South Asian CONFERENCE on Autism

Posted on 1 December 2007. Filed under: Announcements, autism, Education, Employment, Events and Conferences, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Invitation for Participation in Conference & Training on Autism


15 – 18 Janaury 2008 NEW DELHI

Action For Autism with support from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is proud to host the South Asian Conference on Autism in New Delhi over 15 and 16 January 2008. This will be followed by a two-day practical hands-on training workshop in Structured Teaching on the TEACCH approach over 17 and 18 January 2008.

THE CONFERENCE will have a number of speakers who have Autism and who will speak on growing up and living with autism. There will be national and international presenters on Social Understanding, Adolescent Issues, Employment, Communication, Education, Marriage and Sexuality, among others.

The conference will also provide a professional platform to share and exchange knowledge and learning about various issues affecting the Autism community in South Asia. Academicians, researchers, professionals from the UK, USA, Denmark, Germany and India and SAARC countries from a range of fields have been invited to share and exchange the latest in research and practice.

THE WORKSHOP following the conference will aim to train mainstream teachers, special needs teachers, OTs, SLPs, vocational trainers, Parents, and anyone involved in helping individuals with autism receive an education and life skills training. The training on the TEACCH approach out of North Carolina will address the need for structure in a lifespan perspective, from the classroom right up to employment and future life.

The training workshop only has space for 40 participants.

We would like to invite all of you, researchers, professionals, parents, students, as well as anybody interested in knowing more about the field of Autism to attend the conference and the post conference workshop in Structured Methods.

Details about the conference and the post conference workshop can be viewed at our website as well as the August 2007 issue of our journal ‘Autism Network.’ Registration forms may be downloaded from the website.

The list of presenters along with their topics will be posted on our website shortly. For outstation participants, January is a busy season in Delhi, so please book your accommodation well in advance.

Looking forward to welcoming you to Delhi in January!

Warm regards
The Conference Coordination Team
Action For Autism (AFA)
Sector 5 Jasola Vihar, Behind Sai Niketan
New Delhi 110025 Tel: 91 11 40540991, 91 11 40540992, 91 11 65347422

Even those unable to attend the conference may wish to follow the link to the Action for Autism web site to explore their information and resources related to autism in India, including links to material in Hindi, Tamil, and other Indian languages.

We Can Do learned about this conference through the Intl-Dev email news distribution service, which people can subscribe to for free by following the link.

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

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PAPER; NEWS: World Bank Report on Disabled in India

Posted on 1 December 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, Cross-Disability, Education, Employment, Health, News, Reports, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New World Bank Report Finds People with Disabilities among the Most Excluded in Indian Society
Disabled adults have far lower employment rates than others – reduced from 43 % in 1991 to 38% in 2002

Contact : in New Delhi

New Delhi, November 20, 2007: A new World Bank report finds people with disabilities among the most excluded in Indian society Low literacy and employment rates and widespread social stigma are leaving disabled people behind. With better education and more access to jobs, India’s 40 to 90 million disabled people will generate higher growth which will benefit the country as a whole.

The report entitled People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes, says that as the country makes economic progress, the incidence of communicable disease-induced disabilities such as polio are likely to fall, whereas age and lifestyle-related disabilities and those due to traffic accidents are expected to rise sharply. For example, internationally, the lowest reported disability rates are in sub-Saharan Africa while the highest are in the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) countries. The report therefore highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach so that disabled people realize their full individual potential and maximize their social and economic contribution to society.

The report finds that people with disabilities are subject to multiple deprivations. Households with disabled members are significantly poorer than average, with lower consumption and fewer assets. Children living with disability are around 4 to 5 times less likely to be in school than Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste children. Disabled adults also have far lower employment rates than the general population – and this fell from 43 % in 1991 to 38% in 2002, even in the midst of economic growth.

Social attitudes and stigma play an important role in limiting the opportunities of disabled people for full participation in social and economic life, often even within their own families. For example, in surveys carried out for the report, around 50 percent of households saw the cause of disability as a “curse of God”. Women with disabilities face numerous additional challenges.

“India has an impressive set of policy commitments to its citizens with disabilities”, said Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Country Director for India. “The challenge facing Indian society now is to translate those commitments into better lives for disabled people. This includes identifying disabilities in young children, getting more disabled children into school and preparing them for the workplace and family life, and most importantly working to reduce the social stigma which disabled people face”.

Despite the many challenges, concerted efforts by the Government, civil society, the private sector, and disabled people themselves, the untapped potential of this large group of citizens can be released for their own benefit as well as for society at large.

“Increasing the status and social and economic participation of people with disabilities would have positive effects on everyone, not just disabled people” said Philip O’Keefe, Lead Social Protection Specialist and main author of the report. “A simple example is increasing accessibility of public transport and buildings for disabled people – a measure which would benefit a wide range of people including the elderly, pregnant women and children. More broadly, people with disabilities who are better educated and more economically active will generate higher growth in which everyone will share,” he added.

India’s implementation capacity is generally weak in a number of areas of service delivery which are most critical to improving the situation of disabled people. It is thus not realistic to expect that all the actions needed by many public and non-public actors can be taken all at once. The report highlights the need for prioritization of the most critical interventions to maximize the benefit for people living with disability:

(i) Preventive care – both for mothers through nutritional interventions, and infants through nutrition and basic immunization coverage
(ii) Identifying people with disabilities as soon as possible after onset – the system needs major improvements in this most basic function
(iii) Major improvements in early intervention, which can cost-effectively transform the lives of disabled people, their families, and the communities they live and work in
(iv) Getting all children with special needs into school and giving them the skills to participate fully in family and economic life
(v) Expanding the under-developed efforts to improve societal attitudes to people with disabilities, relying on public-private partnerships that build on successful models already operating in India.

The study points out that it is neither possible nor desirable for the public sector to “do it all”. Instead, partnerships with NGOs, civil society, and the private sector are critical to achieve effective and lasting results. The key step in such partnerships is brining disabled people themselves into the policymaking process along with public and non-governmental institutions.

Some other findings of the report:

  • There are substantial differences in socio-economic outcomes, social stigma, and access to services by disability type, with those with mental illness and mental retardation in a particularly poor position. There are also major urban/rural differences in outcomes, Gender, class and regional variations are also significant in many cases
  • Estimates vary, there is growing evidence that people with disabilities comprise between 4 and 8 percent of the Indian population (around 40-90 million individuals)
  • Between 1990 and 2020, there is predicted to be a halving of disability due to communicable diseases, a doubling of disability due to injuries/accidents, and a more than 40 percent increase in the share of disability due to non-communicable diseases
  • Disabled people have much lower educational attainment rates, with 52 percent illiteracy against a 35 percent average for the general population.
  • Illiteracy is high among children across all categories, in even the best performing major states, a significant share of out of school children are those with disabilities – Kerala, 27 percent, in Tamil Nadu over 33 percent
  • Private sector employment incentives for hiring disabled people are few and piecemeal. In the late 1990s, employment of People with Disability (PWD) among large private firms was only 0.3 percent of their workforce. Among multinational companies, the situation was far worse, with only 0.05 percent being PWD
  • In early 2006, a National Policy on Persons with Disabilities was approved by Government of India. To date, the only states that have draft disability policies are Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. The Chhattisgarh draft state disability policy can be considered “best practice”, and could provide a model for future national and state-level policy development.

People can follow this link to learn more about the report, or download individual chapters, at:

Individual chapters include: Socio-Economic Profile of Persons with Disabilities; Attitudes; Health; Education; Employment; Social Protection; Policies and Institutions; and Access

Or follow this link to download the full report in PDF format (1.8Mb).

The text for this blog post is taken from a press release from the World Bank.

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NEWS: Brazilian Journalist, Disability Advocate Recognized

Posted on 29 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Human Rights, Inclusion, Latin America & Caribbean, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Brazilian activist awarded with the International Service Human Rights Award

Brazilian journalist, Rosangela Berman Bieler, director of the Interamerican Institute on Disability and Inclusive Development, will be awarded on 5th of December with the International Service Human Rights Award in the category Defense of Human Rights of People with Disabilities. The award ceremony will take place at the House of Commons in London (UK).

Rosangela Berman Bieler has been recognized for her 30-years achievements for the promotion of an inclusive society which promotes and respects the diversity, the inclusion, the equality of opportunities and the independent living for all.

“In the midst of the historical approval of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities”, declared Matthew Snell, Chief Executive of International Service, the British development agency, the award promoter, “we recognize the strategic importance of the disability perspective, associated to the core human rights issues and challenges of the present times”.

For more information, please contact International Service Field Director in Brazil, Luca Sinesi:

International Site:

International Service Human Rights Awards
The first International Service human rights awards were held in 2003 as part of International Service 50th anniversary celebrations. Since then the ceremony has become one of the key events in the British overseas development calendar.

We Can Do received this press release via the Intl-Dev email distribution list.

On a personal note, I used to work for Rosangela Berman Bieler as a writer/editor and am both pleased and proud to see her receive this award. And, of course, I am not at all surprised. Congrats, Rosangela!

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FUNDING for Conference Participation from Developing Nations

Posted on 29 November 2007. Filed under: East Asia Pacific Region, Events and Conferences, Funding, Human Rights, Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, Opportunities, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[You can reach this post directly with this short URL:]

Every year there are dozens of international disability-related conferences. These conferences allow thousands of participants to network with colleagues around the world, forge partnerships across national and professional boundaries, and enrich their knowledge and understanding of the work they do with disabled people in their home countries.

But every year, there are also thousands of people from developing countries who are cut off from these opportunities because most conferences do not take their financial limitations into account. Usually the easiest expense for conference organizers to control are the registration fees. But many do not even have discounted fees for participants from developing countries. Even those that do usually don’t, or cannot, help reduce the cost of travel or lodging. So where can would be conference-participants from developing countries turn for assistance?

Although limited, a few options may be available to you depending on your country of origin, the location of the conference, the goals of the organization that you represent, or the purpose of your trip. Try exploring one of the following three organizations. (Note that the AJ Muste Memorial Institute and the Inter-American Foundation are primarily for people in the Latin American region. Only the Ford Foundation addresses the needs of people from all or most regions.).

Please note that any requests or applications for funding should be directed to these three organizations, NOT to We Can Do. Leaving a comment here will NOT help you contact these three organizations. Instead, please follow the link to the official web sites for each of the three organizations below.

Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation has 12 country offices in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Russia. The country offices have travel grant monies which may be usable for attending international conferences. Go to their contact us page to find and contact a regional office near you. Also try looking at their grants page for more information on applying for Ford Foundation grants in general.

AJ Muste Memorial Institute
The AJ Muste Memorial Institute has a number of different grants for projects that promote nonviolence means for achieving social justice, particularly in areas such as peace and disarmament; social and economic justice; racial and sexual equality; and labor rights.

This includes the NOVA Travel Fund (in Spanish), which makes grants of up to $1,500 to help base-level activists from Latin America and the Caribbean attend regional conferences and meetings. Grant recommendations are made by a committee of advisors representing different regions of Latin America. Their next deadline is October 1, 2008 for trips that would begin after November 15, 2008–but check back at their web site for future deadlines.

Follow the links for the NOVA application form in html format or to download the NOVA application form in RTF format (in Spanish).

Inter-American Foundation (IAF)
The IAF funds the self-help efforts of grassroots groups in Latin America and the Caribbean to improve living conditions of the disadvantaged and the excluded, enhance their capacity for decision-making and self-governance, and develop partnerships with the public sector, business and civil society. The IAF does not identify problems or suggest projects; instead it responds to initiatives presented. Projects are selected for funding on their merits rather than by sector. IMPORTANT: The IAF only supports projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The above links to the IAF web site in English, but their web site is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, and Creole:

IAF in Spanish
IAF in Portuguese
IAF in Creole

Also see the web page on IAF’s involvement with Disabled Peoples’ Organizations (DPOs).

Grant requests need to come from organizations, not from individuals. The IAF has supported disability rights activists from Latin America in attending the Ad-Hoc Commitee meetings at the United Nations and also in attending meetings in Panama for the Latin America Decade.



Some of the text in this blog entry is taken from the relevant web sites describing the grant funds in question. Thank you to Diana Samarasan at the Fund for Global Human Rights–Disability Rights Initiative for alerting We Can Do to these funding sources. Anyone who is aware of additional resources relevant to DPOs in developing countries is urged to please let me know. You can leave a comment in the comments area below, or you can email me at ashettle [at] patriot [dot] net.

[Edited 16 January 2008 to correct links to Ford Foundation web site and to add a sentence amplifying that two of these foundations are primarily oriented at the Latin American region. People from other regions will want to look at the Ford Foundation.]
[Edited 19 October 2008 to add a line emphasizing that people interested in applying for any of these opportunities should please contact the relevant organization, NOT We Can Do. In other words, leaving a comment here will NOT help you apply for funding. Instead, please follow the relevant link from the organization you think is most likely to be able to help you. Then read their official web site carefully and apply directly with the relevant organization.]



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CONFERENCE: Unite for Sight Int’l Health Conference

Posted on 27 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Blind, Events and Conferences, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Unite For Sight 5th Annual International Health Conference: Building Global Health For Today & Tomorrow

This conference, to be held April 12 & 13, 2008, at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, is targeted at people interested in in public health, medicine, social entrepreneurship, nonprofits, philanthropy, anthropology, eye care, and international development. Other interested individuals may include students, doctors, nurses, Peace Corps volunteers, public health, business and nonprofit professionals, anthropologists, policy makers, philanthropists, educators, and others.

There will be 150 expert speakers in international health and development, public health, eye care, medicine, social entrepreneurship, nonprofits, philanthropy, microfinance, human righs, anthropology, health policy, advocacy, public service, environmental health, and education. These will include keynote addresses by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Dr. Sonia Sachs, Dr. Susan Blumenthal, and Dr. Jim Yong Kim.

Registration for the conferences ranges from $65 to $150 depending on how promptly you register (the earlier, the cheaper) and on whether you are a student (in which case, it is cheaper). Several hotels are located near the conference, but a special rate has been arranged at the Courtyard by Marriot for $129 per night. I could not locate information on the Unite for Sight website regarding whether there is any assistance for lodging, travel, or other expenses for participants traveling from developing nations.

For more information, including how to register, follow the link to the conference website.

