Cover graphic for the HPN Network Paper Addressing the disability data gap in humanitarian action Cover graphic for the HPN Network Paper Addressing the disability data gap in humanitarian action Photo credit:

Addressing the disability data gap in humanitarian action

by Sarah CollinsonOctober 2020

The past five years have been pivotal for advancing disability inclusion in the humanitarian sector. While the raft of new global declarations, standards and guidelines have brought global attention to this issue, work on the ground has been led by disability organisations to address gaps in practice. One of the weakest links in current practice, however, remains a lack of data about people with disabilities. Most humanitarian actors lack even the most basic information about numbers and needs of people with disabilities and the threats and barriers they face in accessing services; they are also unsure how best to go about collecting and using this data.

This Network Paper explores the challenge of improving the collection, analysis and use of disability data to support more inclusive, impartial and accountable humanitarian action. It considers both the obstacles in this area and the potential opportunities for improving practice going forward. The paper draws directly on the experience and outcomes of a recent UK Aid-funded multi-partner action research project led by Humanity & Inclusion which explored how the use of the internationally validated Washington Group Questions on Disability can support the collection of more reliable and comparable quantitative data on persons with disabilities in humanitarian settings.

Based on a broader desk review of practice-based reports and case studies, this paper also draws on a further range of methods and approaches that have been taken to collect, analyse and use data and information to support inclusion of people with disabilities across different stages of the humanitarian programming cycle, focusing particularly on instances where qualitative information is used in combination with quantitative data. The paper looks at the collection and use of data on the accessibility and inclusiveness of humanitarian programmes, as well as data on the number, needs and capacities of persons with disabilities.