Case Studies

NEWS: Disability Inclusion in Poverty Reduction Strategy in Mozambique

Posted on 24 February 2009. Filed under: Case Studies, Inclusion, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), News, Poverty, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Note from We Can Do editor: Many developing countries are required to develop a “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper” (PRSP) as a condition for receiving debt relief from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This strategy paper is meant to describe how the country will reduce poverty among its citizens. A country’s PRSP can have a profound impact on the policies and programs it implements to fight poverty. But not all PRSPs are fully inclusive of people with disabilities. This can mean they are left behind while others are gaining new opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. Rosangela Berman Bieler, at the Inter-American Institute on Disability recently circulated the following email on the mailing list for the Global Partnership on Disability and Development describing how people with disabilities were included in the process of developing the PRSP in Mozambique.]

by Rosangela Berman Bieler

Dear Colleagues:

This message is to share a brief report on the Inclusive Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper project in Mozambique, launched in January in Maputo. Our civil society counterparts in Mozambique are FAMOD (Forum of Disability Organizations) and Handicap International. Maria Reina and Deepti Samant of the Global Partnership on Disability and Development Secretariat also joint us for part of the mission.

During the mission, we could establish many alliances with local and international agencies and government officials. Among the various activities that we were involved, we had a very good and participatory DPO training with 25 leaders of FAMOD. Following the meeting, FAMOD is constituting a working group, composed by civil society organizations, to follow up on country Projects like the FTI on Education for All, the Mozambique Tourism Anchor Program (IFC), School Health (MoE), HIV-AIDS and other possible entry points.

We also had a presentation meeting for general stakeholders, held at the World Bank Office in MZ. The activity was a success – full house and many potential partners from all sectors, very interested in working with inclusive approaches for the next cycle of the Country’s poverty reduction plan that may follow the current PARPA, finishing in 2009.

Besides other Inclusive PRSP training and activities to be held in MZ during 2009, we are also planning with GPDD, an International Seminar on Accessibility and Inclusive Tourism in Maputo, in June, and we are looking forward to be able to work in alliance with all the agencies working in the field as well. Inclusive approaches in Tourism can generate local accessibility and development for those who live in the country. Mozambique can really benefit from such an initiative.

In the field of Education, we are very excited with the possibility of having the local NGOs and Networks – such as the Education for All Network that accompanied us during the events – to interact and influence the school construction that will happen now, for the FTI, to make sure they are built accessible.

We are also working in synchrony with the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, that will go on until 2019. It is possible that MZ hosts the launching of the African Campaign on HIV-AIDS and Disability in October. There are two major FAMOD projects going on in the field and hopefully this can also generate good mainstreaming opportunities.

Our plan is to involve other Portuguese Speaking Countries in most of these activities, as language is on other important cause of exclusion from participation. Hopefully Development Agencies working in other Lusophone countries in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guiné Bissau, Sao Tomé and Prince), and also in East Timor, will be able to partner with this initiative and facilitate this process as well.

All the best,

Rosangela Berman Bieler
Inclusive Development Specialist

Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development
– Doing our part on the construction of a society for all –

Rosangela Berman Bieler
Executive Director
Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development

[Another Note from We Can Do editor: People who wish to learn more about the PRSP process, and how it can be more inclusive of people with disabilities, are encouraged to consult the on-line manual, “Making PRSP Inclusive” at]

I received Rosangela Berman Bieler’s note via the GPDD mailing list.

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Good Practice AWARD COMPETITION for Service Providers in Middle East: Chance to Win 1500 Euro for Organization

Posted on 25 September 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Awards & Honors, Call for Nominations or Applications, Case Studies, Cross-Disability, Education, Funding, Health, Middle East and North Africa, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Note that the application deadline is October 18, 2008.

Funded by:
Good Practice Award

The identification and sharing of good practices helps service providers to improve their performance and ultimately provide enhanced services for persons with disabilities. The Disability Monitor Initiative (DMI-ME) is conducting a Good Practice Awards program to recognize good practices in service delivery.

Who can apply:

  • Service providers in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine and Yemen working in the areas of healthcare, education, livelihood opportunities and social protection – for persons with disabilities
  • Service providers with no more than 40 salaried staff or an annual budget less than $300,000

What is the process:
1. Download the application form from this website
2. Complete the application and email to
3. Applications can be submitted until Saturday 18 October 2008
4. The finalists from the region will be shortlisted and notified to arrange a face-to-face meeting to allow gathering of more in-depth information about the good practice
5. Face-to-face meetings will occur during October, November and December 2008, with the final winners notified shortly after all the assessments are completed

What is the prize:
For shortlisted service providers

  • their organization will be listed in the DMI-ME report themed around access to services for persons with disabilities in the Middle East due out in mid 2009
  • will receive a free flight and accommodation for a member of the organization to attend a major Regional Disability Conference for the Middle East scheduled to take place in mid 2009
  • For winning service providers

  • in addition to the above prizes, the organization will ultimately receive €1,500
  • a commemorative plaque presented before the media, recognizing their achievements in demonstrating a good practice for the delivery of social services for persons with disabilities in the Middle East

For more information please visit the DMI-ME website or email the team at the DMI-ME on

Unsuccessful applicants will be informed why they were not considered as a winner and the judges’ decision is considered final.

This Good Practice Award competition is being funded by the Christian Blind Mission and Handicap International.

I received this notice via the GPDD mailing list.

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RESOURCE: Making Schools Inclusive: How Change Can Happen

Posted on 10 July 2008. Filed under: Case Studies, Children, Cross-Disability, Deaf, East Asia Pacific Region, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Education, Inclusion, Middle East and North Africa, Resources, South Asian Region, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Less than a decade ago, more than 100 million primary-school aged children still had never entered a classroom. Today, that number has dropped below 80 million, even though the world’s population has grown in that time. Clearly progress has been made. But children with disabilities are being left behind: one-third of the world’s children out of school are disabled. Many of the rest are excluded for other reasons that pose their own set of challenges: some are left behind because they are girls; or because they don’t speak the dominant language of their country; or because they experience discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity.

How can Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) help schools in their country be more inclusive of students who have commonly been excluded? Save the Children UK has released a new report that offers guidance: “Making Schools Inclusive: How Change Can Happen: Save the Children’s Experience” (PDF format, 4.14 Mb). This report describes successful projects, and the lessons learned, from countries as diverse as Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Bangladesh, China, Somalia, Brazil, Western Balkans, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan, Serbia, India, and Morocco. Children with disabilities are targeted for many of these projects.

The report begins by describing both the conditions that prevent inclusive education and the conditions that can help make it possible. It also analyzes projects that have made it possible for linguistic minority students–and Deaf students–to obtain a bilingual education. Teacher training programs have helped encourage teachers to create more inclusive classrooms for children with disabilities and other students who have historically been excluded. Several countries have used Community-based Education Management Information Systems (C-EMIS) to draw upon the knowledge and motivation of local community members in making education more inclusive. Each chapter ends by discussing what lessons other communities in other countries may find helpful in implementing their own projects.

Advocates who tire of hearing governments complain there isn’t enough money will especially wish to read the 6th chapter on “Addressing financial barriers to inclusive education.” Funding issues are also discussed briefly throughout earlier chapters of Making Schools Inclusive (PDF format, 4.14 Mb).

The 8th chapter points readers to further materials and resources that may be helpful to them in advocating for more inclusive education in their countries.

The full 64-page report can be downloaded in PDF format (4.14 Mb) at

We Can Do learned of this report through an announcement posted on the EENET Eastern Africa email discussion group. The discussion group is devoted to issues relating to inclusive education in Eastern Africa.

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Africa Campaign on Disability and HIV/AIDS Seeks Health Care Stories

Posted on 16 June 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Call for Audio & Visual Materials, Call for Papers, Case Studies, Cross-Disability, Health, HIV/AIDS, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This email was recently circulated by Gouwah Samuels.

version française dessous

Dear friends, colleagues and supporters

The time has come! As promised during our last meeting in Kampala the Communications Working Group is working on compiling the inaugural newsletter for the Africa Campaign on Disability and HIV/AIDS. We are hoping to get all submissions this month in order to distribute it via email in July.

The first issues will focus on access to health care. We invite each of you to read through the following questions and send back answers to Myroslava Tataryn: by Friday, 27th June at the latest.

Questions for this edition are as follows:

1. How have you involved health care workers in your disability and AIDS initiatives?

2. Have you and/or your organizations engaged in any activities or initiatives promoting Disability and AIDS at local health care centres or hospitals? Please explain.

3. Do you have an statistics regarding people with disabilities accessing HIV/AIDS and/or reproductive health care services? If you do, please share them with us.

Please share your stories and pictures with us! Even though we may not be able to use all of the stories/pictures collected for this first edition of the newsletter. We will be keeping them on our Africa Campaign Databank! Also, please make sure you have secured necessary permission of people in the photos you are sharing.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact one of us:
Gouwah Samuels:
Grace Musoke:
Myroslava Tataryn:

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

With warm regards,
Myroslava Tataryn: and Gouwah Samuels
For the Africa Campaign Communications Working Group

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Cheres amis, collegues et patrons,

Finalement, comme etait promis a la derniere reunion a Kampala, la group de travail de communication est en train d’assembler le premier bulletin pour la Campagne Africaine du VIH/SIDA et les handicaps. Nous esperons d’obtenir tous vous contributions ce mois-ci enfin de nous permetre de distribuer le bulletin final par email au mois de juillet.