The information for this blog post, and part of the text, was harvested from the conference website. We Can Do learned about this conference through the Poverty Reduction and Disability List (PRD-L).

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FUNDING for Better Democratic Participation

Posted on 26 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Democratic Participation, Funding, News, Opportunities, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs), other civil society organizations, governments, and official institutions around the world may want to take note:

The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) has opened its second funding applications round. UNDEF wants funding proposals for projects meant to build and strengthen democratic institutions, promote human rights, and ensure the participation of all groups in democratic processes. Its second round is open through December 18, 2007. [Edited 30 Dec. ’07 to add: It may be worth finding out if there might be a third round in 2008 … or a fourth in 2009. Follow the links, review their guidelines carefully, and start preparing your proposal early.] As with UNDEF’s first round, they are accepting applications in the following thematic categories:

  • strengthening democratic dialogue and support for constitutional processes;
  • civil society empowerment;
  • civic education, voter registration and strengthening of political parties;
  • citizen’s access to information;
  • human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • accountability, transparency and integrity.

UNDEF was established in July 2005 as a United Nations General Trust Fund in order to promote democracy. Their funding applications round could be an excellent opportunity to obtain the funds you need to help disabled people participate more actively in your country’s democratic process.

For example, perhaps disabled people in your country find it harder to gain access to your country’s constitution, the daily news, or the positions of political candidates. Or they may find it harder to register to vote; to vote privately; or to enter voting polls. Or DPOs may find it harder to monitor how well your government implements laws that affect disabled people. Does your DPO, civil society organization, government, or official institution have an idea for a project that could help overcome one of these barriers? If so, you may wish to review UNDEF’s criteria carefully to see if your project would be appropriate for this funding opportunity.

You can learn more about UNDEF at the link.

Their Project Proposal Guidelines are available in PDF format in either English or French.

You can apply in English or in French.

Note that one of their application questions, under “project information,” asks whether your proposed project takes into account the needs of “marginalized or vulnerable groups” or whether it addresses the needs of marginalized or vulnerable groups “as a key objective.” You may wish to use this opportunity to argue that a project targeted at disabled
people would be addressing the needs of a marginalized group “as a key objective.” There is space you could use to briefly explain how disabled people are “marginalized” or excluded from the democratic process in your country and how your project is meant to help.

Are you too late to apply for 2007? Don’t despair. This seems to be an annual opportunity, so there may be another chance next year. Do follow the links to UNDEF’s website to learn more about their organization. You may also wish to review information about, and criteria for, past funding rounds to help you start brainstorming and planning your next project proposal. It is never too early to start preparing proposals for funding grants.

The information for this blog post was gathered from the UNDEF web site. We Can Do first learned about this funding opportunity through Disabled People’s International (DPI) weekly newsletter.

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RESOURCE: India’s Disability Awareness Week Website Launched

Posted on 26 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Employment, News, Resources, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Launch of Disability Awareness Week Website

Announcing National Disability Awareness Week: Let’s Celebrate Diversity!

Diversity & Equal Opportunity Centre (DEOC) is happy to announce the launch of National Disability Awareness Week (DAW) and the Disability Awareness Week Website to create awareness on the issue of disability in the corporate sector, to commemorate the World Disability Day 2007!

3rd December, World Disability Day (WDD), proclaimed by the United Nations, is to celebrate and acknowledge the experience and capabilities of people with disabilities. The theme for the World Disability Day this year, as announced by the United Nations, is ‘Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities’

We would like to appeal to all corporates to observe Disability Awareness Week from 3rd – 8th December, to create awareness amongst their employees on disability and to make their workplace more inclusive!

There are 100 million people with disabilities in India, majority of whose talents remain untapped due to physical and mental barriers that exist in the society. Let’s use the World Disability Day as an occasion to LEARN, to get INVOLVED and to TAKE ACTION to promote inclusion in our workplace.

Disability Awareness Week Website (, provides information and significance of WDD; information on the common theme; activities that corporates can do during the Week; downloadable awareness & promotional materials; checklists, online Awareness / Training Module, etc.! Sign up at to get regular notification regarding the various updates during the Disability Awareness Week (DAW).

The interested Companies will be provided with necessary information and support from DEOC to conduct awareness activities. The companies can also upload their events for the DAW. We see this as a common platform for creating awareness and for sharing experiences.

Please share this appeal with all the companies that you are working with and encorage them to observe Disability Awareness Week. Also, please do share this with other contacts of yours (DPOs, NGOs, people with disabilities, etc.) for further dissemination.

For any further information / queries please contact the undersigned at 98805 83277 / 080 – 23217588.

We look forward to your active participation in creating an inclusive world that offers equal space for all of us to achieve our potential and that which celebrates diversity.

Warm regards,

Rama Chari
Diversity & Equal Opportunity Centre (DEOC)

The above text is taken from an announcement circulated via email by Rama Chari. Their new website ( has information about the employability of people with disabilities and how employers can better include disabled workers.

What is YOUR developing country doing to acknowledge World Disability Day this December 3? I would be happy to share your press release with We Can Do readers. Press releases or other material can be sent to me at

ashettle [at] patriot [dot] net

Or you can ask for help in the comments area below (be sure to include your email address in the space that asks for it) and I’ll get in touch with you.

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RESOURCE: Teaching Kit on International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Posted on 24 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Cross-Disability, Human Rights, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

A growing number of international organizations are producing training materials to help people better understand the international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD). One of these is Handicap International, which has a teaching kit available as a resource that organizations can use to train people on the CRPD.

The teaching kit” includes visual power point presentations, Word document files, and PDF files that cover various aspects of the convention. Contents include:

1. Basic concepts of disability: This section provides key figures on the theme of disability; and the shift from a “medical” or charity perspective of disability to a human rights based model of disability. (Those interested in this topic may also wish to read the paper “Disability Movement from Charity to Empowerment

2. Basic concepts of human rights: covers the definition of human rights; the difference between civil and political rights versus economic, social, and cultural rights; and the role of United Nations (UN) bodies in the field of human rights.

3. International treaties on human rights and disability: this section provides information on international human rights treaties relevant to people with disabilities; the role of standard rules on equalizing opportunities for disabled people; the ineffectiveness of international texts for people with disabilities; and the reasons why the new convention was drafted.

4. The process of elaboration of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities: here, readers will find the reasons why it became necessary to draft a legally binding convention on people with disabilities; the initial resolution calling to draft the convention based on prior work done in the fields of social developman, human rights, and non-discrimination; the drafting process of the convention; and the crucial role played by civil society in the drafting process.

5. Contents of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities: this section explains the structure of the convention and the presentation of the rights in it; general principles for how the convention can help states and civil society respect the fundamental rights of disabled people; opportunities for people with disabilities to be involved in making decisions that have a direct impact on them; and important concepts such as prohibiting all discrimination on the basis of disability.

6. The international undertaking of States: this section covers the difference between signing a convention and ratifying it; how states can limit their support for a convention by expressing reservations; the possibility that a state could refuse to apply the convention even though they already have agreed to support it. Civil society (i.e., organizations that are not part of the government) are important in making sure that countries implement the CRPD.

7. Implementation and monitoring of the Convention: this section explains what states must do at the national level to implement the convention; how country governments and civil society can cooperate at the international level to help implement the convention; how to help monitor implementation to ensure that countries respect their obligations; the possibility for individuals or NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to lodge complaints if rights protected under the convention are violated; why it is vital to include people with disabilities in human development programs (for example, in fighting poverty) in order to effectively implement the CRPD.

8. The civil society involvement in the implementation of the Convention: the last section address the challenges that confront civil society in helping implement the CRPD; and what is necessary before it is possible to promote the rights of disabled people.

The Handicap International teaching kit is available at: (click where it says “click here” on the page)

In addition to this resource, individuals and organizations involved with training or advocacy efforts for the CRPD may also wish to consult prior We Can Do posts on ratification and implementation toolkits from Disabled People International; a handbook on the CRPD for parliamentarians; the UN Enable website on the CRPD; the CRPD in plain language for people who have difficulty understanding the original text; and a child-friendly version of the CRPD.

Most of the information for this post was taken from the Handicap International teaching kit on the CRPD. We Can Do was first alerted to this teaching kit through a bi-monthly newsletter from has an extensive library of resources and materials relevant to advocates and to international development professionals involved with issues related to health, or disability, or both in developing countries.

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RESOURCE: Book on Universal Design and Visitability

Posted on 24 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Inclusion, News, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Resource On Universal Design & Visitability

To be disabled too frequently also means to be excluded. And often it is, not only people, but also buildings that exclude. In the early years of learning to include people with disabilities in the mainstream of society, this was partly resolved through renovating buildings as an after-thought. For example, one might tear down steps to install a ramp in their place. But what if a building could be designed to include everyone from the beginning? Not just disabled people but also people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, with all needs? What if architects worked on inclusion from the very earliest stages of thinking, planning, and drawing blue prints? That brings us to the concept of universal design:

“Universal design implies a process that goes beyond minimum access codes and standards, to design environments that are comfortably usable by people from childhood into their oldest years. Integrating the core principles of universal design–equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical efforts, and size and shape for approach and use–can improve livability and quality of life for everyone.”

A new, free on-line book discusses these concepts in more depth. Individual chapters are written by authors from around the world, including Brazil and Thailand. The book can be downloaded for free in PDF format at It is available both in regular print and in a large-print version.

Please do share your opinions about this book in the comments area below. I also welcome submissions of a more thorough book review from someone who is familiar with the concept of universal design as applied in developing countries; any such submissions can be sent to me via email at ashettle [at] patriot [dot] net.

The remaining text in this post comes from an announcement written and forwarded by other sources:

Universal Design and Visitability: From Accessibility to Zoning
Edited by Jack L Nasar and Jennifer Evans-Cowley

This book is available for down load at no cost through the generous support of The National Endowment for the Arts Universal Design Leadership Initiative, The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture, John Glenn School of Public Affairs, Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator’s Office.

We hope it advances your interest and understanding of this exciting and ever-widening approach and assists in the teaching of universal design, developing policies that encourage the use of universal design as a process for planning and designing environments that are attractive, comfortable and usable.


Preface by Jack L. Nasar and Jennifer Evans-Cowley

Forward by Deborah Kendrick

The Seven Principles of Universal Design into Planning Practice by Wolfgang F. E. Preiser

Toward Inclusive Housing and Neighborhood Design: A Look at Visitability by Jordana L. Maisel

Universal Design, Architecture and Spatial Cognition without Sight by Shohreh Rashtian

Universal Design in Public Transportation: “Segway” to the Future by Katharine Hunter-Zaworski

As Your County Gets Older…Planning for Senior Housing Needs in Howard County, Maryland by Stephen Lafferty

Making universal design work in zoning and regional planning: A Scandinavian approach by Olav Rand Bringa

Research and Teaching Of Accessibility and Universal Design In Brazil: Hindrances and Challenges In a Developing Country by Cristiane Rose Duarte and Regina Cohen

Universal Design Guidelines to Accommodate Wheelchair Occupants in the Thai Context by Antika Sawadsri

Universal Design in the Institutional Setting: Weaving a Philosophy into Campus Planning by L. Scott Lissner

This book can be downloaded at

Most of the text for this blog post was taken from an announcement sent to me via one of my contacts. The announcement originally was distributed on the Disability-Research Discussion list managed by the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds. Following the link will allow you to browse through the list archives or join the list.

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

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MEMORANDUM, Commonwealth Disabled People’s Conference 2007

Posted on 22 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Commonwealth Nations, Events and Conferences, Guest Blogger, Human Rights, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Commonwealth Disabled People’s Conference met in early November in Kampala, Uganda. The following memorandum was issued at that conference.

Dear Colleagues,

It’s my pleasure to forward to you a memorandum of decisions made at the recently concluded Commonwealth Disabled peoples’ Conference. Attached to this memorandum is a shorter memorandum which was prepared specifically for sending to CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting).

I hope these documents will enable those who are in a position to lobby their respective delegations to CHOGM to raise disability issues during the meeting.

Yours Sincerely,

James Mwandha.




The Commonwealth Disabled Peoples’ Conference convened in Kampala, Uganda from the 4th -7th November 2007;

NOTING with appreciation the theme of this year’s CHOGM, ‘Transforming Commonwealth Societies to achieve political, economic and human development.’

AWARE that Persons with disabilities are among the poorest of the poor and the most socially excluded,

RECOGNISING the diversity of Persons with Disabilities,

EMPHASISING the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

NOTING the adoption by the 61st UN General Assembly of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

APPRECIATING that India and Jamaica have already ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

RECOGNISING the importance of International cooperation for improving the living conditions of persons with disabilities in every country particularly in developing countries,

The Conference hereby resolves as follows:


1. Appreciates the Government of Uganda for hosting the Commonwealth Disabled Peoples’ Conference and in particular the support given by Honourable Sayda Bbumba, Minister of, Gender, Labour and Social Development and Honourable Sulaiman Madada, Minister of State for Disability and Elderly Affairs.

2. Thanks to the Right Honourable Rebecca Kadaga, Deputy Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament for officiating at the opening of the Conference and Honourable Okello Oryem, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of International Relations for performing the closing ceremony and offering to submit the conference memorandum to the Ugandan Head of State.

3. Commends the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK Government for sending a representative to the conference as an observer.

4. Commends further the Uganda disability movement for the initiative taken to hold this first ever conference of Disabled People in the Commonwealth and the excellent arrangements and the hospitality accorded to the delegates.

5. Appreciates the resource persons for the excellent presentations made at the Conference and at the side events.

6. Notes with appreciation the countries that sent delegates to the conference namely: Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, and observers from Rwanda and Sudan.

7. Recognises the participation of the President of the World Blind Union, the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities, the East African Federation of the Disabled, the representative of the President of the World Federation of the Deaf, representatives of Leonard Cheshire Foundation International, and the office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.


8. Submits a short memorandum, appearing as annexture 1 to this memorandum, to CHOGM through the Uganda Minister of State for International Relations.

9. Circulates the short memorandum to as many disabled people and their organisations in the Commonwealth as possible and call upon them to use it to lobby their respective delegations to advocate for disability issues in CHOGM.


10. Establishes the Commonwealth Disabled Peoples’ Forum with Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) in the Commonwealth constituting its membership.

