A New Financial Access Frontier: Persons with Disabilities

> Posted by Michelle Romeu
In her latest Huffington Post blog, Elisabeth Rhyne explores the ways in which financial inclusion could be brought to a new demographic: persons with disabilities.

Can a person with a disability living in a developing country become the valued client of a financial institution? According to Harvard Law professor Michael Stein, 650 million people around the world, nearly 10 percent of humanity, have a disability, and over 80 percent of these people live in developing countries. Yet, in research studies, fewer than 1 percent of the clients of microfinance institutions, dedicated to serving the world’s financially excluded people, were found to be persons with disabilities. One of the last great human rights struggles is only now starting to penetrate the world of low-income finance.

But how best to make progress in disability inclusion?

In June, the Center for Financial Inclusion at ACCION, in conjunction with the Disability and Development team of the World Bank, brought disability activists together with leaders from microfinance in a roundtable entitled, “A New Financial Access Frontier: People with Disabilities” to begin a dialogue. Disability activists and microfinance professionals are two tightly knit communities with their own vocabularies and their own ways of seeing the world so it is not surprising that at times heated debate preceded agreement on clear objectives.