La premier numero de notre bulletin est consacre aux questions concernant l’access aux soins medicaux. Nous vous invitons de lire les questions qui suivent et de repondre a Myroslava Tataryn ( avec vos reponses par vendredi, le 27 juin, au plus tard.

Questions pour ce numero:

1. Comment est ce que vous avez implique les travailleurs medicaux dans vous activites du SIDA et l’incapacite?

2. Est ce que vous ou vos organismes sont engages dans des activites ou initiatives qui font la promotion des questions du SIDA et l’incapacites dans des hopitaux ou des centres medicaux dans vos localites? Expliquez s’il vous plait.

3. st ce que vous avez des statistiques selons les persons avec incapacites qui accessent les services de VIH/SIDA ou la sante reproductif? Si oui, s’il vous plait, partagez-les avec nous.

S’il vous plait, partagez vos histoires et vos photos avec nous! Meme si nous ne serons pas capable de publier chacun dans cet premier numro du bulletin nous allons les garder dans la base de donnees de la campagne. Aussi, s’il vous plait, assurez-vous que vous avez les propres authorizations des personnes dans les photos que vous nous envoyez.

Si vous avez n’emporte quelles questions, n’hesitez pas a nous contacter:

Gouwah Samuels:
Grace Musoke:
Myroslava Tataryn:

Nous esperons vous reponses bientot!

Avec sinceres salutations,
Myroslava Tataryn: and Gouwah Samuels
Pour la groupe de travialle de la communication pour la Campagne Africaine

Thank you to Gouwah Samuels for submitting this announcement for publication at We Can Do.

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Successful Projects–What Makes Them Work?

Posted on 2 June 2008. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Case Studies, Cognitive Impairments, Reports, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Ideas are easy. Any 10 disability advocates will have 100 ideas for projects to fight poverty or otherwise improve the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries. But knowing how to implement projects that actually do what advocates and funders hope they will do is much harder. So, what makes successful projects work? Why do they work? What lessons can other project leaders learn from them?

Inclusion International has released a 66-page study entitled “Successful Projects–What Makes Them Work?” (PDF format, 3.5 Mb). As it happens, their analysis focuses on projects for people with intellectual disabilities in India, Romania, Kenya, and South Africa. But its conclusions are broad enough that this guide may be useful across disability groups and regions.

Successful Projects by Anders Gustavsson and Johans Sandvin and Annika and Lennart Nilsson examines 13 different projects. Each project was chosen because it was interesting, successful, or outstanding in improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. Chapters 1 and 2 describe the research process and the national reports used. Chapters 3 to 7 provide a cross national analysis of the 13 projects, and chapter 8 presents conclusions and implications. The study aimed to answer the following questions (taken from page 8 of the report):

  • Which projects resulting in sustainable improvements of life conditions for adults and children with intellectual disabilities can be found in the four countries?
  • What are the most strategic change agents, internationally, nationally and locally?
  • Which methods are most effective at initiating and maintaining the processes of change?
  • What other factors, deliberate project interventions as well as contextual factors, are important to achieve a positive change?

Experienced leaders, advocates, and professionals may agree with some of Inclusion International’s conclusions but may disagree with others. The study’s conclusion suggests, for example, that any criteria used to measure improvement in the quality of life must be specific to the local culture. The rationale is that different cultures define “quality of life” very differently. This seems a valid point.

But then the study goes further to baldly assert, “the idea of developing a model of best practice to be applied across cultural contexts would never work” (p. 57). This seems too overgeneralized a conclusion from my view.

If by “a model of best practice” you mean “a rigidly prescribed, one-size-fits all project plan,” then I have no hesitation in agreeing. Projects that are too strict in emulating their original model adapt poorly to the unique needs of the people they serve. I also agree wholeheartedly with the study’s assertion that projects work best when they are generated by local people themselves, in response to their own ideas and passions. Projects imposed by outsiders rarely work as well, either because they are not responsive to actual local problems or because local leaders don’t support them as strongly.

But it is a dangerously false assumption to believe that projects originated in other cultural contexts can never offer lessons for leaders elsewhere. As one example (though not disability specific): some years ago, Mexico and Brazil each launched what is now called “conditional cash transfer” programs. Governments give the very poorest families cash. In exchange, parents must do certain things such as sending their children to school or bringing them to health clinics.

The original conditional cash transfer idea has now proliferated not only within Latin America but also to countries as culturally disparate as Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia, and even New York City in the United States. They help improve school attendance, child health, and family nutrition as well as helping families cope with poverty. Yes, each project does need to be carefully tailored for the local culture and conditions. But the broad concept of this program has survived the transition across cultures very well.

Surely there must be broad strategies for certain types of projects targeted at people with disabilities that could similarly survive the transition from one culture to another, even if the details must be dramatically altered.

I should hasten to point out I may be over-reacting to an admittedly superficial glance at the study’s conclusions and accompanying powerpoint programs. The flaw may well be in my reading rather than in the study.

These caveats aside, project leaders, disability advocates, and international development professionals all may find it interesting to read the common “story line” of how successful projects tend to get started. And, as mentioned further above, some of its conclusions do strike me as valid and interesting.

The 66-page report can be downloaded for free in PDF format (3.5 Mb) at:

An accompanying powerpoint program, and more detailed reports on individual countries, can be found at the Inclusion International web site at:

I first found this study by browsing the Inclusion International web site.

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RESOURCE, FUNDING: Network to Exchange Success Stories

Posted on 6 March 2008. Filed under: Case Studies, Funding, News, Opportunities, Poverty | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Organizations that have “success stories” to share now have a way to reach a wider audience. And organizations that wish to learn from other successful projects now have a resource to which they can turn.

A few of the very best, most innovative participating projects might also obtain funding. (If interested in funding, submit stories to IFAP by March 31, 2008.)

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched an Information for All Programme (IFAP) whose purpose is to encourage communities to share their success stories with each other. All organizations are invited to submit their stories about successful projects to its online platform. Others can then read about these projects and perhaps replicate them or adapt them to their own local situations.

The IFAP is particularly interested in stories that involve using information to support development. The aim of IFAP is to promote good practices in using information for development in all parts of the world.

If you submit your story before March 31, 2008, then it may be considered for grant funding. IFAP will choose up to five of the most innovative success stories to receive funding support of $5,000.

Stories may be submitted at any time, including after March 31, to be shared with others. But late submissions cannot be considered for the grant funding competition. Instead, they will simply be made available for others to read and learn from. Submitting your stories, even if you do not win funding support, can be a way to help make more people aware about your organization and your projects.

IFAP wants stories in the following thematic areas:

  • Poverty reduction,
  • Health,
  • Education,
  • Disaster prevention,
  • Governance,
  • and Human Development.

IFAP asks that each story submitted to their database should include the following information (note that the last one specifically references people with disabilities):

  • identify the community that has benefitted from the use of information
  • explain what difference access to information has made for this community
  • focus on content and not on technology
  • describe how the initiative could be replicated
  • take account of any gender issues, noting that UNESCO’s priority focus is on women
  • identify any benefits for disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities

IFAP also wants stories to follow a standard format:

  • Between 250 and 500 words in English or French
  • Respond to the questions: who, when, where, what, how and why?
  • Upload up to 3 photos of at least 300 dpi in .jpg format
  • Upload a short (5 minutes) video clip if available
  • Provide links to any related web sites

Learn more about the IFAP initiative at:;d=1

At the IFAP website, you can register your organization; submit your own story for the IFAP database (after registration); and read, rate, and comment on other people’s stories.

IFAP Accessibility for blind people
Blind people will need to note that, unfortunately, the IFAP site does not seem to be fully accessible. It might be possible to at least read their information, including the stories that other people have left there. However, in order to register your organization, submit a story, or contact IFAP through their contact form, you need to fill out a “visual captcha.” This means they want people to prove they are human beings (not automated robots) by reading a visual image and typing the letters they see in the image. The image is not accessible to screen readers.

If you are blind, you may need to recruit a sighted person to assist you in filling out the IFAP registration form. If you do this, you may also wish to ask the sighted person to help you submit an email to IFAP urging them to make their web site more accessible to you.

I have already submitted two complaints of my own (one using the “support” button and the “contact” button). But they might listen harder if they realize that there are actual blind people out there who are trying to use their site. (Yes. Blind people with ideas to offer. Imagine that. Please read this in a scarcastic tone of voice.) Unfortunately, both the “support” button and the “contact” button also use visual captchas, so those aren’t directly accessible to blind people either.

Further comments about accessibility at the <a href=”IFAP website“>IFAP web site are invited in the comments area below. I will try to pass along any additional concerns I receive here to IFAP, especially if you have trouble submitting your own comments to them.

We Can Do learned about the IFAP intiative through the Disabled People International (DPI) email newsletter.

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CASE STUDY: Strengthening Disabled Women Organizations in Nicaragua

Posted on 26 January 2008. Filed under: Capacity Building and Leadership, Case Studies, Cross-Disability, Latin America & Caribbean, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A publication entitled “Learning from experience: strengthening organisations of women with disabilities” (PDF format, 1.3 Mb) shares lessons learned about organizing, personal empowerment, awareness raising, and incorporating a gender perspective. The publication focuses on work done by a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization (NGO), Solidez, that works to strengthen the capacity of local disabled women’s organizations and integrate women with disabilities into society. Solidez aims to help independent organizations improve their ability to manage their own decisions and self development.

