (and possibly staff) reach out and partner with local PWD organizations and guide loan officers and other staff in how to provide better customer service to persons with disabilities.
Human Resources. The Human Resources department of an MFI is instrumental in creating a more inclusive environment-- for both staff and clients. This begins with promulgating an institutional code of conduct that enshrines non-discrimination that becomes part of the orientation of all new staff. It is up to HR to institute disability practices from the Board level to the Guard level. HR must also take the lead in hiring qualified persons with disabilities to join the staff, as well as insuring the people with disabilities are welcomed as future clients. This series of tools advise on and promotes the achievement of an inclusive institution, free of discrimination.
Disability Inclusive Policies. In order for a disability inclusive framework to properly work, it must be embraced by the whole organization. A policy document must be developed that clearly states the MFIís commitment to not discriminate against persons with disabilities, and to seek their inclusion into the organization. This handbook details steps to creating such policies.
Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Microfinance through Organizational Learning and the Strategic Use of Low-Cost Technologies. A work by Fernando Botelho of F123 Consulting, describing how microfinance institutions can acquire low cost assistive technologies and other resources that will make it far easier to work successfully with PWDs whether as clients or staff. This document will be modified and kept up-to-date, as new technologies become available in the future.
Espacios Dignos Inspection Report. Espacios Dignos is a collaboration between a non-profit Libre Accesso AC and the Universidad Iberoamericana of Mexico, it promotes social integration of persons with disabilities in accessible urban and architectural environments. This report details an inspection of Fundacion Paraguaya to assess their accessibility for PWDs and provide recommendations. Other institutions may benefit from having their own inspection done or taking lessons from the Report done at Fundación Paraguaya.
Other Resources and Background Materials:
Fundación Paraguaya Non-Discrimination Policy. This policy can be used as a model for other institutions to emulate as they strive to implement non-discrimination policies of their own.
CFI's Josh Goldstein Address to the United Nations on Disability Inclusion, July 2013. Speech from Josh Goldstein, Principal Director for Economic Citizenship & Disability Inclusion at the CFI, to the UN's Sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities discussing how to make microfinance institutions disability-inclusive and free from discrimination, in accordance with the Smart Campaign guidelines.
Luis Fernando Sanabria, Fundación Paraguaya, Presentation to the Accion Network. Luis Fernando Sanabria, General Manager of Fundacion Paraguaya spoke before the before the Accion Network annual meeting in May 2013 and explained how FP had progressed in its disability inclusion initiative.
Staff Attitudes Survey. The first step on the road to becoming a disability inclusive MFI is understanding how staff perceive persons with disabilities. Do they harbor prejudices against them or do they underestimate their capacity to work? This survey was designed by the Center for Financial Inclusion to answer questions like this and to establish a baseline for a first sensitivity training intervention. This tool contains the text of the survey, which we encourage MFIs to adapt to their own culture and particular requirements.