‘Being’ the Change: From Transactional to Relational and Mutually Transformative Disability Inclusion

Dr Alex Gartrell2

2Independent, Melbourne, Australia

International development organisations are increasing investing in and adopting twin track approaches to disability inclusion. Disability inclusion is framed as a cross-cutting issue to be mainstreamed across the programs of international development organisations – often alongside gender, disaster risk reduction and in some cases child protection. Whilst disability inclusion is being added to program strategies and activities, organisational values, mission and purpose may continue to inadvertently exclude and leave persons with disabilities invisible. The challenge for the development sector is to move disability from a donor compliance issue that is approached transactionally to an intentional, relational approach that is mutually beneficial and ultimately renders programmatic support unnecessary. Development workers and their organisations must urgently ensure that persons with disabilities and their representative organisations continue to represent, advocate and be accountable to their members and not to donor reporting requirements. The challenge is for us as development workers to shift from the ‘doing’ of development, to the ever-present opportunity to ‘being’ a leader and supporter of change who shares and ultimately hands over power.


Alex Gartrell is an applied social researcher who has worked in academia, with NGO’s, and in partnerships with DPOs on disability inclusive employment, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and health programs. Alex is particularly interested in women with disabilities agency and leadership, their intimate lived experiences and transforming development programs and workers to be responsive to these.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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