In particular, this profile about Solidez is meant to analyze the lessons they have learned in organizational work and projects, empowerment and personal growth, awareness raising, and advocacy. It describes some of the barriers that Solidez has encountered in its work, for example in overcoming negative, religion-based attitudes toward gender or disabilities. Solidez also explains some of the strategies they used and their results: for example, they attribute part of their success to the use of home visits and meetings in women’s homes. The publication offers frank discussion of some of the challenges Solidez has confronted, such as finding ways to support groups in resolving sometimes very emotional inter-personal conflicts. It concludes with recommendations for how Solidez could further improve upon its efforts.

The publication is available from One World Action, an NGO based in the United Kingdom that works to create opportunities for the world’s poorest people.

You can download “Learning from experience: strengthening organisations of women with disabilities” in PDF format (1.3 Mb) at

We Can Do learned about this case study through contacts at Mobility International USA and from the Siyanda database of resources on gender and development.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do (

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CASE STUDIES: Disabled Women Entrepreneurs in Ethiopia

Posted on 26 January 2008. Filed under: Blind, Case Studies, Cognitive Impairments, Cross-Disability, Deaf, Employment, Mobility Impariments, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Women with disabilities in Ethiopia and many other countries can face enormous obstacles in becoming economically independent. But some Ethiopian disabled women do become successful entrepreneurs.

A publication from the International Labour Organization (ILO), entitled Doing Business in Addis Ababa: Case Studies of Women Entrepreneurs with Disabilities in Ethiopia, presents 20 stories that describe how women with various disabilities have established their own small businesses in Addis Ababa and the Tigray region in Ethiopia. The women have a range of disabilities including visual impairments, hearing impairments, mobility impairments; and some have had leprosy. Two stories also describe how mothers of children with learning difficulties became entrepreneurs.

All the stories depict both the challenges faced by disabled women in Ethiopia and also the range of possibilities that can be open to them when they have access to the right skills, training, and opportunities. Many of the disabled women entrepreneurs in these case studies are able to use their income to support their families and children.

Read an abstract and download the publication in PDF format at:

We Can Do learned about this publication by browsing through Siyanda, an on-line database for publications and research related to gender and development.

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RESOURCE: How to Include Disabled Women in Your Organizations

Posted on 23 January 2008. Filed under: Case Studies, Cross-Disability, Inclusion, Resources, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Originally published at (We Can Do) at]

Certain resources can help women’s organizations and international development agencies better include disabled women in their program activities. Skip to the resource list.

Women with disabilities confront many of the same challenges that other women in developing countries face, such as gender-based discrimination. But they also face some additional challenges, such as discrimination based on their disability. Some women’s organizations would like to advocate for the needs of disabled women in the same way that they advocate for all women. And international development agencies also want to ensure that they meet the needs of disabled women in the same way that they strive to meet the needs of all the poor people in the countries where they work.

But sometimes mainstream organizations aren’t sure how to begin. What barriers might they unknowingly create that make it harder for disabled women to participate in their programs’ activities or to make their needs known to their organization? What further barriers exist in society that may need to be overcome before an organization can more effectively serve women with disabilities? How can women’s organizations and international development agencies remove these barriers?

Several resources, listed below, can help. Mainstream organizations may wish to use these as guides to make their programs more accessible. Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) may wish to use these when communicating with mainstream organizations to persuade them to make change.

MIUSA’s “Checklist for Inclusion”
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) has a free checklist available (PDF format, 10 Mb). This 19-page self-assessment guide is written for mainstream international development agencies. It provides a series of questions that women’s organizations and international development agencies can use to help them identify what they’re already doing right and what things could be improved upon. For example: when you choose a meeting location, do you make sure that it is wheelchair accessible (ground-floor location with doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, etc.)? Does your organization make its print materials available in non-print (Braille; diskette) and also large-print versions? Does your organization make qualified sign language interpreters available for its training, conference, and other program activities?

MIUSA’s International Development and Disability (IDD) Program
MIUSA’s International Development and Disability (IDD) program strives to bridge the disability community and the international development community in promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities as leaders and participants in development. It provides technical assistance and advice to both disabled people’s organizations and development agencies on gender and disability inclusion. In addition to their Checklist for Inclusion, organizations may wish to learn more about MIUSA activities, publications, videos, and other resources at MIUSA’s IDD web site:

In particular, note that the checklist on inclusion was originally written as part of a more comprehensive guidebook on disability inclusion entitled Building an Inclusive Development Community: A Manual on Including People with Disabilities in International Development Programs.

Can’t afford the book? Or want to supplement it with free resources? Consult MIUSA’s page of links to free resources:

Also, read some “best practice” stories (case studies) of other organizations that have successfully promoted disability inclusion in their activities:

Another item that might be of interest is an article written by Sarah Rosenhek at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) about her experience learning about gender and disability through participating in MIUSA’s August 2006 Gender Disability and Development Institute (GDDI). Her article, entitled “Strengthening Women’s Rights Organizations through Inclusion: Lessons Learned from the Gender, Disability and Development Institute,” includes pragmatic advice for other women’s organizations that Rosenhek learned at the institute.

VSO’s Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability
Volunteer Service Overseas has a publication available on-line for free entitled A Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability (PDF format, 2 Mb). This handbook guides mainstream international development organizations in finding ways to overcome the stigma that can be associated with disability; how to actively integrate more disabled workers in the workplace; how to integrate more disabled participants in program activities; and how to integrate disability into organizational policy. Each chapter has case studies that describe how other organizations have implemented the advice given in this handbook. Download the handbook itself at (PDF format, 2 Mb)

The VSO’s Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability was previously featured at We Can Do, with an overview of its contents.

Siyanda On-line Database of Gender and Development Materials
Siyanda is targeted at development specialists who want to integrate gender equality issues into their work,whether or not they specialize in gender issues. This database makes iteasy to search for, and locate, full-length materials, that can bedownloaded for free. Its library of documents includes items in multiple languages including English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, and others. Try a key word search for “disabilities.”

We Can Do learned about the MIUSA resources and the Siyanda on-line database through contacts at MIUSA.

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Finding Resources, Toolkits, and Funding Sources

Posted on 15 January 2008. Filed under: Case Studies, Cross-Disability, Funding, Introduction to "We Can Do", Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Original publication at (We Can Do) at]

I have now created a new page, linked from the top navigation bar, entitled “Resources, Toolkits, and Funding. In this page, you can find the following types of materials:

I added this page to help readers quickly locate pragmatic resources, announced or linked from We Can Do, that you can use to help disability communities in developing countries access human rights and public services or escape poverty.

I want to continue improving this page. Please do share your feedback or suggestions in the comments area, either here or at the Resources, Toolkits, and Funding Sources page.

This new page joins other pages in the navigation bar that can help you

Still not sure how to find the materials you are looking for? See if the Navigating We Can Do page can help. I have recently revised and updated this page. I will probably continue to make further improvements in the Navigation page to make it easier to use. Please feel free to make suggestions or feedback.

Want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming resources, toolkits, funding sources, or other informative posts at We Can Do? Consider subscribing to We Can Do so you can receive an email alert when new material is posted here.

Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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We Can Do Retrospective: The First 100 Posts (and Then Some)

Posted on 22 December 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, Arts, autism, Blind, Call for Papers, Case Studies, Children, Cognitive Impairments, Commonwealth Nations, Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), Cross-Disability, Deaf, Democratic Participation, Disability Studies, Disaster Planning & Mitigation, East Asia and Central Asia, East Asia Pacific Region, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Education, Education and Training Opportunities, Employment, Events and Conferences, Families, Fellowships & Scholarships, Funding, Guest Blogger, Health, HIV/AIDS, Housing, Human Rights, Immigration, Inclusion, Interpreting, Introduction to "We Can Do", Jobs & Internships, Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Mobility Impariments, Multiple Disabilities, News, Opinion, Opportunities, Policy & Legislation, Poverty, Psychiatric Disabilities, Rehabilitation, Remittances, Reports, Resources, South Asian Region, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, technology, Violence, Volunteer Opportunities, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Skip introduction, go straight to the Table of Contents

If you’re new to We Can Do, what interesting information, news, or resources might you have overlooked from the past few months? Although some older items may no longer be interesting, others may still be relevant and helpful a year or three from now. This post can help guide you through the first 100-plus posts at this blog. You can click from the table of contents below to any section of this page that interests you–and then another click on “table of contents” can take you back to the contents, or “top of this page” takes you back to this introduction.

Top of this page

Table of Contents

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About We Can Do

To learn more about the purpose of We Can Do, see About We Can Do. For more on its guiding philosophy, go to Why We Can Do.

Thinking about submitting your own written materials, job posts, conference announcements, or resources to We Can Do? Check the Wish list for written materials and resources.

Want to receive an alert in email when a new post goes up at We Can Do? You can Subscribe to We Can Do for free.

I changed the organization and appearance of We Can Do in early October to its present format.

Table of Contents; Top of this page

The Five Most Popular We Can Do posts

The five listed here are the ones that have attracted the most “page views” since We Can Do began in late July. You may notice that not all of these are featured in the 10 “most popular posts” listed in the right-hand navigation bar. That’s because the navigation bar only lists posts that have received a lot of traffic very recently (I think within the past few days; its done automatically by wordpress so I’m not sure how it works). But here I’m listing the five that have the highest TOTAL page views.

