Financial Inclusion for Persons with Disabilities

Building a strong business case for providing non-subsidized financial services to persons with disabilities


Over one billion people, about 15 percent of the world’s population, have some form of disability according to the World Health Organization. Over 80 percent of these people live in developing countries. Yet, according to a 2005 study by Handicap International, fewer than 1 percent of the clients of microfinance institutions, dedicated to serving the world’s financially excluded people, were persons with disabilities (PWDs). A vision of full financial inclusion challenges the financial services industry to address the financial needs of the world’s poor who have disabilities. A great human rights struggle is starting to penetrate the world of low-income finance.

The Center for Financial Inclusion aims for persons with disabilities to enjoy equal and fair access to quality financial products and services. The moral and legal case for taking action are already well established. The Center believes that progress can be made without providing specialized products or services. A study by Handicap International in 2005, suggests that much of the participation in financial services by PWDs is subsidized. The goal of the Center is to build a strong business case for providing non-subsidized financial services to persons with disabilities.

In 2010, the CFI launched this program with a concept note, “New Financial Access Frontier: People with Disabilities” and a roundtable hosted by the World Bank. The Center is building a body of “how to” knowledge that can be disseminated to financial service providers and networks around the world through advocacy and trainings. Ongoing activities at the Center include:

  • A disability inclusion demonstration project with the microfinance institution Fundación Paraguaya
  • Advocacy via the Center’s blog, newsletter, messaging outlets, conferences, and engagement with key decision-makers
  • Collaboration with the Smart Campaign to develop practices and tools to implement the newly proposed client protection principle on non-discrimination

Case Study:

Vindhya: A Business with a Social Mission

While persons with disabilities 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.

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