Inviation for discussion: Measuring Inclusion

A recent assignment provided myself with an interesting task to conduct a capacity needs assessment in Kyrgyzstan. This happened for a project of one international NGO and national NGOs and NGO. One element in the capacity needs assessment was, to assess the level of understanding of disability and inclusion among the partner organisations. And this was rather difficult

The capacity needs assessment should measure the understanding about disability and inclusion of the partner organisations. Within the project framework it was demanded that the partners need a common understanding of disability and inclusion. Together in the preparation of the capacity needs assessment the indicator understanding and vision of inclusion and disability was agreed upon. Due to well know restrains in time and resources this should happen fast and provide a good snapshot of the current situation. During the work discussions it turned out to attempt measuring the understanding of disability and inclusion through indirect questions. For each item scales of five should be developed.

The problems

As we all know, inclusion is a wide concept that does not only have one definition in understanding and that debates about its definition have been going on for a long time. The same goes for the understanding of disability. It was clear from the beginning that the results during the assessment would be truncating the meaning of both concepts. Despite the methodological difficulties this was deemed as an acceptable approach in the context of the capacity needs assessment process.
Another problem was, how to actually check upon the levels of understanding. Providing the scales to the participants would have directly influenced their responses. Therefore short questions are needed to cover all the aspects of the scales.

The process and approach

The first step was to define the scales. The range of scales was set at the lower end to “complete ignorance” and “negative vision”. The top end took the UN CRPD as the measure. Within the convention both the concepts of inclusion and disability are sufficiently and acceptably described. The result of the scales was as follows:

Criteria Scale
  1. Do not know anything about inclusion
  2. Inclusion means providing special services to PwD.
  3. Inclusion means participation of PwD in some areas of social life.
  4. Inclusion means a society that is open and accessible to PwD
  5. Inclusion means the provision of measures respecting individual support needs of PwD that allow their participation in all societal areas and their participation in all political processes.
  1. PwD have no value and are a burden to society.
  2. Disability is a condition of an individual requiring medical treatment.
  3. PwD require special support according to their impairment
  4. PwD are entitled to individual support addressing their impairments. They can participate in certain decisions
  5. PwD are an integral part of society and society has to device ways ensuring their full access to and participation in all areas of life and political processes.

The ranking of the scale starts with 1 as the lowest (negative) value and ends with the highest (positive) value.
The second step now was to come up with relevant questions. There it was important not to have questions that prescribe already the answers. On top the questions must be open enough to invite presentations on disability and inclusion of the participants. Here the results are quite straight and simple.
Questions for inclusion

  • How would you describe inclusive measures?
  • What kind of services should be addressed?
  • How would you assess a measure that is inclusive?

Questions for disability

  • Describe your understanding and definition of disability
  • Who is involved in dealing with disability?
  • How do you describe the differences between impairment and disability?

The third step now is left to the implementers. Two ways of data collections seem to be useful in the context of project implementation:

  • Individual interview: Questions are asked to one person. The advantage is that the results might present the individual understanding. The disadvantage lies in the fact that many interviews have to be conducted resulting in incompatible answers, depending how many interviewers are involved and how many people are interviewed. This seems to be an appropriate approach for key persons of organisations.
  • Focus groups: A group between 3 and 6 people work on the questions. The results can be discussed in the group itself or even with other focus groups. The advantage are results that are reflected by different persons and in some cases even cross checked by other. The participants can help structuring the outcomes.
  • This step can be repeated at different times to assess a change in understanding of disability and inclusion.
    The forth step is finally lessons learnt. Depending on the frequency of interviews seemingly quantitative results can be collected during some time and used in different forms of presentations. Ideally the participants have a chance to also conduct self-assessments and to gather from time to time to discuss the results.


    The presented scales, questions and process can help in assessing the understanding of inclusion and disability. They leave some methodological questions, if the scales really measure what they want to measure as well as the problems of interpretation. Still the tools presented can help organisations in developing capacity development plans and processes.

    So long…