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The Five Most Under-Rated We Can Do posts

Are these posts really under-rated? You’ll have to read them and decide for yourself. But in choosing these five, I used two criteria: 1. These are posts that have received fewer than 100 visitors–sometimes far fewer. 2. These are posts that I think could be helpful or interesting to readers and maybe deserve more attention than they have gotten. These are in no particular order:

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Finding Practical Resources and Case Studies or Helpful Organizations

Finding organizations; Resources for inclusive development; Human rights resources; Case studies; Other helpful resources

Finding organizations
Mainstream international development agencies sometimes say that they don’t know how to find people with disabilities, or their representative organizations, in the developing countries where they work. Reviewing the July post entitled Finding Local Disability Organizations may help point you in the right direction. Also see Disability Organizations in Afghanistan, Asia, Kenya, Uganda.

Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) sometimes aren’t sure where to find mainstream development organizations and resources that might be willing to collaborate with them.

There is an international network of organizations for families of people with Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome.

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Resources for Inclusive Development
Both disability advocates and mainstream development organizations want to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind when countries and organizations fight poverty or improve public health, education, water, and other services. But it can be a challenge to figure out how to make projects and government policies more inclusive. The following resources can help:

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Resources on the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
By now, you may be aware that a global movement is taking place to ratify the international disability rights treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Many relevant resources are now being produced in relation to the CRPD, some of which have been posted or featured here at We Can Do:

  • Read the CRPD “translated” into plain English.
  • UNICEF has developed a child-friendly version of the CRPD to help children understand disability rights
  • Disabled People International offers two toolkits on ratifying and implementing the CRPD for disability advocates who want to help ensure that all disabled people have their human rights recognized.
  • A handbook on disability rights targeted at parliamentarians can help parliamentarians, people who work in close contact with government agencies, and disability advocates in general, better understand the CRPD.
  • The United Nations’ new web site, UN Enable, is one of the best, and most official, places to find information on the CRPD.
  • Handicap International has produced its own Teaching Kit on the CRPD.
  • The International Disability Equality Agency (IDEA) has issued Equalize It! A Manifesto for Disability Equality in Development Cooperation that expresses their position on how to ensure disability equality in the international development field.
  • Top of Finding practical resources; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Case Studies
    Reviewing case studies of projects implemented elsewhere can be a valuable source of ideas that could help you figure out how to run or implement your own projects. I would love to post many more best-practice and failed-practice case studies than I have available right now. If you think you have something worth sharing, please check my Wish List of Written Materials and Resource and contact me at ashettle [at]

    But for now, here are two case studies:

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    Other Helpful Resources

    Top of Finding practical resources; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Finding Useful Sources of Information and Research

    Finding academic research, papers, resources, or statistics
    Looking for academic research and academic papers; resources that can be used by people working in the field; or sources of statistics? Some of the following posts may be helpful:

    Information on people with disabilities
    Interested in learning about the living conditions of people with disabilities in specific nations, or in specific thematic areas? Some of the following may be of interest:

    Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Funding Sources

    Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Academic Papers

    We Can Do has published, or re-published, academic papers, or linked to same, on a range of subjects, including:

    Table of Contents; Top of this page


    September 2007; October 2007; November 2007; Early December 2007

    September 2007
    At one point in September, the international disability community prematurely thought we might be On the Verge of Making History by ratifying the disability rights community.

    Top of News; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    October 2007

    Top of News; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    November 2007

    Top of News; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Early December 2007

    Top of News; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Opinion Pieces

    So far, the opinion pieces here are all by me. But I would like for We Can Do to be host to an active exchange of ideas and differing perspectives. If you have a strong opinion about something, please consider submitting it. Yes, that includes opinions that disagree with mine! Consult the Wish list for written materials and resources for ideas of the kinds of topics I’m trying to cover at We Can Do.

    Meanwhile, here are a few of my own opinion pieces:

    Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Call for Papers (for Conferences, Journals, Other)

    You might be just now starting your academic career as an undergraduate or graduate student. Or perhaps you have been doing quantitative or qualitative research, or writing policy analysis, or case studies, or social analysis, for years. Either way, if you’re looking for opportunities to present, publish, or otherwise disseminate your papers or run a workshop, then check out these upcoming or ongoing opportunities:

    Table of Contents; Top of this page

    International Conferences and Events

    Looking for a conference to attend? Here are a few upcoming events:
    January 2008; February 2008; March 2008; April 2008; May 2008; August 2008; September 2008; November 2008

    January 2008
    The South Asian Conference on Autism is being held in New Delhi, India in January 2008.

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    February 2008

  • The Disabilities Initiatives in Development Seminar, also in Bangladesh also in February 2008.
  • One for all: Persons with Disabilities Initiative in Development, again in Bangladesh in February 2008.
  • The International Centre for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, UK is holding a conference on sign language research in the UK in February 2008.
  • A conference on the deaf community, sign languages, social issues, civil rights, and creativity will be held on the campus of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, USA.
  • The Techshare India 2008 Conference on accessibility will be held in New Delhi, India, in February 2008.
  • Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    March 2008
    The 8th annual meeting of the Gulf Disability Society will meet in United Arab Emirates in March 2008.

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    April 2008

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    May 2008

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    August 2008

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    September 2008

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    November 2008
    The Association on Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)’s International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development will be held in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2008. A call for proposals is open until January 28, 2008.

    Top of International Conferences and Events; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Jobs, Internships, Volunteer Opportunities

    We Can Do will probably never be a comprehensive job-board. Serious job, internship, or volunteer placement hunters will want to explore other means of finding opportunities. For example, jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities in the international field generally, or in the disability field generally, can sometimes be found at But I do occasionally happen to come across a job announcement. Here are a few that may still be open to applications:

    Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Education and Training Opportunities

    Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Missed Opportunities

    Missed call for papers; Missed training opportunities; Missed job, internship, and volunteer opportunities; Missed events and conferences

    Some of the material I post at We Can Do is time-sensitive material. That means the conferences announced here have come and gone; job posts have been filled; and deadlines are over. So, if it’s too late for you to do anything about any of the following announcements, then why bother listing them? First, some conference organizers issue compilations of papers and presentations or other interesting materials after their event is over. If a topic interests you, it may be worth communicating with event organizers to see if any follow-up publications are available. Second, organizations that offer one conference, job opportunity, call for papers, etc., may offer something similar in the future. Many conferences, for example, meet every one, two, three, or four years. Monitoring, joining, or communicating with organizations of interest to you could help ensure that you learn about the next opportunity in time to plan for it.

    Top of Missed Opportunities; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Missed Call for Papers
    The German Journal for Disability and Development called for papers on art and disabilities to be submitted by the end of November 2007.

    Also browse through the listing of upcoming conferences and missed conferences.

    Top of Missed Opportunities; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Missed Training Opportunities

    In October 2007, the International Labour Organisation had a training course for professionals from developing countries.

    Top of Missed Opportunities; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Missed Jobs, Internships, and Volunteer Opportunities
    Remember that it is too late to apply for these specific opportunities. These are listed here in case you want to check out the sponsoring organizations for future opportunities like these:

    Top of Missed Opportunities; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    Missed Event and Conference Opportunities

    Top of Missed Opportunities; Table of Contents; Top of this page

    What’s Next for We Can Do?

    I am not yet satisfied with We Can Do. I still see many gaps that I want to repair. I want to find, and post, more materials of a pragmatic nature. By which I mean, material that people in the field can put to immediate use in improving the lives of disabled people in developing countries. If you think you can help me locate helpful materials, please review my Wish list for written materials and resources and contact me.

    I also want to reach more development professionals at mainstream development organizations and more employees and volunteers at international disability organizations. And I want to reach more small DPOs and individual advocates in more developing countries. The knowledge shared at We Can Do cannot help until it is brought to people with disabilities living in poverty in developing countries. That “final mile” can only be bridged by readers like YOU.

    If you want to help, I hope you will consider telling your colleagues and contacts about We Can Do. If you run a web site or a blog, please consider linking to We Can Do at If you have the skills, the time, and the commitment to launch a We Can Do mirror site translation into some other language, please talk to me (leave a comment or email me at ashettle [at] And please do feel free to print out the more helpful We Can Do posts to share with people you know in developing countries who do not have easy access to the Internet.

    For those of you who like numbers: We Can Do had 285 page views in July; 851 in August; 1305 in September; 2936 in October; 4862 in November; and more than 5100 in the first three weeks of December. And who is responsible for making these numbers happen? Why—you, of course! So, thank you for visiting We Can Do.

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    RESOURCE: VSO Handbook on Mainstreaming Disability

    Posted on 17 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Case Studies, Cross-Disability, Inclusion, Poverty, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    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 web site at

    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.

    Also click on “resources” under “categories” in the right-hand navigation bar to see what other resources are listed at We Can Do that might be useful to you.

    I learned about this resource through a bi-monthly email newsbulletin from the AskSource website. AskSource is targeted at people who share an interest in health or disability issues in developing countries. People who wish to subscribe themselves to their mailing list to be alerted of future new resources like this one can fill out the form at Or, you can email, type SUBSCRIBE SOURCE in the subject line, and state your name, organisation and email address. Additional information, such as your subject interests or activities, will help AskSource tailor their communications to your needs.

    Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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    Please Submit YOUR Materials to We Can Do

    Posted on 7 November 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, Arts, Blind, Call for Papers, Case Studies, Children, Cognitive Impairments, Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), Cross-Disability, Deaf, Disability Studies, Disaster Planning & Mitigation, East Asia Pacific Region, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Education, Employment, Events and Conferences, Families, Funding, Guest Blogger, HIV/AIDS, Housing, Human Rights, Immigration, Interpreting, Introduction to "We Can Do", Jobs & Internships, Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Mobility Impariments, Multiple Disabilities, News, Opinion, Opportunities, Policy & Legislation, Poverty, Psychiatric Disabilities, Rehabilitation, Remittances, Resources, South Asian Region, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Uncategorized, Violence, Volunteer Opportunities, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Currently, We Can Do gathers news; announcements; academic papers; case studies; opinion pieces; information about resources; and other materials of interest to disabled advocates and international development professionals from a wide range of sources. In addition to these, from time to time, I write fresh content of my own.

    I also hope to be able to depend heavily on YOU–We Can Do readers–for some of the best, most interesting, and helpful materials. Examples of materials that would interest me include, but are not limited to: “best practice” case studies; “failed practice” case studies; checklists; fundraising advice or resources; other pragmatic resources; academic papers or reports; student projects; press releases; opinion pieces; announcements; and more. For more detail, please click on “Wish List for Written Materials and Resources” at the top navigation bar.

    If you can assist with my current top priority, or with any of the other items in my “wish list”, then PLEASE GET IN TOUCH. Email me at ashettle at patriot dot net or leave a short note in the comment area below and I’ll contact you.

    Current Top Priority for We Can Do

    Are you from Croatia, Cuba, Gabon, Hungary, India, Jamaica, or Panama? If so, were you involved with the movement to persuade your government to sign and ratify the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)? If so PLEASE CONTACT ME (ashettle at patriot dot net, or leave a comment below with your email address).

    I want to interview people involved with these movements (via email) so I can write a story describing what strategies you used; any barriers you faced along the way; how you overcame these barriers; any mistakes you made, how you corrected them, and how other countries can avoid them; what activities or techniques you think were the most critical to your success; and so forth. Sharing this type of information at We Can Do–and elsewhere–could be immensely helpful to disability movements in other countries that are working toward the same goals.

    My primary written language is English, pero puedo escribir y leer, mas o menos, en espanol tambien. (Lo siento para la mala ortografia–no se como crear acentos en WordPress.) Once we are in contact, I will probably have many questions for you–and follow up questions after that!

    Thank you for helping make We Can Do become a strong, good-quality resource for people with disabilities in developing countries and the people who are working hard to meet their needs.

    Edited to Add: I do not post my full email address because any recognizable email address posted on the web then immediately becomes the target of “spam harvesters” and starts receiving tons of unwanted, unsolicited commercial emails. But I spelled it out above and spell it out again here. But this time I’m amplifying it because I realize that not all people have learned how to parse spelled out email addresses:

    My username is: ashettle

    Every email address has an @ at sign @ between the user name and the domain name, thus ashettle@

    My email domain is

    Put it all together and you have my email address.

    Or if that is still too confusing–or if it’s just easier for you–then feel free to leave a note below (with your email address in the area provided for it) and I’ll get in touch.

    Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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    Report: 1st Africa Deaf HIV/AIDS Workshop

    Posted on 20 October 2007. Filed under: Case Studies, Deaf, HIV/AIDS, Resources, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    No continent has been struck by HIV/AIDS more than sub-Saharan Africa: nearly two-thirds of all people living with HIV are in Africa, and so were three-quarters of those who died from AIDS in 2006 (see UNAIDS report). We also know that people with disabilities are at higher risk for becoming infected with HIV (see Nora Groce’s study). And Deaf/deaf and hard of hearing people are no exception.

    Two years ago, people who shared a concern about HIV and AIDS within the Deaf communities of Africa gathered at a workshop to exchange their knowledge and raise awareness within the Deaf community and among government officials about the need to address HIV/AIDS. The report resulting from this workshop is now available in PDF format on-line.

    DATES: 24 TH – 30TH AUGUST 2005
    THEME: OUR FUTURE-OUR RIGHTS TO HIV/AIDS INFORMATION, CARE AND SUPPORT ______________________________________________________________________________ The objectives of the workshop were as follows:
    • To provide HIV/AIDS awareness and life skills training to the representatives from the Deaf community in Africa.
    • To sensitise the Deaf on their rights to HIV/AIDS information and to care and support when infected by HIV/AIDS.
    • To provide a forum for the Deaf to exchange inter-country experience on HIV/AIDS among the Deaf population in Africa.
    • To educate and raise awareness among the government officials, UN agencies and participants from institutions working on HIV/AIDS, on the specific problems face by Deaf people in accessing HIV/AIDS information, care and support.

    The report summarizes the opening remarks which touched upon the challenges facing Deaf Africans in fighting HIV/AIDs and ideas for moving forward. It also summarizes some of the key presentations including:




    “UGANDA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE DEAF STRUGGLE TO FIGHT HIV/AIDS AMONGST THE DEAF PEOPLE.” By Florence N. Mukasa – Gender and Theatre Coordinator, Uganda National Association of the Deaf.

    “SOURCES OF INFORMATION ABOUT HIV/AIDS” By Meena H. A. – UNAIDS Country Office – Dar es salaam.

    “THE AFRICAN DECADE AND VISION TO COMBAT HIV/AIDS AMONG THE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN AFRICA” By Thomas Ongolo – The Secretariat of African Decade of Disabled Persons in South Africa.


    The report also describes how deaf participants were trained in preventing HIV/AIDS, and in advocating for more inclusion of deaf people in HIV/AIDS work carried out by their governments.

    The report can be downloaded in PDF format (143 kilobytes) at—Events/BBLs/ADUReport.pdf

    Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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    Violence Against Blind/VI Girls in Malawi

    Posted on 6 October 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Blind, Case Studies, Children, Guest Blogger, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Violence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    This paper was presented by its author Abigail Suka at the 12th International Council on Education for People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) World Conference held in Malaysia from 16-21 July 2006.  Although she was with Sightsavers International at the time she presented this paper, Abigail Suka is now an independent consultant in development issues, team building, and planning.  She is also a part-time postgraduate student working toward a Masters of Public Health (MPH) at the University of Malawi.  Thank you to Abigail Suka for granting permission to publish her paper at We Can Do.

    Violence against Girls who are Blind and
    Visually Impaired in Schools in Malawi

    Abigail Suka
    Country Representative
    Sight Savers International
    Private Bag A 197
    In Malawi violence against girls (VAG) is rampant. Research work commissioned between recently by DFID, Action Aid and its partners shows that out of all the incidences of violence in schools 65% of these affect girls while 35% affect boys.(1) None of this research has looked at how violence in school affects girls with disabilities in general and visual impairment in particular.

    Sight Savers International (SSI) in Malawi is a member of the Civil Society Coalition for Quality Basic Education (CSQBE) which recently conducted a study on Violence Against Girls. SSI collaborated with Malawi Union of the Blind to also gather some information from this study and extrapolate it to attempt to establish how the girl who is blind is affected by such violence. This paper reports issues raised in discussions held by the writer with MUB Girl Guide members using the CSQBE study report as a guide, and some key informants, mainly blind young women who have defied the odds and passed through an unsafe school system. It also draws on literature available on the subject.

    What is Gender Based Violence (GBV)?
    The Fourth World Conference of Women, held in Beijing, China in 1995, reported the continued exploitation and abuse of girls in spite of the ratification of various UN conventions notably the Convention of the Rights of the Child of 1989. Specific issues raised included the violence directed at girls in the form of female genital mutilation, forced and early marriages, sexual exploitation, unequal access to education and health care. GBV recognizes that violence directed at girls and women is expressive of patriarchal power and authority.(2)

    What is School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV)?
    SRGBV comes in various forms such as sexual, physical, verbal, emotional and psychological and occurs in and out of school. Perpetrators of VAG are many but most of the VAG is committed by male pupils and male teachers thereby making schools unsafe for girls. This problem came into the limelight because in most schools enrolment for girls in upper primary school and secondary schools in much lower than boys. Moreover in most schools girls perform poorly during classroom exercises, tests and examinations. This problem is partly attributed to violence and is of concern because they cause high drop out and low education attainment for girls.

    The Global Statistics on Violence Against Girls with Disabilities
    The FREDA Research Centre on VAG, based in Canada, reports that (3)
    • 53% of women with disabilities from birth have been raped, abused, or assaulted (Lynn & O’Neill 1995:278)
    • The rate of sexual abuse for girls with disabilities is quadruple that of the national average (Razack 1994)
    Another study conducted through the New York City Board of Education who documented cases of adult to student sexual abuse found that whilst students receiving special education made up only 7% of the student body as a whole, they made up twice that percentage of targets of abuse.(4) A report by Waxman Fiduccia summarizing a few studies that offer a gender breakdown suggests that women and girls face higher rates of abuse than men and boys, often at the rate of more than twice the rate of non disabled girls. (5)

    Perceptions about Violence Against Girls
    Centre for Social Research in Malawi found the following perceptions about acts that constitute violence against girls at school(6):

    • Corporal punishments like digging pits, molding bricks during class time
    • Teasing, bullying and beating by boys and teachers
    • Forced to have relationships and sex with boys and teachers
    • Verbal abuse
    • Sexually harassment i.e. touching their breasts and other private parts.
    • Rape
    • Impregnation
    • Discrimination by teachers.
    • Suspending and expelling girls without warnings.
    • Not giving girls chance to voice out their views.

