Making Microfinance Accessible to Persons with Disabilities: Awareness and Attitudes Among Indian Microfinance Institutions

This research paper analyzes and presents the findings of an extensive research study that was conducted to uncover barriers hindering financial inclusion for PWD in India. The key stakeholders involved in this exercise were staff and senior management of MFIs, and disabled and non-disabled MFI clients. The research attempted to study and bring to light the thoughts, concerns, and reservations of these stakeholders on the question of onboarding PWD as microfinance clients.

In general, MFI staff demonstrated a good understanding of visible disabilities and also a good track record of interacting with persons with disabilities (even as MFI clients), but sensitization is needed to iron out the finer issues discussed above. Nearly all respondents expressed the view that their MFI was ready to have PWD as clients, either fully ready (63 percent) or ready with major to minor changes. These proposed changes include special training for field staff, special loan officers to service PWD clients, and creating cheaper loans.

The study employed both qualitative and quantitative methods to elicit information from the stakeholders and assimilated that information to deduce major knowledge and awareness gaps and attitudinal issues that exist. Based on the identified gaps and issues many strategic recommendations that targeting inclusive change have been made. The study can be regarded as a baseline benchmark of the challenges and issues microfinance institutions may face if they decide to onboard persons with disabilities as potential clients. The recommendations put forth by the study are applicable to all MFIs across India and in some cases they may be globally relevant. The findings in this document can be used as initial information to guide the process of greater financial inclusion of persons with disabilities.

 

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