Disability identification, assessment, and determination in social protection systems: barriers to access and gateways to support


International Sign Language Interpretation was offered for this session.

Most countries reforming or developing social protection schemes and programs for persons with disabilities are facing significant issues with regard to disability assessments and determination.

Studies and exchanges with organizations of people with disabilities reveal how disability assessment and determination procedures are perceived as barriers. This is due to the complexity, duration, lack of accessibility of information, lack of geographic distribution of assessment points, and issues related to dignity and privacy. There are challenges for policymakers in defining disability, setting thresholds, and issues related to fraud as well as the difficulty to rely on self-identification.    

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been consistently recommending countries reform their disability assessment and determination mechanisms and adopt a human-rights based approach (away from a sole focus on impairment). Countries must ensure that the process is easily accessible for all persons with disabilities and avoid a multiplicity of procedures.

While many high-income countries have sophisticated multidisciplinary mechanisms, with sometimes significant issues related to legal claims, most low and middle-income countries do not have sufficient human resources and administrative capacities to carry out disability assessments with adequate coverage. 

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the usefulness of updated national disability registries often associated with disability cards (or equal opportunity card as in Senegal) which allow the quick provision of relief to persons with disabilities and their families, whether in cash or in-kind. This is critical for disaster preparedness. When well informed, such registries can provide critical evidence for planning and budgeting progressive development of social protection schemes and support services. Unfortunately, very few LMICs have such registries.

Many countries have been working on reforming their systems, for instance adopting processes that do not make medical assessment a prerequisite for disability determination. 

Based on those practices, recent studies, and extensive exchange with stakeholders, the webinar sought to initiate a conversation on a practical framework for disability assessment and determination in line with CRPD standards and adapted to LMICs contexts.



Alexandre Cote, UNPRDP-ILO-UNICEF Inclusive Social Protection Initiative, Considerations for cost-effective disability assessment and determination mechanisms in line with CRPD standards in LMICs

Josh Wakaniyasi, president of Fiji Federation of Persons with Disabilities, A gateway not a barrier, DPO- government collaboration for a disability assessment mechanism accessible to all

Ketevan Melikatdze, Social Welfare Officer, UNICEF Georgia, Reforming disability assessment and determination mechanism in line with the CRPD standards

Donna Koolmees, Senior Technical Advisor, USAID OKARD project Laos, Digitalization and comprehensive needs assessment in resource-constrained settings: the CBID modular tool experience


Moderator: Felicity O Brien, Social Protection Section, DFAT


Useful resources:

Waddington, L., & Priestley, M. (2020). A human rights approach to disability assessment. Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 1-15.

The 2019 Report of Development Pathways on overview of social protection for persons with disabilities in Low and Middle-Income Countries: page 64 to 74

Bickenbach; Posarac; Cieza; Kostanjsek, (2015). Assessing disability in working age population : a paradigm shift from impairment and functional limitation to the disability approach. Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.

World Bank Sourcebook on the foundations of social protection delivery systems 2020 page 107 to 109 

Mont, D., Palmer, M., Mitra, S., & Groce, N. (2019). Disability Identification Cards: Issues in Effective Design, Development, 62(1-4), 96-102.


This was the third webinar of the Disability Inclusive Social Protection Series. The series was organised by Australia DFAT in partnership with the ILO-UNICEF inclusive social protection initiative supported by the UNPRPD COVID-19 joint program.