    A focus group discussion undertaken with Malawi Union of the Blind – Youth Wing girls when they were undergoing Girl Guide training, identified all the above as factors affecting them and added some more as:

    • Threats and actual sexual abuse from specialist teachers, class room (contact) teachers and blind boys
    • Promises to marry from blind adults in leadership positions in the organization of the Blind
    • Extensive teasing, such as leading them to a wrong classroom, hiding their white cane and their writing materials (Primary Education Pack)
    • Not escorting them to the toilet
    • Name Calling: For girls with albinism and low vision they face ridiculing name calling such as Zigoma: after the name of a singer with albinism or Mzungu or whitey
    • Verbal abuse : belittling them suggesting no one would be interested in an affair with a blind girl

    The Face of SRGBV: Low Enrolment of Visually Impaired Girls in School
    There are more women with visual impairment than men, however enrolment figures obtained from an integrated education programme that Sightsavers International supports consistently show a lower enrolment of girls in primary schools. Data from 8 project districts is tabulated below:

    ENROLMENT 2004
    Blantyre 10 129 81 210
    Lilongwe 11 140 104 244
    Rumphi 8 64 64 128
    Chikwawa 5 37 28 65
    Zomba 6 35 39 74
    Salima 5 41 30 71
    Balaka 6 45 58 103
    Machinga 8 65 80 145

    Total 59 556 484 1040
    53% 47%

    The Basic Education Statistics 2005, reported national enrollment of visually impaired children in schools in 2005 to be 15490 (7), of which 7412(47%) are girls and 8078 (53%) are boys, as in the project districts supported.

    Analysis of the Basic Education Statistics published for 2005 demonstrates that of the number of visually impaired girls who would have started off primary school in Standard 1, only 15% make it to the final class in primary school (Standard 8) indicating an unacceptably high level of drop outs. Although ‘lack of interest’ is indicated as the major reason contributing to high drop out, this consultation and other evidence suggests that violence against these visually impaired girls in school is a key factor in this high drop out rate. Or at least violence in schools is a major cause of the lack of interest, in other words, girls simply stop going to school because of the unsafe environment and this is interpreted as ‘ a lack of interest’ Compared to sighted girls, 25% reach the final primary school class. Compared to visually impaired boys, 31% would reach Standard 8, even beating the sighted pupils demonstrating that girls in general occupy a lower place in society. This also accentuates the fact that when a girl, is not only a girl but is also blind, the odds of her finishing her education are even more limited.

    Sadly continuation to secondary school is even more dismal. Of 607 girls with visual impairment who would have completed Standard 8 in 2005, only 217 (35%) would make it to secondary school and not all of these will complete secondary school.

    Factors affecting their propensity to Violence
    The first obvious factor has to be the limitation caused by the disability itself that may make it more difficult for a girl with visual impairment to detect or even discern the behavior of her perpetrator. Harilyn Rousso in her paper on ‘Sexual harassment in Schools’ intimates that ‘disability – related limitations make it difficult for girls with certain disabilities, to detect and fully understand the nature of the perpetrators behaviour, and some disabilities may limit her ability to defend herself or move away from perpetrators and to report incidents of violence.(8)

    The more underlying reasons however lie in the negative attitudes that girls with disability face in their day to day lives. The focus group discussion undertaken with MUB girl guides indicate that many suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence which makes them portray a sense of helpless which in turn licenses perpetrators. For many girls such abuses start from their homes and extend to their trusted mentors such as a specialist teacher. There is no data to quantify the extent to which people in position of trust such as specialist teachers and classroom teacher, guides etc. This is mainly because the girls will lack the courage to report. Those who can talk about it are no longer in the school system.
    In her paper, The Girl Child: Having to ‘Fit’, Yasmin Jiwani, Ph.D. states that ‘girls with disabilities experience higher rates of sexual abuse (at 4 times the national average) because of their dependent status, isolation, and the negative stereotypes that prevail in the dominant society. Afraid to report the abuse because of the fear of not being believed, many of these girls continue to lead lives that are jeopardized by threats and actual incidents of violence’ They are often stereotyped, thereby undermining for actors to deal with unique and specific issue different to each girl. Harilyn Rousso reports of an extreme example of a stereotypical attitude in an incident of a young woman with disability who tried to report an attempted rape, her counselor said ‘Who would want to rape YOU?’ Furthermore, it is unbelievable that in some countries some courts will not entertain allegations of sexual violence brought by blind women or girls, because of supposed difficulties in identifying the perpetrator.

    Why should we address Violence against Visually Impaired girls NOW?

    1) MDGs and EFA
    One of the UN Millennium Development Goals adopted by the Heads of State and Government is to ensure that children everywhere, boys and girls alike, should be able to complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015. In order to achieve this goal, there is need for a 100% net enrolment and completion rates for school age children, including those with disabilities. There are far too few girls with disabilities completing school (15%). If this phenomenon is not addressed, it threatens to derail efforts by governments and other stakeholders to promote girls education and achieve 2015 Education for All (EFA) goals. Without visually impaired girls attaining an education, MDG and EFA will not be a reality for Malawi.

    Girls with Disabilities are bound together by double discrimination based on gender and disability. Statistics tell us that females with disabilities are achieving less in terms of employment and socialization into the mainstream of life than men with disabilities, with the vast majority of women living in dependent and comparatively impoverished circumstances.(9) In many developing countries, there are few educational opportunities for girls with disability. When there are opportunities for education, in special schools, boys usually receive them. Therefore it is necessary to ensure that where visually impaired girls are managing to go to school as is the case in Malawi where at least 400 girls with visual impairment were attending an integrated education in 2004, concerted effort should be made by stakeholders in their education to make sure that they stay in school.

    2) The time is right
    There is sufficient platform provided by Women’s Rights Activism, Women Disability Rights and the UN Charter on Disabilities. These international instruments will help to accelerate the effort to address and advocate for safe environment for girls who are blind and visually impaired to go to school.

    3) HIV/AIDS
    In Malawi, we are racing against the deadly HIV/AIDS pandemic. Not only is the rate of HIV/AIDS among people with disabilities threatening to scourge, on account of poverty related socio economic factors and attitudes, but sadly also due to prevalent cultural beliefs that having sex with a person with a disabilities will cure or ‘cleanse’ you of AIDS. Grace Massa, chairperson of Albinism Fellowship in Malawi intimates it is a common belief that girls with albinism are the best ‘cleansers’. (10)

    According to the World Bank funded Global Survey of HIV/AIDS among disabled populations(11), HIV/AIDS is a significant and almost wholly unrecognized problem among disabled populations worldwide. A growing body of literature and experience supports the notion that HIV/AIDS educational, testing and clinical programs around the world are largely inaccessible to individuals with disability.

    Continued low literacy rates among disabled individuals, particularly girls present real challenges to prevention efforts. It is therefore imperative that we address the issue of a safe environment for a girl who is blind to stay in school so that she can have higher literacy rates.

    What strategies can we employ?
    Concrete information: Obtaining information and data is the first step towards developing appropriate responses and services. It has been acknowledge that there is insufficient information in this important area. We need to undertake studies specifically addressing Violence against Girls with Disabilities and specifically with visual impairment because there are unique aspects to visual impairment.

    Challenging stereotypes: through community education, youth projects and media campaigns. In particular challenging “the almost universal belief that disabled people cannot be a reliable witness on their own behalf.” (12)

    Raising awareness: of the adverse effect SRGBV has on a girl who is blind to the various audiences that we have access to.

    Empowerment Programmes specifically designed to empower girls who are blind and visually impaired. Many state that they fail to report incidents of violence because they were shy. Therefore, programmes to improve the assertiveness of girls are necessary.

    However, shyness sometimes comes about because the reporting procedures themselves are not conducive. Therefore, advocating for the establishment of ‘safe pathways’ or procedures that encourages girls who are blind to report incidents of violence.

    Advocacy & Coalition Building – by remaining alert on SRGBV issues and participating in the wider advocacy arena, we can influence changes in legislation, school practice and curricula aimed at stopping violence against girls and we will have opportunity to add a voice regarding the girl who is blind. Joining established ‘voices’ or platforms such as the Civil Society Coalition will add credibility and muscle to our voice. Going it alone is unnecessary and expensive. However for us to participate in this advocacy effort we need to bring a body of evidence to the table, hence the need for professional research in this area.

    Motivation & Role Models – What would be the point of going to school if there no hope of you getting employment or engaging in meaningful pursuits? There is a role that role models can play. In this regards, the few girls who are blind and have completed their education and are participating meaningfully and interdependently in society need to be involved in programmes to reach the younger blind girls and talk to them about what career options they have. In this regard most of the key informants to this interview are in that category. They have demonstrated that they are not passive victims of harassment and violence. Theirs are stories that also need to be told.