11. A steering committee consisting of Honourable James Mwandha (Uganda) Chair, Mr. Mark Harrison (UK), Mr. Thomas On’golo, Secretariat of the African Decade of Disabled Persons (South Africa), a representative from Canada and a representative from India.

12. The steering committee to draw up their terms of reference for the establishment of the forum and convene a forum meeting within a period of ten months.

13. The steering committee to dialogue with the Commonwealth Secretariat and register the forum with the Commonwealth Foundation.


14. Recommends that data collection at all levels should include disaggregated data concerning disability to enable Governments to plan effectively for the inclusion of disabled people.

15. Calls upon all governments to pass laws that promote equality and inclusion of disabled people in society and do away with laws that perpetuate discrimination and exclusion.

16. Appeals to Governments and donors to resource DPOs to publicize the convention, sensitize the general public and help to implement the Convention.


A. Governments.

17. Sign and ratify the Convention and enact laws to domesticate the convention and amend all laws, which negatively impact on disabled people.

18. Translate the Convention document into the local languages and Sign Language to facilitate wider understanding of the rights of disabled people.

19. Put in place programmes that create greater awareness in communities and within government systems relating to disability rights, and promote efforts that encourage positive attitudes towards disabled people.

20. Mainstream disability in social, economic and political programmes and provide for representation of disabled people in the Parliaments, Local Councils and Statutory organizations.

21. Provide access to rehabilitation, education, training, employment opportunities, cultural and sports activities, technical aids, Sign Language Interpretation Services and other assistive devices to facilitate mobility and independent daily living of disabled people.

22. Develop special programmes to cater for the special needs of women, children and the elderly with disabilities.

23. Strengthen DPOs and support creation of new ones, and promote representation of disabled people at local, national and international levels.

24. Include a disability component in all Government budgets and budgetary allocations across all sectors and in all local governments and also to give visibility to disability in all government plans, programmes and activities.

25. Build alliances with other countries, multilateral institutions and donor organizations to promote international cooperation in research, sharing information on best practices and funding for disability programmes.

26. Disability as a cross cutting issue should be mainstreamed and prioritized in all the development planning, implementation, and monitoring processes of governments as a means of achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs).

27. Governments should take special measures to protect persons with disabilities in all situations of conflicts, wars and catastrophes to alleviate the grave suffering caused to them.

B. Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs)

28. Lobby their Governments to sign and ratify the convention.

29. Once the convention enters into force, lobby Governments and Parliament to enact laws to domesticate it.

30. Ensure that disability issues are fully covered in the countries’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) where applicable.

31. Make alliances with other Civil Society organizations and create a common platform that includes disability concerns.

32. Advocate for budgetary allocations at national level across all sectors and at all local levels.

33. Participate actively in the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the convention at all levels.

34. Partner with the media for dissemination of the convention and other information relating to disability rights.


35. Monitoring is an important aspect of the process of realizing the rights of people with disabilities.

36. Governments should establish monitoring institutions that are well resourced and independent.

37. Monitoring institutions should have adequate and effective representation by different categories of people with disabilities.

38. The monitoring tools should be clear and shared with the key stakeholders.


39. Development partners should provide technical and financial assistance to DPOs to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

40. International Donors should ensure that people with disabilities are involved and benefiting from all bilateral and multilateral funded programmes.

41. Disabled people and disability issues must be included in every development cooperation agenda of international development partners.

42. The international development partners should promote south – south cooperation among DPOs and transfer resources directly to them.

43. International development cooperation/ partnership should promote capacity building and technology support on disability issues to national Governments in the south in line with the UN convention.

44. Development partners and donors should make funding conditional to addressing the concerns of disabled people and ensure that recipient countries of their development aid mainstream issues of disability in their plans and programmes.

45. Investors and service providers should take into account the needs of disabled people when designing their projects.

Dated this 7th day of November 2007



Commonwealth Disabled Peoples’ Conference
4th – 7th November 2007, Hotel Africana, Kampala, Uganda
Final Communiqué

This conference decides to send the following statement to the Commonwealth Heads of Government’s:

Resolution From the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Conference to the CHOGM 2007

NOTING with appreciation the theme of this years CHOGM,

AWARE that Persons with disabilities are among the poorest of the poor and the most socially excluded,

EMPHASING the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

NOTING the adoption by the 61st UN General Assembly of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

APPRECIATING that India and Jamaica have already ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

RECOGNISING the diversity of Persons with Disabilities,

RECOGNISING FURTHER the importance of International cooperation for improving the living conditions of persons with disabilities in every country particularly in developing countries,

Hereby recommends to the Commonwealth Heads of Government, meeting in Kampala from 23rd – 25th November 2007:

That all Commonwealth countries:

1. Ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and its Optional Protocol.

2. Adopt disability as a crosscutting issue that should be mainstreamed in domestic policy and planning.

3. Develop disability polices and programmes to cater for the concerns of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in line with article 32 of the UN Convention on International Development Cooperation.

Adopted at Kampala, this 7th day of November 2007

Thank you to James Mwandha at the Action on Disability and Development Uganda Programme (ADD Uganda) for granting permission to post this memorandum at We Can Do.

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PAPER: Violence Against Women with Disabilities in South Africa

Posted on 18 November 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Cross-Disability, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Violence, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Some studies suggest that nearly one in three women are the targets of violence from their intimate partners. Women with disabilities are no exception. In fact, some studies suggest that violence against disabled women may happen even more frequently than does violence against non-disabled women. Yet, violence against women with disabilities is rarely studied at all even in rich countries–and studied even less often in developing countries.

One exception is a small-scale exploratory research project on gender-based violence and disabled women conducted by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) in South Africa entitled “On the Margins: Violence Against Women with Disabilities,” (PDF format, 341 Kb) written by Ereshnee Naidu, Sadiyya Haffejee, Lisa Vetten, and Samantha Hargreaves.

Although this research project was small, it helps highlight what has often been an ignored problem perpetuated against an ignored population:

“This exploratory research study on violence against women with disabilities strongly indicates that women with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to gender-based violence, that the violence and abuse they confront is shaped by the nature and form of their particular disability, and that they are especially disadvantaged in their access to the criminal justice system and gender-based violence support services, as compared to women without disabilities.”

Yet, when the researchers asked what services are available to women with disabilities who are the target of violence, the result, although not surprising, was nevertheless worrying:

“While many of the informants from service organisations reached through this survey were aware of and concerned about violence against women with disabilities, their organisations were, in the main, failing to address the needs of this specific, and very neglected, constituency.”

Interested We Can Do visitors can follow the link to download “On the Margins” (PDF format, 341 Kb) for themselves. The paper offers a more detailed discussion of how and why women with disabilities in South Africa are vulnerable to violence. It also describes the barriers they experience both in finding help to escape violence and in seeking justice in the legal system. Finally, the authors make recommendations for what action should be taken in South Africa to address the problem including advocacy and awareness; networking and collaboration; promoting accessible services; and policy, monitoring, and research.

The paper is available in PDF format (341 Kb) at:

For more We Can Do articles related to violence, click on the word “violence” under “categories” in the right hand navigation bar.

[Edit 17 June 2008: Edited to update the link to the paper, which had moved. Apologies for the inconvenience to people who had clicked on the old, incorrect link.]

We Can Do learned of this paper through a bi-monthly newsletter from AskSource offers an extensive, on-line library of materials and resources related to health or to disability in developing countries. Their bi-monthly newsletter alerts subscribers to the newest resources available at their web site.

We Can Do readers who would like to subscribe to the AskSource newsletter for themselves can do so by filling out the form at Or you can email and 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.

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NEWS: Human Rights Abuses of Disabled Children, Adults in Serbia

Posted on 17 November 2007. Filed under: Blind, Children, Cognitive Impairments, Cross-Disability, Deaf, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Human Rights, Mobility Impariments, Multiple Disabilities, News, Psychiatric Disabilities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |


Embargoed Until November 14th, 2007

Contact: Laurie Ahern – 202.361.1402
Eric Rosenthal – 202.361.9195


Belgrade, Serbia – November 14, 2007 – Following a four year investigation, Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) released its findings today in a report detailing the human rights abuses perpetrated against children and adults in Serbia with disabilities, forced to live out their lives in institutions. Torment not Treatment: Serbia’s Segregation and Abuse of Children and Adults with Disabilities describes children and adults tied to beds or never allowed to leave their cribs – some for years at a time. In addition, filthy conditions, contagious diseases, lack of medical care, rehabilitation and judicial oversight renders placement in a Serbian institution life threatening for both children and adults. The children and adults had a range of disabilities including Downs Syndrome, deafness, visual impairment, autism, and mobility impairments.

“These are Serbia’s most vulnerable citizens. Thousands confined to institutions are subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and abuse. Children and adults tied down and restrained over a lifetime is dangerous and painful treatment tantamount to torture – clear violations of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Attorney Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of MDRI and an expert on human rights law.

“We call on the government of Serbia to stop these abuses immediately and to respect the human rights of all people with disabilities,” concluded Rosenthal.

For more information visit, where you can download a copy of the full report in PDF format, videos, and photos. The video footage does not have captions available. As a deaf person, I found that if you read the executive summary of the report and look at some of the photos before viewing the video then most of the images in the video speak for themselves. I’m guessing that there is probably no audio description for blind people; as a sighted deaf person, I’m afraid I’m not in a position to judge how much sense the video will make without it. Readers who are deaf or blind–or who support their interests–may wish to contact MDRI to encourage them to make their video materials available with both captions and audio description.

MDRI is an international human rights and advocacy organization dedicated to the full participation in society of people with mental disabilities worldwide. We Can Do published an earlier press release from MDRI reporting on similar human rights abuses in Argentina; the Argentina report, entitled Ruined Lives, can still be downloaded from the front page of the MDRI web site (scroll down the page). More reports about human rights abuses of people with disabilities in Turkey, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, Kosovo, Russia, and Hungary can be downloaded in PDF format from

Most of the text of this blog post comes from the MDRI press release, which can be retrieved at

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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.

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OPINION: One Laptop per Child—But is it Inclusive?

Posted on 16 November 2007. Filed under: Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Opinion, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Issue
Bringing laptops to children in developing countries. It’s a nifty concept, meant to help with an enormous challenge: improving the quality of education in developing countries. But is it inclusive of children with disabilities?

Even relatively casual observers of the international development field quickly learn that 77 million children worldwide are not in primary school. And perhaps you also knew that a large portion of those children have disabilities. What we don’t hear about as often is that even the 2 billion children who are fortunate enough to be able to enter a classroom, in many cases, may not be that much better off. The push to put all children in school by 2015, as per the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has led to more schools, more teachers, and more books—but not necessarily to a better-quality education. So how do we go beyond filling seats with bodies so we can start filling heads with knowledge?

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project thinks they have part of the answer. That’s to put a laptop into the hands of every child in school in developing nations. Not just any laptop, but the XO laptop. The XO is designed specifically for child learners. It has features that allow them to create—be it a picture, a poem, a game, or a computer program. And XO laptops can communicate directly with other XO laptops if they are close enough. That allows for collaborative projects among pairs or groups of students. The laptops are also designed to be used in rugged conditions. They can be used in places where classes might meet outside in bright sunlight, or where students may have no access to electricity.

In developing countries, one of the largest barriers to obtaining resources—be it for disabled people or for their non-disabled peers—is cost. The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has tackled this, at least part way, by producing a laptop that costs $200. That’s twice as much as their original goal—which was to design a $100 laptop. And that’s still out of reach for any family that lives on less than $1 a day. But it’s within reach for some country governments. Uruguay, for example, has purchased the first 100,000 XOs to come off the assembly line (see And there may soon be other countries standing in line. The OLPC project has also introduced several ways that people in rich countries can help (see If things grow quickly from here, we could soon see the day when millions of children are learning through XO laptops and any competitors that might later emerge.

But for children with disabilities, the question of whether someone can and will send them a laptop in the first place is only the first half of the problem. The second half is whether the laptop is even accessible to them.

XO Laptops: Are They Suitable for Young Disabled Students?
I should note here that I have not yet seen an XO laptop for myself. Nor am I an expert in the types of adaptations that are available or most needed by people who are blind, or who have mobility impaired—or, indeed, any disability other than deafness. That means I can’t give an accurate evaluation of how usable an XO laptop is for disabled children. But I can speculate. And given how large the OLCP project hopes to become, I suggest that anyone with an interest in educating disabled children in developing countries should also be speculating. More importantly, they should be sharing their insights and ideas for remedies with the OLPC project.

On the plus side, some disabled children may find that the laptops will be a tremendous boon for them. For example, the XO is sturdier and more durable than most standard, western computers. That could be an important feature for children whose disabilities affect their behavior. They might be less likely to damage the laptop if they throw it during a tantrum or a “meltdown”, for example. Or a child with mobility impairments or dyspraxia can worry less if they drop their laptop.

Also, I like how the XO laptop allows for interactive communication with other laptop users. For children who have communication-related disabilities and who have learned to read and write, it might make communication with their non-disabled peers a little easier. Instead of being forced to talk or read lips in a modality that works poorly for them–if at all–they could have the option of typing back and forth with their classmates or the teacher. This could be especially helpful in situations where no sign language interpreter is available, which is frequently the case in developing countries. I don’t think the XO will ever be a substitute for more appropriate educational placements. (I believe that most deaf children should be in good quality, specialized schools for deaf children. But that’s a subject for another blog post.) But for deaf children who have been thrust into classrooms with no means of understanding their teacher, the laptop could potentially become a tool for teaching themselves, perhaps with the aid of their peers.

But even deaf children, if they are learning alongside hearing peers, may feel left out when their classmates start playing around with the built-in microphone and other auditory-based features. And other disabled children may find the XO laptops to be so inaccessible as to be useless. I suspect that blind children and some children with low vision—as with most computers generally—may suffer the most significant barriers. From what I can gather from their web site, the XO seems to have a very visual interface. That’s great for sighted deaf children, but bad for blind children. There seems to be no provision for screen readers of any kind: a blind child could still type but would have no way to monitor what they are typing or to read it back later. And unless there is some audio feature that I didn’t read about, the heavy graphics would be meaningless to them. That might make it harder for a child with vision impairments to interact with other students in the class. If I understand correctly, a child who wants to work on a project with someone else through the XO needs to bring up an icon representing their classmate and click it.

