Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Skip to content


Inclusive energy

How to involve people with disabilities in decisions about energy

Benedikt van den Boom 2021 Available in English, French and Spanish

Electricity is allowing people living with cerebral palsy in Rwanda to learn new skills.

Electricity is allowing people living with cerebral palsy in Rwanda to learn new skills. Photo: Marjan van der Lingen/Light for the World

Lameck Chibago in Tanzania carefully looks after the solar panel on the roof of his house.

From: Sustainable energy – Footsteps 114

Practical examples of how off-grid sustainable energy can improve people’s day-to-day lives

Sustainable Development Goal 7 is straightforward: ‘Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’. The last two words are key. We can only achieve the goal of clean energy for all if we take into account the needs and hopes of the one in seven people across the world who are living with a disability.

The widespread, global replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy will help to reduce climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable.

This is particularly important for people living with disabilities who may find it difficult to adapt to changes in the climate or cope with climate-induced natural disasters.

In addition, small-scale renewable energy systems can provide affordable electricity and biogas for communities that are not yet connected to energy grids.

This can open up new opportunities for people with disabilities to access education and training, find computer-based employment or start new small businesses such as sewing workshops. It also allows the use of assistive devices such as electric wheelchairs.

The smoke from cooking fires can cause illness and disability by affecting people’s lungs and eyes, or it can make existing impairments worse. Increased use of cleaner appliances such as biogas stoves or solar-powered cookers will reduce disability and contribute to better health for all.

Electric lights increase safety and security at night and reduce the risk of accidents caused by candles, kerosene lamps and open fires.

Inclusive planning

As increasing attention is given to sustainable energy initiatives and strategies, it is crucial that people with disabilities and their representative organisations are involved in all aspects of planning and decision-making. To help achieve this, project planners should:

  • collect information on energy use, needs and the impact of climate change on individuals and communities, paying specific attention to disability, gender and age
  • use this information to inform decision-making and advocate for the rights of people who are in danger of being overlooked
  • make community meetings accessible for people with different needs and provide project information in multiple formats such as sign language, radio broadcasts and easy-to-read leaflets
  • consider providing training to equip people with disabilities for new jobs, eg the maintenance of wind turbines or solar panels.

This will help to ensure that the benefits of affordable, reliable and sustainable energy reach everyone in the community in a just and inclusive way.

Discussion questions

  • Are there people in your community whose energy needs are not being met, or whose opinions are frequently ignored when projects are being planned?
  • If so, how can you help to change this situation?

  Benedikt van den Boom

Benedikt van den Boom is the Advocacy Coordinator at Light for the World, an international disability and development organisation.

Share this resource

If you found this resource useful, please share it with others so they can benefit too.

Subscribe to Footsteps magazine

A free digital and print magazine for community development workers. Covering a diverse range of topics, it is published three times a year.

Sign up now - Subscribe to Footsteps magazine

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.