    (1) CSCQBE report 2005
    (2) The Girl Child: Having to Fit by Yasmin Jiwani 19998.
    (3) The FREDA Centre for Research on Violence Against Girls and Women
    (4) Sexual Harassment in School, An invisible issue for Girls and Young Women with Disabilities, Harilyn Rouso
    (5) Disabled Women and violence Fact sheet, B.F. Waxman Fiduccia
    (6) Study Report: Violence Against Girls in School by University of Malawi, Centre for Social Research
    (7) Education Basic Statistics Malawi 2005, ME&HRD Statistics Unit, Page 33
    (8) Harilyn Rousso, Sexual Harassment in Schools: An invisible Issue for Girls and Young Women with Disabilities
    (9) Having a Daughter With a Disability: Is it Different For Girls? An extract from news Digest
    (10) Newspaper article, Grace Massa, Chairperson of Albino Association in Malawi
    (11) Groce N. Global Survey on HIV/AIDS and Disability. The World Bank/Yale University. April 2004.
    (12) Nosek MA, Howland CA, Hughes RB. The investigation of abuse and women with disabilities: going beyond assumptions. Violence Against Women2001; 7:477-99.


    We Can Do first received this paper via the Disability Information Dissemination Network, which is sponsored by Sightsavers International. If you wish to receive papers like this one directly, you can subscribe to the CSID mailing list by sending an email to or and putting the word “join” in the subject line.

    Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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    IDCS Newsletter: Deaf Children, Families, and Schools

    Posted on 1 October 2007. Filed under: Case Studies, Children, Deaf, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Education, Families, South Asian Region, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Thank you to the International Deaf Children’s Society (IDCS) for granting their permission to repost their newsletter at We Can Do. This newsletter contains information about a range of programs targeted at deaf children and their families and schools in Burkino Faso; Zimbabwe; Somaliland; Kazakhstan; Afghanistan; and India.

    Note that IDCS would like to receive stories about your experiences in supporting families in improving their ability to communicate with their deaf children for possible use in their next newsletter. Their deadline is October 10, 2007; see the bottom of this post for more detail.

    August 29, 2007
    Learning from Each Other: An Update from the IDCS Network
    The International Deaf Children’s Society (IDCS) is the international development wing of The National Deaf Children’s Society in the UK.

    Families and schools

    In this issue of Learning from Each Other you can find out more about how schools can involve families and communities in their work.

    Education is central in promoting every child’s development. It is a Millennium Development Goal to achieve universal primary education, because it is recognised that education broadens opportunities and choices for young people and helps to fight poverty. As one third of the out-of-school children are disabled – it will be impossible to meet this goal without deaf children getting into school. IDCS believes that this will be impossible without family and community involvement.

    Research by academics like Desforges in the UK have shown that the support children receive from their family makes a big difference to their success at school. The case studies in this newsletter highlight the role that families play globally. Over 90% of deaf children are born into families who are not deaf and who may have little understanding of how they can support their child. That’s why it’s important for schools and families to work together. Read on for some brilliant examples of how this can work in practice!

    For example, you can read a case study from Burkina Faso showing how schools can help families learn the skills they need to support their children more effectively. In addition, parental involvement can really benefit the school by using parents’ unique knowledge, skills and motivation – both in the classroom like in the example from Afghanistan, and at school management and policy level like the project for families in Kazakhstan.

    As so many deaf children are out of school, it’s essential that schools consider how they can reach those parents in the community whose children are not in school. Again, with the right support, other parents whose deaf children have been to school can be the best people to reach out, like the inspiring parent trainers in Zimbabwe.

    Later this year, IDCS will publish Family Friendly! a book of case studies and practical tips about involving families and communities in work with deaf children. Some of the case studies in this newsletter are also featured in the book – so look out for our email publicising the book later in the year! Some existing resources to help you think about how you can improve the way you work with families and communities are featured below.

    Teachers training parents in Burkina Faso

    In order for deaf children to do well at school, it really helps if families are actively involved in their education, and are able to communicate, play or help their children with homework. However it’s not always easy for parents to know what to do.

    After asking parents what they needed, IDCS’s partner CEFISE, a mainstream school where lots of deaf children study, trained a group of teachers to carry out workshops for parents at three other schools for the deaf. During these workshops, teachers provide parents with information about deafness and lots of creative ideas to make learning fun. Using creative techniques proved to be a great way to provide parents with practical skills and motivation to spend more time with their child!

    Follow the link to find out more about this Burkina Faso project, as well as great examples of games and activities.

    Parents outreaching to other parents in Zimbabwe

    Nyadire Primary School is located in a rural area of Zimbabwe where there is little awareness of deafness. With support from IDCS and the NZEVE centre for deaf children, Nyadire School trained two parents to be outreach workers.

    Being visited at home was a great way for parents of out-of-school deaf children to find out more about deafness and their children’s potential. The parent trainers encouraged parents to send their deaf child to school and provided them with information about how they could support learning in the home. The families felt comfortable discussing personal issues with someone who had faced similar challenges and the parent trainers became a real community resource. The school also organised workshops to provide parents with more information and training to help them communicate with their deaf child.

    Follow the link to find out more about this innovative approach to working with parents

    Establishing a parents’ group in Somaliland

    In Somaliland there are only two schools for the deaf. The Hargeisa School for the Deaf is working with parents to support them to advocate for the rights of their child. Getting parents together is also an effective and sustainable way of establishing support networks and a forum to share ideas and experiences.

    The Hargeisa School found that, in order for parents to have an impact, it was important to set up a formal organisation. They provided a group of parents with the necessary skills to organise and register a parents’ group. This group now meets regularly and, together with the school and a group of young deaf people, has carried out advocacy and awareness raising activities.

    Find out more about the process of setting up a parents group

    Working together for children’s rights in Kazakhstan

    Children living in institutions in Kazakhstan are often denied their rights. In addition, many find that communicating with their families is very difficult. With limited parental involvement, professionals have a lot of power over children’s lives. To create change in such a context meant that everyone needed to be involved – that’s why the project working to improve the lives of deaf children in institutions was called Rights for All.

    Using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a tool, this project tried to involve teachers, children and parents. An important achievement was the establishment of an ongoing parents’ group which have quarterly meetings with school directors and are working with the Deaf People’s Association to lobby for policy changes. A resource room staffed by a parent volunteer also helps to provide parents with practical support when they visit the school.

    Read more about how this project aimed to make Rights For All a reality

    A father’s story – getting involved in education in Afghanistan

    Getting involved in their children’s education can radically change parents’ attitudes towards their child’s deafness. As they witness first-hand their child’s capacity for learning and educational success, they can become advocates for other children’s rights.

    Abdul Ghani is the father of six children, four of whom are deaf. He worked for an inclusive education project run by the International Rescue Committee in Afghanistan which helped deaf children, previously denied access to education, to stay in school. His valuable contribution and change of attitude towards his deaf children’s potential shows how parent involvement benefits both schools and families!

    Find out more about our work in Afghanistan.

    Real inclusion requires a supportive family

    In India, the Persons with Disabilities Act says that every disabled child should be able to study in a regular school if that is their choice. Snigdha talks about how she fought to make the act a reality for her deaf daughter, Sneha. This would not have been possible without the support she received in the early days from a family-focused organisation in West Bengal. Snigdha’s story shows why IDCS’s focus on parent-support is so important and gives practical tips for regular schools wishing to include deaf children.

    Read Snigdha’s story to find out more about parenting a deaf child in India and why family support is so important.

    Member spotlight

    IDCS Network member the Loto Taumafai Society in Samoa worked with UNESCO to pilot the Toolkit for Creating Inclusive, Learning Friendly Environments. The second chapter focuses on involving families and communities. It is a very useful tool for any school. However, IDCS thinks that as deaf children have less opportunity than other children to learn incidentally in their community, the ideas presented in this UNESCO publication are even more important for schools where deaf children learn!

    You can read an extract and download the booklet

    More resources

    EENET, the Enabling Education Network is an international information sharing network which promotes the inclusion of marginalised groups in education. Membership is open to all.

    The EENET website contains resources about working with parents including the Family Action for Inclusion book. This tells the stories of family-based advocacy organisations which have contributed to transform education systems in southern Africa, South Asia, Europe and Australia. It has been written for family and community members who may feel isolated and want to form a support group, advocacy organisation, or want to challenge exclusion. It will also be of relevant to those interested in promoting inclusive practices in education, such as teachers, teacher educators and policy makers.

    Find out more about EENET

    Improving family communication

    For our next issue of Learning from Each Other, we would like to focus on family communication. As the articles presented here have shown, communicating with a deaf child at home is extremely important for his or her emotional and educational development. We would be delighted to hear of your experiences of supporting families to improve their ability to communicate with their deaf child.

    What challenges do you face in communicating with deaf children? Have you received support from an organisation or parents of deaf children? Are there any games or exercises that you have found particularly useful? Are you involving deaf adults in family communication exercises?

    As always, please do not worry if you don’t have much experience of writing about your work, just get in touch with any contribution, long or short. We will do our best to include it in the newsletter or publish on our website to share with The IDCS Network.

    Please send us your stories by 10 October 2007 by email, post or fax

    The IDCS Network
    15 Dufferin Street
    London, EC1Y 8UR
    United Kingdom
    Fax + 44 (0)20 7251 5020

    Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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    CASE STUDY: Early Intervention for Blind Children

    Posted on 20 September 2007. Filed under: Blind, Case Studies, Children, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Multiple Disabilities | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

    The following case study is written by Irina Germanova Sumarokova, director of Nizhniy Novgorod Regional Charity of Parents of Visually Impaired “Perspektiva.”