I also wonder about children with certain mobility impairments, particularly those that affect the use of their hands. As far as I can tell from the OLPC web site, there are no modified keyboards available. In other words, one design fits all—even when it doesn’t. And it’s not just the keyboard that might pose a problem. One of the ways to power up an XO is to either pull on a cord or operate a foot pump—either of which might be problematic for children with certain mobility impairments. What if a child could operate one type of battery re-charger but not the other? If a country buys all of its laptops in one variety, a child may not have the option of switching to equipment that is more usable for them.

Why Inclusion Matters–From the Beginning
Children with disabilities already face enormous barriers in even reaching the classroom. And many face even more barriers inside it. The XO laptop is meant to help bring the world of learning to poor children in developing nations. But for many children with disabilities, the XO laptop, as currently designed, may create new barriers to learning instead of removing them. What is especially worrying to me is that nowhere in their web site does OLPC even acknowledge the problem much less discuss what they’re doing to resolve it. (Or if they do and I missed it, tell me in the comments area below—their site is at

The usual excuse made when a new project excludes disabled people, is, “But we’re new. We’re just starting. We had to start somewhere. We’re not ready for doing anything more specialized right now.” There are two major problems with accepting this type of excuse. First is the issue of justice. People with disabilities have always been the last people to gain access to any new technology or service. As soon as one technology is finally made at least partly accessible, something new has become mainstream to everyone else—but, once again, not for disabled people. By the time innovative deaf people in rich countries finally managed to invent a way to access telephones, for example, all their hearing, middle-class neighbors had color television–while deaf people were, once again, waiting. The delay between the time a new technology or service becomes available to non-disabled people and the time it becomes available to disabled people, in and of itself, creates barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in society. There will always be something new. And, even with advancing medical technology, there will probably always be disabled people. We will only be fully included in society when new things, too, are accessible to us from the first day they become available to the public at wide. After all, aren’t we, too, supposed to be members of the public?

The second problem with accepting the “but it’s new, give us time” excuse is that this is backwards thinking. It is PRECISELY BECAUSE a technology or project is new that the people designing it SHOULD be thinking from the start about the needs of people with disabilities. Suppose you construct a building with stairs and no ramps, then you tear part of it down in order to add the ramps years later, that’s expensive. If you remember the needs of people with disabilities while you’re still working in the blueprint stage then you can make sure it has ramps to begin with, and you can integrate the ramps into the design in a way that saves money. That’s very, very cheap. If you build 100,000 computers for Uruguay with no screen readers, and then belatedly construct a few separate devices to be attached to them later as needed, that’s expensive.

But what if they had given consideration to the needs of blind or dyslexic students, or children with other disabilities, from the beginning? Yes, it probably would have been an enormous challenge to find a way to integrate their needs into the standard design of the XO laptop without significantly increasing its cost. But if they had at least tried—even if they had tried and failed—then if nothing else, we could have been a good five years of research and development closer to achieving an XO that does succeed in including disabled children. And not only that, but it might have been cheaper than whatever add-on fix they come up with now. Or, even if they hadn’t come up with a concept that could be integrated into the standard design, they might at least have come up with design elements that make it easier to add on a fix later. What if they come up with a nice, cheap screen reader, only to find that there isn’t a good way to plug it into the existing XO laptops?

Or perhaps they could have come up with creative design elements that help, not only disabled students, but everyone. After all, curb cuts were implemented for wheelchair riders, but were quickly embraced by non-disabled parents with prams or baby carriages. Closed captions were invented to enable deaf people in rich countries to watch television, but have also been embraced by hearing immigrants learning the language of their new home. Speech recognition software for computers was invented, at least in part, for people who cannot type with their hands, but has been embraced by others as well. What kind of XO would we have had today if they hadn’t thrown away five years of opportunity to find out?

Owning the Issue
Two groups of people need take responsibility for ensuring that the built in exclusion of disabled children in developing countries does not last. First are the people operating the One Laptop Per Child project. If they’re serious about bringing laptops to all two billion children in school, then they would do well to remember that about 10 percent of the world’s population—including children in developing countries—have disabilities. They need to decide whether “all” will truly mean “all,” or if “all” really means “all except disabled children because they’re too difficult to include.”

The obligation doesn’t end with the One Laptop Per Child project, but it does begin with them: they need to be proactive. To start with, they should reach out to organizations of disabled adults and children in developing countries to share the laptop with them and find out exactly what problems they face in using it. They can begin with some of the organizations listed in “Finding Local Disability Organizations” for possible contacts. They should be talking with disabled adults, because people who have already been adapting to their own disabilities for a whole lifetime often see obvious solutions that elude everybody else. And they should be talking with parents and teachers who may notice barriers that even disabled users miss. But most importantly of all, they should be talking with disabled children in developing countries—because the best person to tell us what a disabled child needs is a disabled child.

Also, they should mention the problem of accessibility for children with disabilities throughout their web site, where appropriate. In particular, where they recruit volunteers, they should be specifically asking for people who can help make the laptop more usable for children with a wide range of disabilities. But even in other parts of their web site, for example where they talk about its design features and their future design plans, they can acknowledge its existing limitations and explain how they hope to overcome them. Possibly they could also have a separate page devoted to the topic of accessibility—but this is not a substitute for integration. “Add-on” issues rarely get the attention they deserve: if it’s important, then the organization’s concern for the issue should reverberate through everything they say and do.

Second are people around the world who are already committed to bringing more disabled children in developing countries into the classroom and giving them a high-quality education. That means parents, educators, disabled advocates, non-government organizations (NGOs) and other interested parties. People who have direct experience with the XO laptop can give their feedback to the One Laptop Per Child project. Others can review their web site and offer their advice or consultation services.

I think the One Laptop Per Child program is a good concept and a good cause worth supporting—even with its current flaws. That’s exactly why I urge them to become a more inclusive cause as well. I hope they listen—and take action.

Nicholas Negroponte and the other staff at OLPC: it’s over to you, now.

The facts, figures, and information behind the opinions expressed in this essay come from a range of sources. Most particularly I drew upon the OLPC web site, but you will also note that I link to a number of other sources throughout this article.

Edited 17 Nov. ’07 to add: Eduardo Silva points out (thank you for alerting me) that interested readers can go to to see some of the software work that is being done to improve the XO laptop. And as Eduardo Silva indicates, they are indeed working on a text-to-voice screen reader, which you can read about at However, I still have some concerns about this which I elaborate upon further in the comments area below.

Edited 31 Dec. ’07 to add: I wonder if a Sightsaver’s Dolphin Pen would help blind children make better use of the XO. Is there anyone reading this who is familiar with BOTH the XO AND with the Dolphin Pen (a low-cost screen reader and screen magnifier designed for use in low-income countries)? If so, I would value your input. Please do comment in the comments area below.

Edited 5 Jan. ’08 to add: THANK YOU to the anonymous contributer in the comments area below who led me to the accessibility mailing list for people who want to brainstorm ideas and solutions on how to make the XO more accessible.

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JOB POST, WHO: Technical Officer: Injuries, Violence Prevention, Disabilities, Rehabilitation

Posted on 13 November 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Jobs & Internships, Opportunities, Rehabilitation, Violence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The World Health Organization (WHO) is recruiting candidates for a one-year fixed-term appointment as a Technical Officer. The person chosen to serve will work to develop normative guidelines and capacity building material to strengthen rehabilitation policies and services. Interested parties should apply following the standard channels at WHO. We Can Do is not associated with WHO and cannot assist job applicants. The job description can be accessed at:

The home website for WHO employment is

Vacancy Notice No: HQ/07/VIP/FT1136
Title: Technical Officer
Grade: P4
Contract type: Fixed-term appointment
Duration of contract: 1 year (time-limited duration)

Date: 30 October 2007
Deadline for application : 27 November 2007
Duty Station: GENEVA Switzerland
Organization unit: Injuries and Violence Prevention and Disabilities (VIP) / Disability and Rehabilitation (DAR)

The Department’s objective is to spearhead global action to address disability and to prevent violence and injury using advocacy, datacollection, training, monitoring evaluation and dissemination of best practices.

The aims of the Disability and Rehabilitation Team (DAR) are to:
(1) Promote strategies to improve living conditions and equalizations of opportunities for persons with disabilities;
(2) Support policy development in disability and rehabilitation;
(3) Strengthen rehabilitation services; and
(4) Integrate rehabilitation into primary health care through CBR services.

Description of duties:
– Prepare normative guidelines on rehabilitation in collaboration with other UN organizations/ Specialized Agencies/ International Nongovernmental Organizations and Disabled People’s Organizations.
– Develop capacity building materials for health and rehabilitation service providers.
– Support Member States to develop, implement and monitor rehabilitation programmes.
– Develop a network of implementers and promoters of rehabilitation and habilitation.
– Assist in fundraising for the promotion of rehabilitation services.
– Other duties as may be assigned.

Masters degree in Occupational Therapy, Prosthetics and Orthotics, Physiotherapy, Community Based Rehabilitation, Public Health, other related allied health disciplines or an equivalent level of experience.

– Excellent skills in design, management and evaluation of rehabilitation programmes.
– Extensive knowledge and experience of rehabilitation (community based and institutional).
– Good knowledge of science and technology in the field of rehabilitation including assistive/ mobility devices.
– Experience in developing technical documents and capacity building materials.
– Excellent writing skills.
– Ability to work in multicultural and multidisciplinary settings and excellent inter-personal skills.

Minimum 7 years of experience in the design and management of programmes focused on rehabilitation including at least 3 years at the international level. Practical experience in the development of such programmes in developing countries.

Experience of working with disabled peoples organizations and various professional bodies in the field of disability and rehabilitation.
Experience of working with a UN organization.
Persons with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply.

Excellent knowledge of English with working knowledge of French.
Knowledge of other UN languages would be an asset.

Additional Information:
Other posts may be filled from this vacancy.

Annual salary: (Net of tax)
US$ 61834 at single rate
US$ 66401 with primary dependants
Post Adjustment: 72.5 % of the above figure(s). This percentage is to be considered as indicative since variations may occur each month either upwards or downwards due to currency exchange rate fluctuations or inflation.

A written test and interviews may be used as a form of screening

Online applications are strongly encouraged to enable WHO to store your profile in a permanent database.

Please visit WHO’s e-Recruitment website at: The system provides instructions for online application procedures. All applicants are encouraged to apply online as soon as possible after the vacancy has been posted and well before the deadline stated in the vacancy announcement.

Applications from women and from nationals of non- and under-represented member states are particularly encouraged.

Any appointment/extension of appointment is subject to WHO Staff Regulations, Staff Rules and Manual. Only candidates under serious consideration will be contacted.
Currently accepting applications
WHO has a smoke-free environment and does not recruit smokers or other tobacco users.

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PAPER: Equalizing Educational Opportunity for the Nigerian-Ghanaian Blind Girl-Child

Posted on 11 November 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Blind, Children, Education, Guest Blogger, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Equalizing Educational Opportunities for the Nigerian-Ghanaian Blind Girl-Child

Florence Banku Obi
Senior Lecturer
Institute of Education
University of Calabar

[Editorial Note: Please note that the original version of this paper contained tables. We Can Do has converted them to text. Any flaws in this conversion are entirely my own and are not the fault of the author of this paper.]

Education is recognised a major instrument of change and development. In recognising this, the Federal Republic of Nigeria Policy on Education aptly adopted education as an instrument par excellence for effecting national development. Education according to the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) is a fundamental human right and the key factor to reducing poverty and child labour as well as promoting sustainable development. It is in the light of this that Nigeria and Ghana have well documented policies on the education of children with special needs. However, despite these policies discrimination still pervades in these societies.

In Africa women generally lack access to education. Girls’ access to education is influenced by traditional considerations and attitudes which make them underrepresented. Girls are usually the first to be pulled out of school when the family suffers some financial lose or constrains. The picture is gloomier when the girl is blind. Girls who are blind in Africa are still to reap the benefit of the fight against gender discrimination which gained popularity in Africa after the Beijing Conference in 1998. They more than their sighted counterpart suffer lots of discrimination especially in the two countries. According to Rannveig Traustadottir as quoted by Bowe (1984) women with disabilities are likely to have received less education than both non-disabled women and men with disabilities. Women with disabilities are five times as likely as women without disabilities to have less than eight years of formal education; 17.4 percent of all women with disabilities have less than eight years of formal education as compared to 3.5 percent of non-disabled women. Only 16 percent of all women with disabilities are likely to have any college education compared to 31 percent of non-disabled women and 28 percent of men with disabilities (Bowe, 1984).

Accordingly, boys who are blind are more likely to have more and better educational opportunities than girls. Bowe (1984) writing on the educational opportunities open to children with disabilities states that boys are likely to be perceived and identified for special education than girls. While disabled boys count for 51% of all students in elementary and secondary schools and up to 75% of students in special education classes (Russo & Jansen, 1988). in developed countries, they are said to count for less than 10% of the total school age children in Nigeria. Although this figure seems low compared to the non-disabled children there are relatively higher when compared to disabled girls who are in schools. Reasons advanced for why boys are more readily identified as needing special education include their disruptive behaviours which made parents to view them and their education as a priority to enable them develop the skills to be able to support themselves and a family later on.

The history of education for the blind in Nigeria and Ghana

Children who are blind did not start to enjoy formal education until the early 1950s. The first school for the blind in Nigeria was established in 1953 at Gindiri in Plateau State by the Sudan United Mission (SUM). The school is now being run by Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN).This was followed up with the establishment of Pacelli School for the Blind at Lagos in 1962 by the Catholic Church and supported by the Federal Government. Oji River Rehabilitation Centre (now Oji River Special Education Centre) in Enugu State was the next in the line. Today there are a number of schools for the blind across the country. Among them include; St Joseph School for the blind, Obudu in Cross River State established in 1972 and supported by the Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM), Ondo State school for the Blind Owo, School for the handicapped (blind unit) Sokoto, School for the blind Umuahia in Abia State, School for the blind, Zuba, Abuja among others (Olukotun, 2003; Skyes and Ozoji, 1992). Interestingly, the functional schools for the blind still have the missionaries as their proprietors.

