User involvement in planning is now well established in the fields of both health and development. This
study looks at one particular client group, namely disabled people, and addresses the question: How do
selected European-based international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) facilitate the participation
of disabled people in their planning process?
The study was exploratory in nature, using both quantitative and qualitative methods to answer the research question. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire with 18 INGOs, which was supported by five semi-structured interviews and 20 ‘e-mail dialogues’ with key informants.
The findings indicate that the INGOs involve disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) in their planning of services and projects in a variety of ways. Most commonly this is through sharing information with them, but
consulting them, including them in decision-making or supporting action initiated by them are other less frequent methods of involvement. INGOs with a specific disability focus involve disabled people in the ways
described above more frequently than other INGOs.
Although most INGOs regularly provide information and consult DPOs, if there is no assurance that ideas
raised will be implemented, then there is no guarantee of DPOs’ participation in the planning process of these
INGOs. The focus of an INGO and the nature of its projects affect how disabled people are involved in planning,whereas the size of an INGO has little effect.
INGOs thus far have failed to match their expressed intentions about participation, but as they help to
strengthen DPOs, encourage their formation and move to make disability an issue that cuts across sectoral
boundaries, INGOs are changing. There is still a lot of rhetoric about participation, but the participation of
disabled people in the planning process of INGOs is a growing reality.