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The disability-poverty cycle

In this video, Louisa Smith and Karen Soldatic explain how disability leads to poverty, and how poverty leads to disability.

As Louisa and Karen explain in the above video, poverty and disability are closely interrelated.

They refer to the cycle of disability and poverty mind map, which can be found at

The idea is simple: disability leads to poverty, and poverty leads to disability. This is illustrated at the top of the webpage, where you will see a graphic with arrows describing how the cycle works. There is also a video you can watch which explains this cycle, its causes and effects in more detail.
When thinking through the disability-poverty cycle, it’s important to remember that poverty is not evenly distributed around the globe. Let’s take a look at the World Bank’s tool to visualise global inequality:
Inequality visualisers from
The whole page is interesting, but scroll down until you see a world map on the right hand side, with a list of regions. Click on your region and you will be able to see statistical information about poverty and access to opportunity.
The maps and statistics on the World Bank website show that all countries have poverty; however, the level and experience of poverty varies depending on the country and the kinds of social supports provided by governments and communities. These statistics help us to understand how some particularly poor regions of the world will have higher rates of impairment. Impairment is not equally represented globally and is always interconnected with broader availability to opportunity.

Talking points

Share what you’ve learnt about your country/region with other participants. Think through the following:
  • What were you surprised to learn about your own region?
  • What impact do you think different global inequalities have on impairment and disability?
  • How do ideas of global poverty and the disability-poverty cycle fit with our idea of intersectionality?
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Disability and a Good Life: Thinking through Disability

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