In Ghana, education of children who are blind was initiated by the missionaries and philanthropists (Special Education Division, (SED) 2004). The early attempt according to the SED was made in 1936, when two blind children were taught Braille reading and writing. The success of this experiment led to the establishment of a school for the blind at Akropong-Akuapem in the Eastern Region of the country by the Basel Mission in 1946 (SED, 2004). This became the first school for the blind in West Africa. In 1958, the Methodist Church established the second school for the blind at Wa in the Upper West Region. These two schools till date remain the basic schools for blind children in the country although some children who are blind are also integrated in seven mainstreamed schools across the country.

Equal Educational Opportunities for all Children
The basic reasons for the establishment of schools for the blind across the two countries are to provide educational opportunities to the children who are blind and integrate them into their societies. This was to prepare them to be functional citizens who will be able to contribute to the development of their nations and their families and to help them live as near a normal live as possible. These objectives are in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949, the United Nations General Assembly Charter of 1959, and the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child of 1989 which saw education as a human right issue (Unicef, 2004). Based on these Rights and Conventions all children including those who are blind are to access education by the year 2015. To make this realistic, Unicef (2004) in the Millennium Development Goals resolve to

“eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality; expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education for girls and boys especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children; promote innovative programmes that encourage schools and communities to search actively for children who have dropped out of schools especially girls ……children with special needs and children with disabilities and help them enrol, attend and successfully complete their education……and ensure that basic education programmes are accessible, inclusive and responsive to children with special learning needs and for children with various forms of disabilities”
p. 34 & 35.

It must be stated that in developing the Millennium Development Goals, cognizance was taken of the fact that all children (blind and sighted) are born free and equal in dignity and rights; therefore all forms of discrimination affecting them need be stopped.

Research Questions
The study seeks to answer two research questions.
• Is there gender equity in the educational opportunities for children who are blind in Nigeria and Ghana?
• Are girls who are blind negatively affected in the provisions of educational opportunities than boys who are blind?

Subjects and Method
The study involves only blind children in Nigeria and Ghana. The two schools for the blind in Ghana were involved in addition to all schools mainstreaming the blind. In Nigeria, three schools were used for the study. This was to make for easy data collection due to the size and population of the country. The three schools were visited and data collected from the heads of the schools. The schools used were, St Joseph School for the Blind, Obudu in Cross River State; Gindiri School for the Blind, Plateau State and Oji River Special Education Centre Enugu State. These schools happened also to be among the earliest Blind Schools in the country and were all established by the missionaries.



Table 1: Population of Blind Children in three selected schools in Nigeria

Gindiri School for the Blind:
2003/2004: 49 boys; 20 girls
2004/2005: 58 boys; 29 girls
2005/2006: 54 boys; 27 girls
TOTAL: 161 boys; 76 girls

St. Joseph Obudu
2003/2004: 26 boys; 17 girls
2004/2005: 25 boys; 12 girls
2005/2006: 21 boys; 18 girls
TOTAL: 72 boys; 57 girls

Oji River Centre
2003/2004: 32 boys; 28 girls
2004/2005: 28 boys; 23 girls
2005/2006: 35 boys; 27 girls
TOTAL: 95 boys; 78 girls

Table 1 show that for the three years under study, 161 boys representing 67.9% and 76 girls representing 32.1% in Gindiri School for the Blind had access to school. The school records also showed a yearly breakdown of new intakes in primary one in the 2003/2004, academic session to be 9 boys and 8 females; the 2004/2005 had 8 boys and 4 girls while 8 boys and 3 girls were admitted in the 2005/2006 session.

St Joseph’s School for the Visually Impaired results also show that for the three years under study 72 blind boys as against 57 blind girls had access to school representing 55.8% and 44.2% respectively. The population of Oji River Centre shows that more boys are equally having access to education than girls.


Table 2: Population of Blind Children in Special Schools in Ghana

School for the blind-Akropong
2003/2004: 162 boys; 111 girls
2004/2005: 164 boys; 101 girls
2005/2006: 175 boys; 104 girls
TOTAL: 501 boys; 316 girls

Wa School for the Blind
2003/2004: 114 boys; 67 girls
2004/2005: 108 boys; 65 girls
2005/2006: 116 boys; 69 girls
TOTAL: 338 boys; 201 girls

The above table shows that 501 boys and 316 girls representing 61% and 39% respectively have access to education in the last three years under study in the School for the Blind, Akropong. Data from Wa School for the Blind reveals that 338 boys representing 63% and 201 girls representing 37% have had access to education in Special settings since 2003/2004 academic session. These figures show that more boys have access to education than girls in the country. In the three years under study, 839 and 517 blind boys and girls were in schools respectively. The figures also revealed that girls are more disadvantaged than boys and that there is no gender equity in the provisional of educational services to blind children in Ghana.

Table 3: Population of blind children mainstreamed in the
2003/2004 academic year
Institution Students Enrolment
Male Female Total

Three Kings-Blind Unit: 10 males; 5 females; 15 total
Wa Secondary School: 4 males; 2 females; 6 total
Presbyterian Training College: 9 males; 6 females; 15 total
Bechem Blind-Unit: 4 males; 2 females; 6 total
Wenchi Seondary School: 14 males; 8 females; 22 total
Cape Coast School for the Deaf-Unit: 9 males; 2 females; 11 total
Wa Training College: 5 males; 2 females; 7 total
TOTAL: 55 males; 27 females; 82 total

The result on the table shows that in the 2003/2004 academic year, 55 males and 27 females who are blind were in mainstreamed schools in Ghana. This represents 67% and 33% boys and girls respectively.

In Nigeria, results in table 1 shows that more boys have access to education than girls. Data gathered show that 161, 72, and 95 boys who are blind had access to education in Gindiri, Obudu and Oji River respectively. For the girls 76, 57, and 78 had access to Gindiri, Obudu and Oji River respectively. Of the total number of 529 children who are blind in the study schools, 328 are boys while 201 are girls thus representing 62 and 38 percent respectively.

The result in Ghana is not different either. In tables two and three the data show that more blind boys have access to educational opportunities than the girls. The figures computed show that 839 boys and 517 girls have access to education in segregated special schools. These figures represent 61% for boys and 39% for girls. The results in table three show that they were more boys who are blind in mainstreamed regular schools than girls as at the 2003/2004 academic year. This lopsidedness goes to confirm that there is no gender equity in the provision of educational opportunities to children who are blind in Ghana.

The findings are in conformity with the general trend where girls are denied educational opportunities in favour of boys. The reasons for this inequality are not far fetched. Women are associated with some stereotyped roles that make them feel subservient to the men in the society. For instance, there is the inculcation of the beliefs in both boys and girls in their formative years that there are definite and separate roles for both sexes (Chizea & Njoku, 1991). For instance, the traditional African society believes and teach that men are the bread-winners and at such they should be full of activity including access to education while women are home makers hence they should be home bound and passive. The socio-cultural environment of the two countries is so discriminatory in terms of gender. The Nigerian report under the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women states that women are relegated to the background and stereotyped roles of women drummed into and accepted by them from childhood (Chizea & Njoku, 1991).Abang-Wushishi (2004) pointed out that the different economies and socio-cultural factors affect sex roles and the different socialisation culture of boys and girls and their resulting personality formation. Citing Barry (1959) Abang-Wushishi states that boys were more pressured towards assertiveness, responsibility, achievement and self-reliance. The reasons for this state of affairs are the belief that women would sooner or later marry and their contribution to national development were in the areas of child-bearing, home-making and farming. Obi, (2004) states that the gender stereotyped and socialization process in Nigeria prepared women for domestic roles as housewives even with the introduction of western system of education. Western education was not considered relevant for girls but for boys. The situation is even worse when the girl in question is blind. Most parents have very poor concept of children who are blind especially the blind girl-child. These parents do not think that girls who are blind have bright opportunities in the society. Such parents will rather prefer to spend their money on the boys who have better chances of getting employment, marrying and raising a family. This is because it is not a common occurrence to see women who are blind happily married with children and having paid jobs unlike the case with most men who are blind. Davies (1996) attributed this to the fact that women in the society are still the more nurturing sex and they may be less hesitant to accept date from men who are blind that sighted men will do for girls who are blind. The fact that men find it very difficult to partner a girl who is blind affects the acceptability of such women in the society including the provision of educational services to them. Some informal interactions with some women who are blind revealed that some parents see investment in their education as a double waste of resources and energy for both the girl and the family. Many contend that their parents said they will rather use such monies to cater for their daily needs than school needs. The preference for boys has also to do with the fact that they are seen as those to continue with the family name hence much premium is placed on the birth and education of the boy child even when he is blind.

Education is seen in the society as the process of developing the whole being, physically, mentally, morally, politically and socially. However, despite the benefit and functions of education in the personal development of an individual and society at large cultural and social norms have been used over the years to deny women the opportunity of developing themselves and contributing to the development of their society. Women with disabilities especially the blind ones are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in today’s society. We need to develop a better understanding of their lives in order to remove the obstacles that still remain in their way to equality. The constitutions of Ghana and Nigeria guarantee equal rights to citizens their handicapping condition not withstanding. The two countries educational policies equally advocate for non-discriminatory educational opportunities for all children. More importantly the United Nations in her different conventions on human rights has repeatedly emphasized the need for equal educational opportunities and access by all children irrespective of gender or disability. The governments of Ghana and Nigeria must as a matter of urgency put in place measures to ensure that the blind girl-child has unhindered access to education. Parents need to be sensitized on the need for the education of the blind girl-child. Women organizations and civil right activists should integrate the issues of education of the blind girl-child into their programmes and begin to advocate for the implementation of Nigerian and Ghanaian educational policies that emphasized on equality of educational opportunities for children. Defaulters (Heads of Schools, Parents, Guidance etc) should be prosecuted to serve as deterrents for others.

Abang-Wushishi, Rose (2004). Perceptions of Female Development. In Oshita O.Oshita (ed) Towards Self-Knowledge: Essays on the Boki Nation. Ibadon. Hope Publications

Bowe, F. (1984). Disabled women in America: A statistical report drawn from census data. Washington, DC: President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped.

Chizea, D. O and Njoku, J. (1991) Nigerian Women and the Challenges of our time. Lagos. Malthouse Press Limited.

Davies, J. (1996). Sexuality Education for Children with Visual Impairment.

Obi, F.B. (2004). Women, Environment and Development in Boki. In Oshita O. Oshita (ed). Towards Self-Knowledge: Essays on the Boki Nation. Ibadon. Hope Publications

Olukotu, J.O. (2003). Teaching Children with Blindness and Visual Impairment: A Basic Text. Ibadon. Codat Publications.

Special Education Department (2004). Special Educational Needs Policy |Framework. Ghana Education Service.

Skyes, K.C. and Ozoji, E.D. (1992). Teaching Blind and Low Vision Children. Zaria. Ahmadu Bello University Press Ltd.

United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) (2004). A World Fit for Children. New York.

Thank you to the author of this paper, Florence Banku Obi, for granting permission to publish it at We Can Do. This paper was previously presented at the presented at the 12th International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairments (ICEVI) World Conference held in Malaysia from 16-21 July 2006 and was also circulated on an email listserv called the “Disability Information Dissemination Network,” which is managed by the ”Centre for Services and Information on Disability”(CSID), Bangladesh and currently sponsored by Sightsavers International. Individuals who wish to join receive papers, news, and announcements like this one relevant to the concerns of people with disabilities in developing countries should send an email to or with the word “join” in the subject line.

For more papers like this one, click “Academic Papers and Research” under “Categories” in the right-hand navigation bar. For more items related to blind people, or children, or education, or Sub-Saharan Africa generally, please click on the appropriate categories.

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Including the Disabled in Poverty Reduction Strategies

Posted on 29 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Policy & Legislation, Poverty, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Edited April 8, 2008, to add this paragraph: A new, up-dated version of the handbook described below is now available for free on-line in a format accessible to blind people. It is currently available only in English, but a French translation will be available in a few months from now (April 2008). For more details, go to:

A resource, Making PRSP Inclusive (4 Mb), could help disability advocates in developing countries negotiate with their governments to ensure that disabled people, too, benefit from programs meant to enable them to escape poverty.

PRSP stands for “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers” (PRSPs). A PRSP is a paper developed by governments that describe the policy and strategies they need to follow in order to reduce poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals within their country.

These four little letters—PRSP—are some of the most powerful letters known in developing countries. These four letters can help fight poverty, disease, starvation, and ignorance among all populations—including the disabled. More precisely, they are meant to help governments figure out exactly what programs and resources they need to solve the biggest challenges that face the poorest citizens of their country. If a PRSP is developed well and wisely, then millions could benefit—and escape poverty. But if it is done poorly, then millions could lose—perhaps most particularly people with disabilities whose needs may often be overlooked.

PRSPs are never—or at least should never be—developed by government officials in isolation. Donors and development banks usually also participate in the process. They are able to offer advice based on what they have learned about PRSPs developed and implemented in many other developing countries. But the most important partners in the PRSP process are members of civil society. That means people like you—represented through non-governmental organizations (NGOs); trade unions; academic institutions; media outlets; federations of poor people; or, essentially, any organization that is not a government agency. Only the ordinary citizens of a country can best know what their own most urgent needs are. And only poor citizens know what barriers they most need to overcome before they can escape poverty.

The trouble is: in many countries, (Disabled People’s Organizations) DPOs, and people with disabilities generally, don’t participate in the process of developing their country’s PRSP. In some countries, the disability movement may still be weak and fragmented. Also, people with disabilities continue to be “invisible” in most societies: non-disabled people simply don’t think to include them unless they are asked or reminded.

The handbook, Making PRSP Inclusive, was written by the German chapter of Handicap International and the Christoffel-Blindenmission Deutschland (German Christian Blind Mission), and was financed by the World Bank and the German government. It is meant for everyone working in the field of disability including NGOs, service providers, professional associations, people with disabilities themselves, DPOs, and parents’ associations, who wants to participate in their national PRSP process. It is for people who want to ensure that the needs and concerns of disabled people are well represented when their government makes important decisions about what projects they should support; what policies they should implement; and what strategies they should follow when fighting poverty.

