Finding Local Disability Organizations
Many mainstream development organizations would like to include more disabled people in their programs. They may agree, wholeheartedly, with disability advocates who say that entrepreneurs with disabilities, too, deserve access to microfinance services. Or that young disabled adults deserve access to information they can use to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. Or that disabled children have the right to go to school.
Unfortunately, this inclusion does not happen nearly as often as it should. There are a great many different reasons why–too many for me to address them all in one blog post. But one common reason that program directors give is simply this: “We want to include disabled people, but we don’t know how to find them.”
This challenge may be easier to tackle than you think. You can often find disability-oriented organizations even in some of the poorest countries. In many cases, these may even include organizations run by people with disabilities themselves. These can be invaluable resources for mainstream development organizations that wish to be more inclusive. First, they can help you answer the question, “How do we find them?” by helping you with recruitment efforts. Second, they can help advise you on how to make your project activities more accessible to participants with disabilities.
I will probably post some links to a great many smaller, or more specialized, or more local disability-oriented organizations in the months to come. But for now, here are a few international, cross-disability organizations that have many contacts with local disability communities in developing countries around the world:
Mobility International USA: This is the organization I frequently turn to when I am looking for contacts with disabled people in developing countries. They have extensive listings of local resources helpful to disabled people in developing countries and to organizations seeking to help them. They also can offer consultation and training to international development organizations that are striving to be more inclusive of people with disabilities in their programs.
In particular, see their International Development page. Also consult their extensive database of international, national, and local disability-oriented and disability run organizations at http://www.miusa.org/orgsearch.
MIUSA is also a good place to start in finding general advice and checklists on how to make your organization more inclusive of people with disabilities. Some of the people who work at MIUSA are fluent in Spanish.
Disabled People International: DPI’s web site is available in English, French, or Spanish. DPI is a network of national organizations or assemblies of disabled people committed to human rights and the social and economic integration of disabled people. In the left-hand navigation bar, check links to “locations” including headquarters, regional offices, and national assemblies. Many of these organizations, in turn, may be able to help you in finding more local or specialized organizations.
Handicap International: Handicap International, which has headquarters in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA, has programs in more than 60 countries around the world. It works with people with disabilities to support them in their efforts to become more self-reliant.
Rehabilitation International: This global organization brings together people with disabilities, NGOs (non-government organizations), government agencies, service providers, and advocates to advance the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities around the world. Their membership directory is available in Word Document format at http://riglobal.org/membership/documents/RI_Directory2007_Feb07_003.doc (the 2007 version is 576 KB. It took only a few seconds for me to download it with my high-speed connection. But if you have a slow modem, it will take longer. Estimate about 5 minutes on a 28k modem.)
NOTE: This entry has been revised since it was first posted. On November 16, 2007, I edited the MIUSA listing to add a direct link to their database of DPOs. On Dec 17 ’07, I updated Rehabilitation International’s web site address. On June 19 ’08, I updated the link to MIUSA’s international development page.
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