What is the Disability Evidence Portal and why did we launch it?

What is the Disability Evidence Portal?

The Disability Evidence Portal (DEP) is a knowledge exchange platform that seeks to enable and empower decision makers with evidence-based knowledge to make decisions on how best to improve access, health, education, livelihood and social outcomes for people with disabilities worldwide.

DEP aims to do this through the following steps:

  • Identifying questions that highlight gaps in knowledge around disability-inclusive development. 
  • Informing disability-inclusive policy- and decision-making through high-quality evidence synthesis ("briefs").
  • Address the evidence-to-action gap using innovation digital knowledge management solutions.

DEP is implemented through the Institute for Life Course Health Research at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. DEP was founded by the International Centre for Evidence on Disability (ICED) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Why do we need a portal for evidence on disability?

It is estimated that approximately 1 billion people around the world have some form of disability, a large majority of whom are disproportionally represented by individuals in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) and settings. Yet, policies, legislation, services and interventions for people with disabilities continue to be neglected in planning and programming.

Recently, there have been some improvements in this regard, largely due to decades of lobbying by disability rights movements and the growing awareness of disability as an important public policy focus. In line with this shift, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has instigated an uptick in research documenting best-practice, evidence-based efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities. This research includes disability outcomes, measurement guidelines, the effectiveness and impact of approaches to reach and support people with disabilities on a range of topics covering diverse environments, epidemiology, care and culture.

The majority of this knowledge is, however, produced in and based on evidence from high-income settings. This evidence is also contained in high-level reports, journal articles and often, in languages that can be inaccessible to policy-makers in countries outside of Europe and North America. In order to inform decisions related to mechanisms to effectively improve outcomes for people with disabilities, we must document, in accessible language and outside of academia, what knowledge exists about best practices for people with disabilities in LMICs.

How do we synthesise evidence on disability?

Evidence briefs are developed using the following three-step process:

  1. Firstly, a thorough search of the literature on a given topic is conducted, using multiple online databases.
  2. Secondly, a database for extracting data is created and coded with detail linked to key questions and the answers provided in the gathered literature. For this ‘Review of Reviews’, special attention is paid in instances where authors used quality ratings for the included literature and evidence generated within LMICs.
  3. The third and final step in the extraction and analysis process is to review all synthesised data and collate the findings into a digestible language. The synthesised evidence is then presented in an accessible format that outlines challenges and recommendations for the questions outlined.

Where evidence for key questions in LMICs is limited, the data extracted will be drawn from recommendations based on reviews from high-income countries (HICs). For all content published with this consideration, however, a blurb to notify the users will be included for their attention. This is a way to identify opportunities to both highlight where LMIC evidence is needed, as well as to posit which good practices from HICs might be transferable to different settings.

Evidence briefs published on the portal will be reviewed for potential updates
a) every 3 years alongside newly published evidence
b) when 4 to 5 new systematic reviews have been published on the specific topic.

Interested in writing an evidence brief? Check out our Disability Evidence Toolkit and contact us for more information at DEP@sun.ac.za.


The project was originally funded by the Centre of Excellence for Development Impact and Learning (CEDIL), supported by UK aid from the UK Government.


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