The handbook will help readers better understand what the PRSP; who helps develop a country’s PRSP; how the PRSP process works; who finances (funds, pays for) the PRSP; why it is important to include disability issues in your country’s PRSP; and how a DPO can participate in the PRSP. It includes ideas for how you can identify and recruit possible allies so you can help each other become more involved in the PRSP process in your country. It also includes suggestions for how you and the other groups you work with can develop a joint strategy for presenting the needs of disabled people in your country. Later chapters include detailed guidance on how you can work to develop a stronger network or alliance of DPOs and other organizations in your country to advocate or lobby for the needs of disabled people. “Case studies” are presented that describe how the disability movement has already succeeded in including disabled people in the PRSP process in Honduras, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Tanzania

For people new to disability–or for people who are looking for language that could help them explain disability to others–the Making PRSP Inclusive guidebook includes a section that defines disability and explains the medical, charity, and social models of disability and the World Health Organization (WHO) classifications of disability. (For additional explanation of the medical, charity, and social models of disability, and other models, see the paper Disability Movement from Charity to Empowerment by Kishor Bhanushali.)

The whole handbook, Making PRSP Inclusive, can be downloaded in PDF format; it is 4 megabytes, so people with a slow modem dial-up will need to allow plenty of time. It may also be possible for you to obtain permission to reproduce and distribute the handbook within your country: for instructions, see the page entitled “Imprint” in the handbook. [EDITED TO ADD: As indicated in the first paragraph of this article, a new, updated version of this handbook is now available on-line, without needing to download any PDF files.]

Handicap International has a full listing of its publications and resources that, like Making PRSP inclusive, can be downloaded for free. Some are targeted at disability advocates who need better tools and resources for educating their country governments about disability and persuading them to be more inclusive. Other publications are targeted at mainstream development organizations who want to find more effective ways of ensuring that people with disabilities are able to fully participate in the programs and projects they offer.

The information contained in this We Can Do post was gathered from the Handicap International web site; from the World Bank web site; and from the Making PRSP Inclusive guidebook itself.

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PAPER: Impact of South Asian Earthquake on Disabled People

Posted on 27 October 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Disaster Planning & Mitigation, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Impact of the South Asian Earthquake on Disabled People in the State of Jammu and Kashmir
Parvinder Singh, Ph.D. Candidate
Jawaharlal Nehru University

Abstract: On the morning of October 8, 2005, a devastating earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck the Kashmir region with its epicentre near Muzzafarabad in Pakistan-administrated Kashmir. It took a while for both India and Pakistan to comprehend the scale of destruction that the quake had unleashed. In the two weeks following, the quake had left over 50,000 dead on the Pakistani side of the India-Pakistan border and claimed 1,300 lives on the Indian side. A second wave of deaths was expected with the onset of the region’s notorious winter.
Our thoughts immediately went to what may be happening to disabled people in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, though we knew the answer, based on our bitter experiences of seeing disabled people being neglected even in the so-called normal scenarios. Our National Disability Network partner in the mountainous and violence ravaged State confirmed our fears of the “general neglect” being compounded in the wake of this calamity.
With information gained from the Asian Tsunami and impending legislation on Disaster Management on the floor of Indian Parliament, we decided it was imperative to draw up the difficulties that disabled people face during natural disasters to facilitate some churning of our national consciousness and possibly a policy intervention. What follows is an account of a fact-finding mission, its findings and recommendations, on the impact of the Kashmir quake. It is a story of persistent neglect, which turns grave when calamities strike.

Key Words: disaster, Kashmir earthquake, disability


Late last year, a devastating earthquake shook the Himalayan region of the Indian subcontinent. The two rival nations, India and Pakistan, were united in grief as the scene of death and destruction unfolded. But as this event showed, just like Hurricane Katrina almost halfway across the globe, those who are collectively consigned to the margins of policy focus and safety plans are not only the worst sufferers of disasters, but also the least attended. India did not have a disaster management policy when the South Asian Earthquake took place. It was in a phase of finalisation. But the policy makers once again failed to focus on the needs of over 700 million disabled and aged people, as the final draft of this plan did not make even a single mention of these sections of the population.

Impact of South Asian Earthquake on Disabled People

On the morning of October 8, 2005, a devastating earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck the Kashmir region with its epicentre near Muzzafarabad in Pakistan-administrated Kashmir. However, it took a while for both India and Pakistan to wake up to the scale of destruction that the quake had unleashed. In just the two weeks since, the quake had left over 50,000 dead on the Pakistani side and taken 1,300 lives in India. The toll rose substantially by the second wave of deaths with the onset of the region’s winter.

Immediately after the quake, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), Disabled Peoples’ International – India (DPI – India), and the National Disability Network (NDN) contacted the NDN State Partner, Javed Ahmad Tak of Helpline, a Non-Government Organization (NGO) working for the rights of disabled people in the remote parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Through him we came to know stories that went beyond what the newspaper headlines could capture, particularly with regards to the status of people with disabilities. Their plight was multiplied manifold due to the reported lack of coordination and inaccessibility.

With these concerns in mind, a team consisting of myself, Senior Project Coordinator with NCPEDP and Mukhtar Ahmad and Muzzamil Yakub, both from a local disabled peoples’ NGO Helpline, visited quake affected areas in Kashmir from October 18th to 20th to take first hand stock of the status of the rescue, relief, and rehabilitation process with a specific focus on people with disabilities. The objective was to get disability included in the long-term rehabilitation plans being mooted by sensitising the State’s polity and the civil administration. Further, we also wanted to understand the disability scenario in the region: the administrative framework, implementation of the Disability Act, and the existence of disability NGOs–including their functioning, reach, and awareness levels that will help in planning their work for the future.

We visited hospitals, relief camps, and villages in Baramulla, Uri, Tangdhar, and Salamabad. During the course of our visit, we contacted the Honourable Governor, Lieutenant General Shri S.K. Sinha, State Social Welfare Minister Shri Mula Ram, and the State Human Rights Commissioner Justice A. Mir. We also spoke to other personnel, including several local officials, medical staff, and doctors, as well as quake-affected people. But before detailing our first-hand experience of the chaos and ordeal of people in the State, it is important to conceptualise the unique and not so-unique aspects of the State, particularly its status as a conflict zone.

Kashmir: Disaster and Disability in a Conflict Zone

The State of Jammu and Kashmir has had a history of violence and political turmoil ever since India and Pakistan attained political independence from British rule in 1947. The two neighbours have fought full-scale wars in 1947 and 1971, besides a near-war like conflict in 1999 called the Kargil War, over the region. The bone of contention between the two nations has been the treaty of accession that was signed by the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir and Lord Mountbatten in 1947 through which the state was ceded to India. Pakistan has refused to accept this fact.

The State was thrown into turmoil in the 1990’s as Islamic militancy grew roots in the region and enlisted thousands of local youth into the vortex of violence. Today the State has the largest deployment of soldiers and para-military in any single region in India. This conflict combined with political discontent among the locals has given birth to an extremely complex sociophysiological situation in the State. Deaths, gunfire, blasts, disabilities, and unaccounted disappearances have subjected the local population to trauma associated with a conflict zone for several years. The impact on vulnerable groups has been severe, particularly women and disabled people. A number of civil society groups are engaged in providing support to a wide social group undergoing mental health issues, including widows, rape victims, and orphaned children.

The State dubbed by many past rulers as “a heaven on the earth” for its breathtaking mountainous beauty, offers difficult living conditions due to its severe winters and inaccessible terrain that is compounded by poor infrastructure. The people here are predominantly Muslim and have a strong ethnic identity. A large part of the State formed a very volatile border with Pakistan until a recent cease-fire agreement came into force. The cross-border shelling and heavy artillery fire has been a constant feature for people living in the bordering villages. This shelling and artillery fire has been a major cause of physical disability, along with insurgency related causes.

It needs to be underlined here that, at least so far as our Indian experience is concerned, disabled people and issues related to them are way down the list of social and administrative concerns as the so-called pressing issues that confront a much larger or visible vote-bank are given a precedence. This situation holds true for Jammu and Kashmir as well. However, what makes it worse here is that the agenda of development has found a very myopic interpretation here, as this unending violence has not allowed any sustained growth.

Various institutions like schools and hospitals reflect a lack of even basic accessibility features. Javed, our local disability NGO partner, has been fighting for years now to get some disability-friendly changes initiated in the Kashmir University. After each incident of violence that gets noticed nationally, authorities almost spontaneously issue token compensation and artificial limbs to disabled people. This effort, however, is never sustained to make those affected economically and socially independent. Curfews are an order of the day in the streets of the Kashmir Valley and incidents abound of people being shot in the dark of the night because they were too slow in responding to a call by troops to move away or step into the light. Problems of sanitation, portable water, and transport make life for disabled and aged people very tough.

Relief Distribution Left Disabled People Unattended

After the earthquake, it was a clear display of the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest when it came to relief distribution, which for the most part was a hit-and-run drill of dumping relief materials by NGOs, political parties, and charitable trusts. This scene was apparent all along the National Highway No. 1/A from Baramulla onwards. Though there was plenty of aid, the takers of the relief material distributed through this method were ironically very limited in number. These were largely young boys who could slug it out in the jostling crowd. We saw this at least at a dozen points starting from the outskirts of Uri.
As we spoke to persons with disabilities who received aid, we were astonished by their stories. One said:

“I have walked here with great difficulty. My braces are my only mode of travel as the artificial limb that was given to me by the Indian Army at the Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar (winter capital of India-administered Kashmir) has cracked and I will need a new one…There is a mad rush when relief is being distributed. People are desperate. My father is very old and I have five sisters. This makes me the only one in the family who can come out and hunt for relief. My house has got destroyed completely and we have been camping in the open for past eleven days.”

The 22-year-old man had lost his right limb a few years ago when a shell landed on his house. He was trapped in the ensuing fire. He had been trekking over seven kilometres each day, since his house was destroyed in the quake, to the District Medical Centre in Uri to try his luck and get some blankets.

This experience is indicative of why a targeted approach is needed for people with disabilities, who face unimaginable difficulty in accessing relief in times of disasters. This problem was compounded in the case of Kashmir due to its mountainous terrain and the general inaccessibility of the region. The small settlements in the area defy the usual conception of a village and might be no more than a set of six to eight houses far from the navigable road. As I moved around the fringes of the highway that led to the neighbouring Pakistan border, I kept hearing of families stuck near their destroyed dwellings in the hills as the able-bodied male members came out to get in touch with lower-level government employees who almost always double as relief workers in case of calamity.

The Uri region has been a focal area for projects run by state power and construction companies. They were one of the first institutions, after the Indian Army, who had set up relief and first aid centers. I spoke to some of the officials manning these and was told that they had not seen any disabled person coming over from the villages in the hills. “It is unlikely that a disabled person would trek so far in these circumstances. We have sent teams out on foot, but in my knowledge they have not reported having met any in this area (Salamabad),” said an official manning a small centre set up by Hindustan Construction Company.

My personal observation revealed three disabled people slugging it out in the crowds that had gathered at relief distribution points. This struggle for relief material brought to my mind the general neglect that disabled people face in the country on account of lack of policy focus, which in turn is fostered by lack of empowerment and awareness among people with disabilities.

Lack of Coordination and an Existing System with Specific Focus on Disabled People

According to an estimate of the disability sector, there are over a million people with disabilities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. A large number of these people have been disabled due to incidents relating to mine explosions, shelling along the Line of Control, and militancy-related violence. In view of the above situation, the lack of attention that the civil administration and its officials displayed in terms of attending to people with disabilities came as a surprise.

As happens after every disaster in the sub-continent, the employees of Union and State governments are rushed to these areas to open rather ill-equipped so-called relief centres. These junior-level employees are not trained to deal with such scenarios. “There is no specific brief to be kept in mind so far as disabled people are concerned. I will definitely help them on account of humanity. We know things can be tough for them,” said an official at a point set up by the National Hydro Power Corporation.

We visited an Information Centre set up by the State Administration outside the Sub Divisional Magistrate’s office in Uri to find out if any disabled people had approached them for help. The officials on duty told us in general that those approaching them were NGO workers, and not victims. “Can you tell me what villages we can go to? I have been waiting to find an area where we can help victims affected by the quake…it has been two days,” said David Martin from US-based charity called Helping Hands. “All of us have been affected by the quake. Why are you enquiring only about people with disabilities? They will ultimately receive some help,” said an official outside the District Hospital in Uri.

My interaction clearly brought out the general lack of coordination. People from affected villages blamed politics or apathy as the reason for the lack of timely relief. It also highlighted the absence of orientation towards the needs of disabled people.

Quake Injuries Indicate A Likely Rise in Disabilities

During our visit to hospitals in Baramulla, Uri, and Srinagar we attempted to take stock of the kind of treatment people with disabilities needed, the assistive or orthopaedic devices they needed, and the nature of the injuries that were being reported. Dr. S.A. Rashid, Medical Superintendent of the Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar stated:

“The true picture of rehabilitation that these victims will need would emerge only in the coming months. Most of these injuries were caused by dislodged objects. Quite a few of these people would not be able to function as before. There are cases of compound fracture that may get complicated, and some of them may even need amputation.”

The office of Medical Superintendent at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences voiced the same opinion. Doctors on duty said that the majority of the 211 cases related to the earthquake were of injuries to the limbs and head. Dr. Samina of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences added that:

“Three amputations have taken place so far (till 20th October). These include two men and one girl. They have been referred for surgery. In fact the girl’s amputation was done today itself.”

I also observed reluctance on the part of doctors and hospital medical staff in sharing information, possibly because of heavy politicisation that saw leaders of all hue frequenting these hospitals.

Dr. Jatinder Singh of the Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar told us of three amputations in his hospital. He also mentioned that several other cases could end up with amputations. For instance, he added a seven-month-old infant had suffered multiple fractures and was brought in 12 days after the earthquake and there was a great chance that he could end up with a disability. He also informed us about one patient, Khalid, who had a disability on account of severe dislocation of a knee and was now on the verge of amputation, even as the doctors were trying to save him from it. These visits clearly highlighted the need for both immediate and long-term intervention for providing aids and appliances, apart from medical intervention to avoid or minimise instances of disabilities.

I was also told about a team of doctors from the National Institute for the Orthopaedically Handicapped, Kolkata [Calcutta], having visited these hospitals and meeting some of the victims who have undergone amputations. But as highlighted by the doctors, there is a need for more organized and exhaustive undertakings.

