The Functions of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in Low and Middle-income Countries: A Literature Review

Rebekah Young, Matthew Reeve, Nathan Grills


Purpose: The aim of this study was to review peer-reviewed literature on the roles and functions of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) in low and middle-income countries, and their outputs and outcomes for people with disabilities.

Method: Online databases were searched without date or language limiters (Medline, CINAHL, Scopus, Embase and Cochrane), using a combination of two key word search strategies. Eleven studies were selected for inclusion in this review on the basis of predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Included studies underwent quality assessment using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) and Downs and Black’s criteria for quality assessment. Data for thematic analysis was then grouped under the broad themes of: participation and factors that facilitate participation; development of partnerships and connections; and self-development and self-help.

Results: There was some evidence within the included studies to suggest that DPOs can produce significant, positive outcomes for persons with disability in terms of factors such as employment rates, access to microfinance and bank loans, accessibility of housing, acquisition of orthopaedic devices, involvement in civil society, development of friendships and networks, and participation in training programmes. Although the studies under review largely did not investigate the long-term impact of the reported DPO functions and outputs, some of the short-term outputs may be considered proximal indicators of outcomes such as increased empowerment and wellbeing.

Conclusion: The 11 studies in this review suggested that DPOs can be effective in achieving their stated aims of promoting wellbeing, participation and rights of people with disabilities in low and middle- income countries.


Disabled Peoples' Organisations; DPO; disability; rights; LMIC; community based rehabilitation

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