    Establish a model of early intervention center for providing permanent medical, social psychological and pedagogic services for families with blind or visually impaired children in Nizhniy Novgorod

    Irina Germanovna Sumarokova
    Nizhniy Novgorod Regional Charity of Parents of Visually Impaired “Perspektiva”
    Nizhniy Novgorod
    28 M.Pokrovskaya St
    7 8312 333402
    Email: irasu at sandy dot ru
    (The above email address should use the @ at sign in place of the word “at,” and an actual dot . in place of the word “dot”, all spelled as one word.)

    Raising a blind of visually impaired preschool child now days is a big challenge. Because of limited sensor system and lack of information about how things happen in the world, blind and visually impaired children have special needs caused by physical and psychological development, and process of social psychological adjustment to now day’s life. From the birth blind or visually impaired child needs special care aimed to form compensatory mechanism and attitude towards the world. If these problems are successfully solved in preschool ages blind and visually impaired children better integrate in community, have better private and social life, better social and psychological well-being, also for this children it is easier to get good education and profession.

    Now days the number of blind and visually impaired children is increasingly growing. The situation is worsened by fact, that last few years as a result of medical successes in nursing of premature newborn children a number of multi-disabled children with blindness increased too.

    In spite of increasing number of these children in most of Russian cities there are no preschool institutions for blind children. There are institutions that work with children with amblyopic and strabismus. Absence of Systematic approach to preschool education of blind and visually impaired children exclude children of this category from preschool education process. Because of this now blind children are raised isolated by parents who do not know ways and perspectives of development of such children. As a result of incompetent pedagogic influence accrue strong developmental lag (physical and psychological) compared to their sighted peers that badly influences their educational process and farther lives of these children.

    The worst situation is with multi-disabled children. According to “Children’s rights declaration each child regardless of disability has a right to education in conformity with his abilities and needs. But special educational institutions cannot fully meet these children’s needs. Multi-disabled children need to have more influence than just blind children. Because of all reasons above establishing an affective system of medical, social, psychological help for families with blind, visually impaired and multi-disabled children is very important for Russia.

    Russian and foreign experience shows that the most effective model of this system is center of early intervention, where psychologists and teachers are working in close contact with parents. In European countries and in the US gained positive experience of work of such centers. This experience shows that rehabilitation work done in preschool ages enables them late to integrate in society and allows to decrease the difference in physical and psychological development of blind and visually impaired children from other children in preschool ages.

    In Russia there is Municipal early intervention center in St. Petersburg. Parents of blind children and multi-disabled children get medical, social, psychological and pedagogic help there. Unfortunately current economic conditions do not allow local government in others Russian districts to give funds for such organization. In this situation the idea of establishing early intervention centers in big cities of Russia on the basis of NGOs becomes significant.

    In Nizhniy Novgorod the early intervention center was established on the basis of Nizhniy Novgorod society of parents of visually impaired and blind children «perspektiva» on November 4 in 2003. It happened in process of activities in project «Developing and inventing a model of early intervention center for blind and visually impaired children» that was implemented by Perspektiva in partnership with Saratov regional organization of All-Russian society of blind and Blind Babies Foundation (San Francisco) from September 1 2003 to September 31 2004. I would like a few words about this organization.

    Nizhniy Novgorod Regional Charity of Parents of Visually Impaired “Perspekiva” was officially registered on 24 of October 2001. The main aims of its activity are:

    • To develop the appropriate environment for successful social rehabilitation of blind and visually impaired and multi-handicapped preschool children;

    • To promote the ideas of social integration of the visually impaired children in media;

    • The main directions of Perspektiva’s activity are:

    • Creating a database of blind and visually impaired children, and children with multi-disabilities as well;

    • Information support of families, having children with the described problems;

    • Consulting parents on their rights and rehabilitation of their children;

    • Providing the families with tactile books, toys and games;

    • Organizing activities and events, helping to integrate these children into society.

    As organization Perspectiva appeared during the Russian-British project “in contact with a family” financed by CAF implemented by Moscow foundation of parents of blind children, Parents from Nizhniy Novgorod participated in it. Perspectiva is the only organization working with blind babies in Nizhniy Novgorod. Since there are no special educational institution for blind, visually impaired and multi-disabled children in Nizhniy Novgorod the main goal for “Perspektiva” now is to establish a center of social and psychological rehabilitation of blind and visually impaired children (early intervention center). At the end of 2001 organization initiated creation of such center and was supported by city administration of Nizhniy Novgorod. City administration gave “Perspektiva” room for it.

    Center was equipped with materials needed in development of blind and visually impaired children: Trampoline, dry water pool, Tunnel, Furniture for children, Set of apparatuses for children, Floor mats, Montessori special equipment. In Center there are a lot of tactile books, special toys, special adapted table games. The special crawling room was made for working with multidisabled children who cannot walk.

    The main goals of our center – to promote continuous patronage of blind and visually impaired children from the moment of diagnose till they gain satisfying social status. Early intervention center’s activity includes two main aspects: work with parents (mothers, fathers, other family members) and work with children.

    Work with parents include:
    • Legal education aimed to raise awareness of parents about their rights;
    • Teaching skills of competent pedagogic influence of such children;
    • Their social and psychological rehabilitation.

    Work with children is based on generalized innovative Russian and foreign experience in this area. In this center the main activities are:

    Rehabilitation classes with blind and visually impaired children and their parents- Children come for such lessons 1-3 times a week depending on their needs. During these lessons children obtain communication, self-serving, orientation skills, learn to play, develop their movements and motor skills of hands. Preschoolers are preparing for going to school. There are individual and small group lessons. Parents attend these lessons too; there they learn how to develop their blind and visually impaired children.

    Consultations for parents on medical, psychological and pedagogic issues. These consultations were available in the centers, at home and by phone. Some parents of children with insignificant visual impairments that do not lead to disability came to the centers for one-time consultations on determining developmental level of their children and about saving and developing vision. Parents of children with serious disorders usually needed to come to the centers for consultations a lot of times. Such families need permanent psychological and pedagogic assistance. Centers provide this kind of assistance for such parents.

    Teaching parents of blind and visually impaired children skills, needed for competent development of their children, – parents receive educational films and brochures; also seminars for parents are organized. Films are very popular, because parents get visual information that they can use with their children in daily routines. Center started to collect films on early intervention for blind and visually impaired children. With help of Blind Babies Foundation now Nizhniy Novgorod center have 8 films, 3 of them were subtitled wit Russian subtitles. «Perspektiva» made 2 films. Also “Perspektiva” produced 8 brochures for parents. The goal of seminars for parents is to introduce parents of visually impaired children to different methods of developing such children. The programs of seminars are very rich. They include different trainings for parents: creating developing environment for blind child at home, teaching blind children orientation and mobility skills, teaching self-help skills, developing other senses…

    Besides functioning as educators centers started to organize vocational activities for children and their parents. We think that such activities will improve understanding and collaboration among families and will help children to learn practical skills better. For example, every year we organize New Year parties, mother’s day and «birthdays» day when all children get presents.

    Many affords were made in order to improve system of revealing blind and visually impaired infants toddlers and preschoolers and involve their families in the project activities. In order to do this, partners established partnerships with governmental authorities, in particular those working with social security, health and education issues. As a result of this work database on such children was created and it continues to grow.

    To disseminate information about early intervention center «Perspektiva» produced colorful fliers with information about the center. These fliers are distributed to parents of visually impaired children through kindergartens that have special groups for such children, social security departments and medical-social expertise agencies, where parents of children who get official status of disabled get flier with recommendation to apply for help to early intervention centers. Fliers are also disseminated through pediatric ophthalmologists at clinics for children.

    Nizhniy Novgorod center’s activity is based on American experience. Three project staff members went to San Francisco to learn more about experience of Blind Babies Foundation in early intervention work with blind and visually impaired children and their families in order to use this experience in Russia. During that trip we learned experience of American partner in providing early intervention services for families of blind and visually impaired children. Because of diverse program of the trip we could see how American methods of developing blind and visually impaired children work on practice. We were able to see different agencies that provide help and education for such children, to learn a lot about work of Blind Babies Foundation and see how it is organized. Together with unique experience we got a lot of printed materials on early intervention for blind and visually impaired children and multydisabled children and 6 videos for parents with practical information. These materials are translated and used by in Nizhniy Novgorod center’s activities.

    We found very useful work of home counselors, who provide home visits to families of blind and visually impaired children. We think that this experience will be very important for Russian early intervention centers. This method of working will allow us to involve much more families, since not all of the families are able to come to the centers for help. Home counselors also could help to involve families at social risk, now it is very challenging to have a contact with them. Coming back to Russia we discussed this ideas with governmental authorities and this year we got some money for establish the center of home visits of blind and visually impaired babies. In May we are starting this program. It is Wonderful result of our work.

    Establishing early intervention centers on the basis of “Perspektiva” in Nizhniy Novgorod solve a problem of preschool development of blind and visually impaired children. This experience is useful for other regions of Russia and other countries that are developed. It also will allow equal opportunities for blind children at schools, and will be a precondition for inventing the model of inclusive education for blind children in Russia.

    I received a copy of this case study via an email listserv called the Disability Information Dissemination Network, managed by the Centre for Services and Information on Disability (CSID) and sponsored by Sightsavers International. You can subscribe to CSID free email distribution list by sending an email to either or to and putting the word “join” in the subject line.

    Learn how to receive an email alert when new material is posted at We Can Do.

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