I came across some NGO workers who were engaged in counselling of victims suffering from trauma. One such group, from Delhi, was manning a small centre beyond Salamabad, barely 5 kilometres from the Line of Control (unofficial India-Pakistan). “In a single day we have received about 120 people coming in for the first time since the quake. Most of these people have very minor problems and are here more because this is their first touch with compassion, after being shocked and traumatized by the destruction and death around them,” said an NGO worker.

The valley has had a known prevalence of trauma cases since the time insurgency took root, and with the quake it is going to increase. We felt that the people need a greater engagement by the way of easy and accessible counselling, as short-term/temporary measures would not help.

Rehabilitation Must Take A Macro-Approach to Integrating the Needs of Disabled People

Moreover, Commanding Officer of 56 Rashtriya Rifle, an elite anti-terrorist unit of the Indian Army that operates in the Uri sector stated that:

“As our men were close to the area of impact and are well-versed with the topography here, we reacted immediately to carry out rescue operations. We continue to coordinate with the administration and civilians in getting across the relief. But our role cannot be long-term or stretched beyond a point. The civil administration will have to step in and rehabilitate the people affected by the quake.”

This quotation sums up the challenge with which the civil administration is confronted. This phase of rehabilitation in Kashmir is going to be as important as that of relief, as the availability of a cover over the head would mean a difference between life and death.
“Our homes have got destroyed by the wrath of nature. As it is, the life is difficult here. We are among the lucky few who are putting up in the tent city. But we will have to return to pick up pieces and rebuild our lives,” said Noor Mohammad who is putting up at the tent camp near Tangdhar, an area which has sustained the greatest damage on the Indian side of Line of Control, in terms of property. While some families in Tangdhar and Uri districts have decided to reconstruct the damaged houses using re-usable material, the state government is providing each of them with financial assistance of Rs. 100,000 [100,000 rupees] for reconstruction work. In addition, 450 engineers of the state government are being trained in two batches to guide families in rebuilding their damaged houses. Building demonstration centers are also being set up in six places in the two districts.

Almost 26 villages have been adopted by various agencies including the Army, Air Force, Border Security Force, the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) and the Delhi Government. But on the projected requirement of 30,000 tents, the Government has managed to procure just over half that number.

Despite two major disasters in recent years, the Asian tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake, governments have failed to wake up to the need for placing an administrative system in place to make special provisions to ensure expeditious rescue and relief for disabled people. The long term policy measures that have been announced since then also do not reflect any learning on the part of the governments on the devastating impact that disasters have on disabled people who are not only worst hit, but also last to get any rehabilitation. An explanation for the complete neglect of disabled people by policy makers can be found in the corresponding lack of awareness and political rights of disabled people in this part of the world. A society and polity attuned to the rights of its marginalised sections is the only solution for an effective and inclusive disaster policy.

Another issue that will have to be addressed is that of the lack of a technical knowledge-base that impedes a systematic response to these disasters. The chaos that follows these disasters is also responsible for overlooking marginalized sections of the population. The training of disaster response teams and civil and administrative coordination in such situations would have to be addressed and while doing so the needs of vulnerable sections would have to be prioritized.


Following this visit, we made following broad recommendations to the Government of India:

  1. There is an urgent need to collect data on disabled people who have been affected by the earthquake. Not only should we look at the data of those who have been rendered disabled, also that of those with a disability who have survived but are affected and people with psychosocial problems compounded or caused by the disaster.
  2. Concrete and time-bound plans must be made to address disability concerns in revival of livelihoods, achieving convergence among all on-going programs of sustainable development, and reconstruction.
  3. Disabled-friendly and inclusive built environments must be considered when reconstruction of shelters (temporary or permanent), schools, health centres, housing facilities, water and sanitation facilities, etc. takes place.
  4. International and other N.G.O.s supporting the Government in relief/rehabilitation/reconstruction work should include disability on their agenda.
  5. Disability should be a priority area for any policy that is being formulated for preparedness, mitigation and management and other efforts to prepare us to face similar challenges with confidence, and competence in the future.
  6. This is a good opportunity to correct the mistakes. The Disability Act should be enforced in the State.

Parvinder Singh is a Senior Project Coordinator with the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People in Delhi, India. He has worked as a journalist and social science researcher, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Modern Indian History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

This paper was originally published in The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal (RDS), a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, international journal, published by the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It was published in Volume 3, Issue 3, 2007 (376 Kb in Word doc format). The main page of the journal is at Thank you to Parvinder Singh and the editors of RDS for their permission to publish this paper at We Can Do.

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NEWS: Human Rights Violations of Argentines with Psychosocial, Mental Disabilities

Posted on 25 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Cognitive Impairments, Human Rights, Latin America & Caribbean, Opinion, Psychiatric Disabilities, Violence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


WASHINGTON, DC—September 25, 2007— Argentina is among countries with the most psychiatrists per capita in the world—yet people detained in the country’s public psychiatric institutions are subject to serious human rights violations. Ruined Lives, an investigative report released today by Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI)and the Argentine human rights organization Center for Legal and Social Studies(CELS), finds that 25,000 people are locked away in Argentina’s institutions, segregated from society, many for a lifetime and with no possibility of ever getting out.

Ruined Lives exposes widespread abuse and neglect in these institutions, including people burning to death in isolation cells, complete sensory deprivation in long-term isolation, forced sterilization and sexual and physical abuse. In one psychiatric penal ward in Buenos Aires, men were locked naked in tiny, barren isolation cells with no light or ventilation for months at a time. At another institution, four people died while locked in isolation cells. Toilets overflowed with excrement and floors were flooded with urine.

Investigators found a 16 year-old boy in a crib, his arms and legs tied to his body with strips of cloth, completely immobilized. Staff said he had been tied up since being admitted to the institution more than a year before.

“Argentina’s mental health system detains people on a massive scale without any legal protections,” said Eric Rosenthal, MDRI’s ExecutiveDirector. “The inhumane and degrading treatment we observed is banned by international human rights treaties and should not be tolerated in any society.”

MDRI is an international human rights and advocacy organization dedicated to the full participation in society of people with mental disabilities world wide. For more information, visit

CELS is an Argentine organization devoted to fostering and protecting human rights and strengthening the democratic system and the rule of law. For more information, visit

The report and photographs can be downloaded from the MDRI web site in either English or Spanish.

1156 15th St NW, Suite 1001, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 296-0800, Fax: (202) 728-3053

This press release comes from Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI</a).

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EVENT: Photo Competition: Decent Work and People with Disabilities

Posted on 25 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Employment, Events and Conferences, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This announcement from Debra A. Perry, Senior Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation, International Labour Office, has been circulating within the international disability community. It has been slightly modified by We Can Do.

Dear Colleagues,

As organizations and agencies interested in decent work and persons with disabilities, I am asking you to publicize or get actively involved in an ILO/DPI/Irish Aid regional Asia-Pacific awareness campaign to promote the UN International Day of Disabled Persons. The theme of the campaign this year is Decent Work and People with Disabilities. The campaign centers
around a photo contest that will be launched in Bangkok on 25 October at 10:30 AM and will close at noon on 21 November. The timeframe is short but the opportunity to promote decent work and disabled persons is great. However, we need your help!

Would you please help in promoting this event by sending out the press release, invitation to participate and other materials? We encourage you to contact the local ILO office in your country, which may be already translating the documents (ask for the media focal point) or, if translation is not necessary, to send it to interested stakeholders. These might include media contacts, photo clubs (just try in your country and search for photography clubs to get a list), your organisation’s network, universities with media or photography programmes, or through other networks or organizations that you think will be interested.

Please also consider getting directly involved by submitting a photo! You, your family members or friends are most welcome to submit a photo according to the Terms and Conditions of the competition. All your questions–including the Terms and Conditions–should be answered on the web site for the competition,

We hope the contest will be a success but more importantly we want to get the messages about decent work and disability out to as many people as possible and to get people involved in promoting positive images about disabled persons working or advocating for their rights to decent work.

Please review the attached materials for your information and please distribute them as soon as possible.

Many thanks for your help!

Best Regards,


Debra A. Perry
Senior Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation
International Labour Office
10th Floor, UN Building
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue
P.O. Box 2-349, Rajdamnern
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Tel: 662.288.1792
Fax: 662.288.3060
Email address:

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International Day of Disabled Persons Dec 3 ’07

Posted on 23 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Employment, Events and Conferences, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Each year, organizations representing disabled people use the International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3 to educate the public about disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well being of people with disabilities.

The theme for this year is “Decent work for persons with disabilities.” According to the UN Enable website on this theme, as many as 80% of people with disabilities in most countries are unemployed. Yet most disabled people could work as productively as any other citizen–if they were not blocked from employment opportunities by negative attitudes toward, and mistaken assumptions about, people with disabilities.

This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons will emphasize how to ensure decent work for people with disabilities. In the recently adopted international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),
article 27 recognizes the rights of disabled people to work and employment on an equal basis with other people.

Themes for previous years have included “E-Accessibility” (access to information and communication technologies); “Nothing about us without us”; “Independent living and sustainable livelihoods”; and more.

All the information for this blog post were gathered from the UN Enable web site on this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons. For more information on this international event and how your organization, agency, or other entity can become involved, follow the link to:

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NEWS: Sudan nationwide polio immunization drive

Posted on 23 October 2007. Filed under: Health, Mobility Impariments, News, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

As some We Can Do readers are well aware, polio, a potentially deadly disease that can leave its survivors with paralysis, is not yet entirely eradicated from the face of the Earth. Rich countries generally have been polio free for many decades–and even some developing countries have been polio free for many years as well. But in a few remaining countries, polio does occasionally flare up from time to time. And probably anyone with a sufficently strong network of contacts among the international disability community eventually encounters a number of commited, active young advocates in developing countries who happen to have been paralyzed due to polio.

United Nations agencies and Sudanese health officials have recently announced a massive nationwide polio immunization campaign. Sudan had previously been declared polio-free in 2005, but the potentially deadly virus was recently discovered again.

For more detail, follow the link to:

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CONFERENCE: India National CRPD Workshop: Making Human Rights a Reality

Posted on 23 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Events and Conferences, Human Rights, Opportunities, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Thank you to Ghulam Nabi Nazimani for passing along this announcement:

National level workshop

Dates:1st and 2nd December 2007

Venue:CBR NETWORK(South Asia)Bangalore

UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Theme-How to evolve a civil society reporting system in South Asia to translate the vision of the CRPD becomes a reality for all persons with disabilities in our society?

India Focus group

Dear Friends,

We welcome you to two days workshop on evolving a civil society reporting system in India to translate the vision of the CRPD becomes a reality for all persons with disabilities in our society.

In October 2007, at the fourth South Asian regional conference held in Katmandu , Nepal a resolution was passed and was included in the Katmandu Declaration on the importance of developing a civil society reporting system for the effective implementation of UN CRPD.

Now the important job to do before all of us is its implementation in the real sense of the word. We should work in the direction of creating awareness among persons with disabilities,families ,civil Societies ,government ,media about the UN convention and implementation tool kit developed by Disabled people international .

This is the high time we should all work in this direction at a war footing.

What is the new Convention and what does it mean for me? A new Convention – A new approach

  1. Understand what kind of convention the CRPD is
  2. Understand why the CRPD is needed and how it was created
  3. Understand what a “rights-based approach” is
  4. Understand how this is new and how it can be helpful to persons with disabilities

What we hope the Convention will achieve

  • Increase the visibility of persons with disabilities, both within the UN human rights system and in society more generally
  • Clarify the human rights obligations of governments to persons with disabilities, and ensure that governments who become States Parties to the convention make legislative and programmatic changes at the national level to implement their legal obligations under the convention
  • Encourage existing human rights monitoring bodies to pay attention to disability issues when they review compliance of governments with the other core human rights conventions
  • Encourage other bodies within the UN system (such as UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO, UNESCO, and others) to pay attention to disability issues in their work
  • Establish systems for comprehensively monitoring the human rights situation of persons with disabilities around the world
  • Establish systems for international cooperation, through which governments, disability organizations and other actors can share knowledge and ideas and work together to improve the lives of persons with disabilities

Registration -FREE

Modest accommodation will be arranged for outstation participants on a prior request. Please confirm your participation by sending an email or a letter.

Looking forward to seeing you

Please encourage and support women with disabilities to participate in this important meeting.

Workshop cooridnators Dr Srikumari Kartha and Sri Suryakanth Kitte
Mr Carlos Orjuela and Ms Singoalla Tiroler

Indumathi Rao
Former member National commission for persons with Disabilities,India
Regional Adviser
CBR NETWORK (South Asia)
UN ECOSOC Special Consultative Status since 2007

Associate Member of Rehabilitation International( Advancing the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities worldwide)

134,1st Block,6th Main BSK III Stage,Bangalore -560085

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Calling All Children and Youth: The CRPD for Young People

Posted on 22 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Cross-Disability, Human Rights, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

UNICEF is calling all young people to share their ideas for the child-friendly text of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Convention is an agreement between countries to make sure that children and adults with disabilities are treated fairly and in the same ways as same as other people. UNICEF wants young people to know about it.

UNICEF has launched an online discussion. This discussion gives young people the opportunity to comment on the child-friendly text. Your contribution will help to put the Convention into the hands of children and young people. This way they will know what governments have promised to do to make sure that every child with disability has what he/she needs to grow, play, participate and go to school, and to reach its full potential as others. The discussion is continuing from now until November 9, 2007.

At the UNICEF web site, you can download the “child-friendly” text of the convention in PDF or in Word. If you are a facilitator conducting a focus group, then you can also downloand a Facilitator’s Guide.

You can also answer questions that ask what you thought about the child-friendly text and how it can be made better so that children and young people will understand it. Your answers can be entered at the UNICEF web site or via email to

For more details, follow the link to

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Disability Movement from Charity to Empowerment, by Kishor Bhanushali

Posted on 22 October 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Disability Studies, Guest Blogger, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Probably every wheelchair rider–or at least, the wheelchair users who I know–have had the experience of strangers in the street adamantly insisting on giving them their loose change. Even well-dressed people in three-piece pin-striped suits on their way to white collar jobs in industrialized countries have had strangers simply assume that they must be panhandling–and that they would be thrilled to receive a piece of currency so tiny that it can purchase absolutely nothing in the local economy.

