RESOURCE: VSO Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability
A publication from Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) offers practical advice to mainstream international development organizations on how they can better include disabled people in the programs they run in developing countries. It is entitled A Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability (PDF format, 1.9 Mb) and can be retrieved from the asksource.info web site at http://www.asksource.info/pdf/33903_vsomainstreamingdisability_2006.pdf.
VSO recommends that all readers begin with chapter 1, which provides an overview of disabilities; what it means to “mainstream” disability; and why it is important. This chapter strives to ease readers into what can initially seem a daunting task:
“Mainstreaming is an ongoing process of including disability into all our work. However, this process can seem so huge that we never start. Looking at the experiences gathered for this handbook, we found it was most helpful to think about mainstreaming as a project. Like any other project, it is important to plan and budget first, carry out some activities, then review progress and make a new plan to follow up.” (VSO, 2006, “A Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability,” p. 12)
VSO also encourages all users to read chapter 2 no matter what other, more specific interests they may have. This chapter explains how to challenge discrimination toward disabled people on an individual basis and provides practical hints and tips on interacting with people with disabilities and what language is appropriate. At the end of the chapter are two case studies on how people have challenged discrimination toward people with disabilities in developing countries.
Subsequent chapters can be read in any order, according to an organization’s interests and priorities in relation to gradually increasing how much they include disabled people in their activities. Once an organization becomes comfortable with tackling one challenge, users can then select another chapter in the handbook to read. Each chapter contains an introduction to the topic with key messages; practical advice and lessons, illustrated with examples; case studies from VSO’s mainstreaming experience; and key resources on the Internet.
- Chapter 3 discusses why it is important to have both the commitment of individual staff members and management support in mainstreaming disability; the importance of including disabled people and their organizations in building your organization’s commitment to inclusion; and developing a clear rationale for mainstreaming that is linked to your organization’s existing mission and values.
- Chapter 4 covers the process of sensitization; here, the term refers to engaging each individual with the organization’s commitment to disability.
- On the philosophy that “mainstreaming starts with us,” Chapter 5 discusses how an organization can actively include disabled workers among its own staff.
- Chapter 6 addresses how to include disabled people in your organization’s program planning, implementation, management and review processes as the best way of ensuring that your programs will not be discriminatory.
- Chapter 7 describes how to include disabled people across various programs and sectors such as education programs, HIV/AIDS programs, and so forth.
- Chapter 8 argues that, without a policy framework,”mainstreaming will remain small-scale, local and unsustainable”; here, organizations can find guidance on addressing policy and institutional barriers that prevent disabled people from equal participation.
In addition to VSO’s Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability, international development professionals may also wish to consult my earlier blog post entitled Finding Local Disability Organizations for help with finding people with disabilities and their organizations in developing countries. Note that one of the resources listed, Mobility International USA, provides free consultation service and training to international development organizations that are working to be more inclusive of disabled people.
Organizations that already have some experience in mainstreaming disability, and that are ready for more ambitious challenges, may also wish to view Including the Disabled in Poverty Reduction Strategies. The resource linked from this post could help you support grassroots disability advocacy efforts in negotiating with country governments to include disabled people in their poverty reduction efforts.
The paper Disability Movement from Charity to Empowerment by Kishor Bhanushali may be an interesting read for people new to disability.
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