Disability Inclusive Community development

Led by Dr Michelle Villeneuve, Senior Lecturer, Occupational Therapy

How important is research into disability in the developing world?

More than 1 billion people worldwide are living with disabilities. This number is growing with the increase in chronic health conditions particularly non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and population ageing in all countries, whether they are high, middle or low income nations.

“Disability is more common among women, older people and households that are poor. Lower income countries have a higher prevalence of disability than higher income countries”
(Factsheet: main messages and recommendations. World report on disability, 2011. World Health Organisation and World Bank, Geneva.).

The World report on disability found that disability is very diverse, affecting children and adults over the course of their lives. It found patterns of disability in a particular country are affected by trends in health conditions and in environmental and other factors, such as road traffic accidents, natural disasters, conflict, diet and substance abuse. More than half the world's population, and more than half the people in the world living with disabilities, live in our region, the Asia Pacific.

We need to know more about how people with disabilities are faring in countries in our region, many of which are experiencing environmental problems and the rapid rise of NCDs. The Centre is committed to the social and economic participation of people with disabilities, and to their health and wellbeing over the course of their lives. We will work with our research colleagues and partners in the countries in our region and internationally to develop and trial models of support for and participation by people with disabilities.

This stream will focus on two areas:

  1. We will develop ways of understanding the living situations of people with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific region. This will encompass statistical knowledge and lived experience
  2. We will do research that develops, trials and evaluates models of support for and participation by people with disabilities. Our findings will be readily accessible and translated into guidance and evidence-based policy for countries in the region.

Understanding the living situations

We will build on the work carried out under the Disability and Disadvantage stream to develop evidence-based knowledge about the lived experience of people with disabilities in the countries in our region. We will do this in partnership with in-country developing researchers.

We are working on three specific projects.

  • Building capacity in disability rights-based policy in the region, in line with the Resolution of the 68th Session of the Economic and Social Commission of the Pacific (17-23 May 2012) for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022
  • Developing an approach to gather evidence on, and understand the outcomes for, people with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) who do and do not have access to services. Prevention remains the focus of policy and practice on NCDs. We aim to broaden this with evidence about the consequences for NCDs in disabling conditions and co-morbidity.
  • Building capacity in disability-inclusive development research in the region. We have published a report on this topic. View relevant publications


We need to develop robust models that ensure support for, and participation of, people with disabilities in their societies. In our research with colleagues in countries in the region we are aiming to develop and test models for guidance and policy development:

  • With colleagues in Lao PDR, Vietnam and the Philippines we have developed a system to monitor community based rehabilitation (CBR). This allows us to bring together findings from more than one CBR project, so we can build up evidence on the effectiveness of this strategy.
  • We will determine the specific benefits of Institutional Based Rehabilitation (IBR) and Community Based Rehabilitation and the appropriate structures and systems, to ensure seamless service delivery for people with disabilities.
  • With colleagues in business studies we are exploring entrepreneurship opportunities for women with disabilities in the region.
  • With colleagues in Indonesia we are identifying the most effective models for including people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction programs.

Earthquake in Japan 2011

Click on the embedded link below to view an example of the impact of disasters on people with disabilities.

This video is the trailer of a documentary showcasing the issue of persons with disabilities facing disasters, and specifically the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami and following nuclear accident. Through interviews, it includes a call to create a society where people with and without disabilities can live safer together.

Source: The Nippon Foundation

Publications and Enquiries

For publications and other information about Dr Michelle Villeneuve, please see the academic profile here

Dr Villeneuve also welcomes enquiries to her e-mail address michelle.villeneuve@sydney.edu.au