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Review Article

Disability and poverty – Reflections on research experiences in Africa and beyond

Arne H. Eide, Benedicte Ingstad
African Journal of Disability | Vol 2, No 1 | a31 | DOI: | © 2013 Arne H. Eide, Benedicte Ingstad | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 April 2012 | Published: 13 August 2013

About the author(s)

Arne H. Eide, SINTEF Technology and Society, Oslo, Norway
Benedicte Ingstad, Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway


Background: Whilst broadly agreed in the literature that disability and poverty are closely interlinked, the empirical basis for this knowledge is relatively weak.

Objectives: To describe and discuss the current state of knowledge and to suggest the need for further generation of knowledge on disability and poverty.

Method: Two recent attempts at statistically analysing the situation for disabled people and a series of qualitative studies on disability and poverty are applied in a discussion on the state of current knowledge.

Results: Firstly, the surveys confirm substantial gaps in access to services, and a systematic pattern of lower levels of living amongst individuals with disability as compared to non-disabled. Existing surveys are however not originally set up to study the disability – poverty relationship and thus have some important limitations. Secondly, the qualitative studies have shown the relevance of cultural, political and structural phenomena in relation to poverty and disability, but also the complexity and the contextual character of these forces that may sometimes provide or create opportunities either at the individual or the collective level. Whilst not establishing evidence as such, the qualitative studies contribute to illustrating some of the mechanisms that bring individuals with disability into poverty and keep them there.

Conclusions: A longitudinal design including both quantitative and qualitative methods and based on the current conceptual understanding of both disability and poverty is suggested to pursue further knowledge generation on the relationship between disability and poverty.


disability knowledge; analysis; access to services


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