According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Report on Disability, both social and economic costs are tied to the absence of persons with disability (PWD) in the workforce, even if such costs are difficult to quantify. Frequently, PWD and their families “incur additional costs to achieve a standard of living equivalent to that of non-disabled people,” reports the WHO. This spending covers anything from health care services to personal assistants to alternative modes of transportation. At the state level, an absence of PWD in the workforce also means lost tax revenue.
UCP Wheels for Humanity (UCPWFH) seeks to enable PWD to live independent, financially stable and fulfilled lives. Through its empowerment initiatives, UCPWFH links PWD to knowledge and skills building resources while establishing community support to further create opportunities.
One way UCPWFH’s Ukraine office promotes economic empowerment is through its Training, Economic Empowerment, Assistive Technology and Medical/Rehabilitation Services (TEAM) project. With USAID funding, UCPWFH, together with Ukraine’s National Assembly of PWD (NAPD), conducts professional/vocational trainings, employer sensitization trainings, and small business trainings. Participants of the latter are eligible for application to the NAPD’s mini-grant competition whereby winners receive funds to start their own businesses. By combining business and vocational training with access to seed capital our participants follow a step-wise approach to self-help.
During the fall quarter, applicants submitted proposals to the NAPD for a range of business ideas, from floristry to motor vehicle repair to beautician services to consulting. This low-cost, high-impact seed capital (ranging from $350 to $1,000 USD per award) is important considering that PWD often face discriminatory lending practices because they are unfairly viewed as high risk, according to the WHO’s World Report on Disability.
The competition is timely given the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. According to the European Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, 4.4 million people have been affected, of which 3.8 million need humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, as of 2016, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that the total displacement by conflict and violence now exceeds 1.7 million.
The mini-grant competition provides a unique financial opportunity for PWD directly affected.
Recent success stories include the grantee who started a family-run bakery from his home, the internally displaced person (IDP) who became a nail technician, and a double amputee/IDP that opened a service center and repair workshop for smartphones, tablets, computers and other household appliances. In these scenarios and numerous others, award winners are integrating into new communities, providing important services, and attaining financial stability and independence.
Through this mini-grant competition and other economic empowerment programs, UCPWFH and its implementing partners, like NAPD, will provide opportunities that motivate PWD to pursue their professional interests and re-enter the workforce or strengthen their standing therein. The resilience of our beneficiaries who overcome traumatic injury, displacement, and minimal access to services in support of their mobility and integration, humbles us and strengthens our resolve to do more. If you would like to make a contribution in support of our work, please donate here on our website.