This event is so ordinary and common in their lives that some disabled people may not even think to mention it until and unless an astonished companion witnesses an incident and asks about it. The attitude reflected by these would-be benefactors can be instantly be recognized by the familiar as the “charity model” of disability described further below in Kishor Bhanushali’s essay.

For someone new to disability studies, certain terms can seem as bewildering as international development jargon can seem to a grassroots disability (or Deaf/deaf) rights advocate. Concepts such as the distinctions between the “social model” and the “medical model” of disability can initially seem remote from the concerns of someone unfamiliar with disabilities struggling to ensure that disabled people have equal access to the mainstream transportation infrastructure program, or to the HIV/AIDS education outreach project, that they are trying to implement.

But the attitudes and perspectives of non-disabled people toward people with disabilities can, and do, have a profound impact on our daily lives. Even for a disabled person who has never before heard the phrase “moral model” or “human rights model,” the descriptions of the real-world attitudes upon which these phrases are based are intimately familiar and highly relevant to our lives. They are familiar because we confront them, for better or for worse, in the people we meet–including in our families. And they are relevant because when certain attitudes are pervasive throughout all society, they directly and pragmatically affect what services or human rights are–or are not–available to us.

This holds as true in developing nations as it does in rich nations. Disabled people have unequal access to resources in their environment not only because they are disabled, or because their country is poor, but also because people and programs following the moral, medical, or charity models (rather than the social or human rights models) may create barriers that prevent their equal participation in society.

Whether or not you knew it, you are already operating from the perspectives and attitudes described in at least one of the existing “disability models,” as described in the essay below and elsewhere. And so are the programs that you run, support, or work for–even if these projects are not intended to be targeted specifically at people with disabilities. Being aware of the various models and the distinctions among them can be a helpful start in evaluating whether your program is productive and empowering for disabled people–or if your program, entirely without your intent or will, reinforces barriers already present in their environment.

The author of the paper presented here, Kishor Bhanushali, recently circulated it on the email distribution list for the Global Partnership on Disability and Development (GPDD). He was kind enough to grant permission for it to be posted at We Can Do. I wanted to post this paper so that readers new to the various disability models can receive a brief introduction here. This paper also shares Bhanushali’s observations of the status of people with disabilities in Indian society.

Kishor Bhanushali is currently working on a book titled “Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities” that will contain articles on various rehabilitation strategies. He invites submissions. Interested parties should contact him directly.

Changing Face of Disability Movement: From Charity to Empowerment

By Kishor Bhanushali
Faculty Member – ICFAI Business School

National Seminar On
“Revisiting Social Work in the field of Health – A Journey from Welfare to Empowerment-
(20-21 February 2007)

Organised by Faculty of Social Work,
The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda Vadodara

Over 600 million people, or approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population, have a disability of one form or another. Over two thirds of them live in developing countries. Only 2 per cent of disabled children in the developing world receive any education or rehabilitation. The link between disability and poverty and social exclusion is direct and strong throughout the world” – Human Rights and Disability (United Nations)

The problem of disability and movement for disability is as old as mankind. Holy epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata have reference the issue of disability in terms of negative characters of Mnthara, Dhutrastra, and Sakuni. This has created negative impact on the mindset of people about persons with disabilities. During ancient times, persons with disabilities were seen as sin or punishment by God for wrong thing done in last life. This perception has changed over a period of time and persons with disabilities were looked at with pity and charity. But today they have proved themselves as normal citizens. It has been proved that disability lies in the social system and not within persons with disabilities themselves. They need their rights and equal opportunities instead of pity and charity. Disability movement worldwide and within India has a greater role to play in this transformation. This needs to strengthen further. Paper focuses on the changing face of disability movement from looking at persons with disability as a sin to charity mode and towards giving them their rights and equal opportunities. Attempt here is on understand the path of disability movement and its relevance for Indian social work. This will provide an important input for voluntary organizations, government, and the social work professionals working in the area of disability.

Disability Models:
Different people conceptualize the phenomenon of disability differently. Accordingly each person will have different meaning for the term disability and rehabilitation strategy to be followed. Accordingly conceptions regarding disability have undergone changes from time to time, from place to place, and from person to person. The meaning of disability for a doctor is different from that of psychologist, economists, and social worker. Accordingly we have different models of disability evolving from disability movement worldwide.

1. Moral Model
The oldest model of disability was moral model. Under this model person with disability were seen as sin. Disability was considered as punishment from God for the wrong Karma done in the past. Thus persons with disabilities were treated as alien. They have no right to live in the mainstream society. They are not entitled for any right to education, social life and employment available other members of the society. They themselves are responsible for what they are. The family with disabled member was seen with suspicious. To avoid this disabled member were generally hided by their family. Neither government nor society was concerned with the problems faced by them.

2. Charity Model
Charity model is driven largely by the emotive appeals of charity. This model treats people with disabilities as helpless victims needing care and protections. This model relies heavily on the charity and benevolence rather than justice and equality. This model accepts the act of exclusion of persons with disabilities from social arrangements and services in public domain. Charity model justifies the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the mainstream education and employment. Entitlement rights are substituted by relief measures creating an army of powerless individuals, without any control or bargaining power, depending either on the state allocated fund or benevolent individuals. This model asks for social support mechanism for the benefit of person with disability. Initial efforts of the government and individuals were based on this model. Government was allocating large chunk of fund for the welfare of persons with disabilities as direct benefit or support to voluntary organizations. At the same time army of non-governmental organisations working for the benefit of persons with disabilities also relies on the donations and government grants.

3. Medical Model
Medical model of disability is based on the postulate that the problems and difficulties experienced by person with disabilities are directly related to their physical, sensory or intellectual impairments. This model defines disability in the clinical framework as diseases state, thus providing for major role for the medical and paramedical professionals to cure this problems in such a way as to make them as normal as possible. Medical model support the postulate that persons with disabilities are biologically and psychologically inferior to other able bodied counterparts. So they are not treated as fully human bacause they lack the competence to decide for themselves. This model reduces disability to impairment and sought to locate it within the body or mind of the individual while the power to define, control and treat disabled individual was located within the medical and paramedical professionals. This model restricts the rehabilitation efforts to medical treatment in terms of protection and cure.

4. Social Model
In contrast to medical model, which locates disability within the person with disabilities, social model postulates that persons is disabled because of architectural, attitudinal and social barriers created by the society. The social model presents disability as a consequence of oppression, prejudice and discrimination by the society against disabled people. It is the society, which constructs economic, social, health, architectural, legal, and cultural and other barriers in order to deliberately prevent people with impairments enjoying full benefits of social life. The social model shifts the emphasis from a disabled individual to the society and its disabling attitudes and environment. People who believe on social model are of he view that handicap is made and not acquired. So the solution lies in social management by all necessary environmental modification.

5. Economic Model
The economic model tries to establish the linkages between the individual and society in term of their contribution to productive capabilities of the society. The emphasis here is on health related limitations on the amount and kind of work performed by person with disabilities. This approach suggests that the employment problems of person with disabilities stem from faulty economic system and deficiencies on the part of such disadvantage individuals. The vocational rehabilitation programmes or income generation programmes are principle solutions to the problems faced by persons with disabilities. Existing policies plays a greater role in condemning the disabled man and women to a life of perpetual dependency thus providing low pay work ad limited opportunities for all around development. Unlike other models, economic model suggest that the modifications in the persons in the form of education, training and employability, rather than changing the environment and worksite changes or changes in the perception of employees is the most desirable means of fulfilling the social and economic needs of the disadvantages strata of the society.

6. Human Rights Model
Over the past two decades, dramatic shift in the perspective has taken place from an approach motivated by charity towards persons with disabilities to one based on rights. Disability is positioned as an important dimension of human culture by human rights model. According to human rights model all human beings irrespective of their disabilities have certain rights, which are unchallengeable. By emphasizing that the disabled are equally entitled to rights as others, this model builds upon the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, according to which, ‘all human beings are born free and equal in rights and dignity”. This model emphasis on viewing persons with disabilities as subjects and not as objects thus locating the problem outside the disabled persons and addresses the manners in which the economic and social processes accommodate the differences of disability or not, as the case may be.

Indian Scenario
In all countries of the world, persons with disabilities are the largest minority group starved of services and facilities available to their non-disabled counterparts. As a result they are least nourished, least healthy, least educated and least employed. They are subject to the long history of neglect, isolation, poverty, deprivation, charity and pity. The situation of persons with disabilities in India is not significantly different. The responsibility of care of persons with disabilities is generally left to their families and few institutions managed by voluntary organisations and government. Disabled in India is mostly ignored by the society because they do not have economic, political or media power. Census of India, for the first time, enumerated persons with disabilities in 2001 according to which more than 2 crore people are facing the problem of disability. In comparison to United Nations figure of 10 percent, Census of India figure is very small. The reason lies in the different approaches and definitions. Within India results of National Sample Survey Organisation and Census of India shows contradictory results. This speaks about the lack of sensitivity on the issue of disability.

The legal framework adequately addresses the issue of disability. Constitution of India, guarantees a right of justice, liberty of thought, expression, belief and worship and equality of status and of opportunities for all citizens including person with disabilities. Apart form constitutional provisions the collective struggle of all disabled and their advocates resulted in ‘Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Bill, passed in 1995. This Act is a comprehensive and farreaching legislation with promise of liberating mankind of its prejudices and of removing barriers that have crippled the disabled for centuries. By granting full equality, independence and freedom, act has opened doors to people with disabilities so that the can become an integral part of the mainstream society. Apart from PWD Act, we have other legislative provisions like The Mental Health Act 1987, Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992, and The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disability Act 1999 are also available to safeguard the interest of person with Disabilities. Government of Gujarat has passed Gujarat Physically Handicapped Persons (Employment in Factories) Act 1982 which provide for the reservation for person with disabilities in private sector factories. The fruits of these legislative provisions are not percolating to persons with disabilities because of lack of awareness. Even voluntary organisations working for persons with disabilities themselves are not aware about the legal provisions. Overlapping of functions of judicial machinery makes things more complicated.

Large numbers of voluntary organisations are operating in India, especially for the welfare of person with disabilities. Sincere and dedicated efforts on the part of government and voluntary organisations have resulted in high level of literacy among person with disabilities and increased awareness among persons with disabilities and their parents about their rights and capabilities. But the dark side is that, many of voluntary organisations believe on charity model. These organisations are not professionally managed. They are depending on government and other donors for financial support. Only a few of them are providing vocational training and employment services for person with disabilities. Vocational trainings provided by voluntary organisations are not professionally designed lacking in marketability and employability. So even after getting training person with disabilities are not suitably employed. Secondly more than 75 percent of persons with disabilities are living in rural areas where as voluntary efforts are concentrated in urban locations. Very few organisations are working for rural disabled. Voluntary organisations have to extend their operations in rural areas as well.

Employment is really a problem for person with disabilities. Unemployment rate among person with disabilities is more than double the unemployment rate among their nondisabled counterparts. The reasons lie in the suspicions of the employers who believe on medical model and consider them inferior to their non-disabled counterparts. They prefer to donate for the welfare of persons with disabilities rather than giving them employment opportunities. Physical and mental impairment is more visible to them compared to their abilities. A Three percent reservation as provided by PWD Act has remained on paper even after more than a decade of passage of legislation.

The policies and schemes of government are guided by medical model rather than human rights model. Major efforts on the part of government are limited to physical rehabilitation in the form of preventive action, provision for aids and appliances etc. Efforts in the direction of human rights model has remain on paper because of the ignorance on the part of persons with disabilities, and voluntary organisations.

Disability movement in India has succeeded in changing the approach towards disability from moral model to charity model but limited has been achieved in the direction of human rights model. Collective efforts on the part of person with disabilities, their advocates, voluntary organisations, government and society at large are required to create real world where abilities and disabilities are not seen on the basis of physical or mental impairment but disability is seen as diverse abilities.

1. The Census of India 2001, Government of India
2. The National Sample Survey Organisations, 58 th Round 2002, Government of India
3. Disability Status in India: Retrospect and Prospects, by G.N. Karna, Gyan Publishing house, New Delhi.
4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, United Nations
5. Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, Government of India
6. The Mental Health Act 1987, Government of India
7. Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992, Government of India
8. The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disability Act 1999, Government of India.
9. National Human Rights Commission,
10. Identifying Disability Issues Related to Poverty Reduction: India Country Study, Asian Development Bank

I will likely post more materials (or links to same) on the various models of disability, and how they relate to the international development field, in future blog posts at We Can Do. But for now, let me quickly link to two essays that discuss particularly the “medical” and “social” models in further depth. Both are posted by a British blogger who dubs herself “Lady Bracknell”: “Impairment versus disability” and “The social model of disability.”

Please note that Lady Bracknell’s use of terminology such as the distinction between “disabled” and “impaired” is a very British usage and differs from the usage of similar terminology by writers from other countries.

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UN Enable: Promoting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Posted on 21 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Human Rights, News, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The United Nations (UN) has launched a new web site, UN Enable, focused on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It is available at

The convention is intended to ensure that people with disabilities are able to enjoy human rights in the same way as everyone else. Countries that choose to sign, ratify, and then implement the convention will then become obligated to abolish laws that discriminate against disabled people and write laws that protect their rights instead. The convention includes provision for protecting disabled people from torture, loss of liberty, and other abuses; and for ensuring that disabled people have equal access to justice (including court systems), transportation, and public services.

In particular, don’t miss the new UN handbook (3.2 Mb) for parliamentarians on the CRPD. Although targeted at members of country parliaments, it may also be a useful tool for disability advocates who wish to work with or pressure their governments to sign, ratify, and implement the convention. It explains the convention and the process for ratifying it in greath depth. We Can Do posted an announcement about the handbook in a prior post.

In yet another earlier post, We Can Do announced a pair of ratification and implementation toolkits from Disabled People International targeted at advocates. These toolkits explain the convention and the ratification process at a more basic level and advises organizations in ways they can become involved.

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New Handbook on Disability Rights

Posted on 21 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Human Rights, News, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Press Release

OHCHR, IPU, and UNDESA launch handbook for the new Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

Geneva, 8 October 2007

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) recently launched a handbook on the newly adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, aimed at raising the awareness of this new legal instrument among parliamentarians. The handbook will particularly enable legislators to become more familiar with the Convention and provide them with the tools to facilitate its ratification and subsequent implementation.

Persons with disabilities – some 650 million worldwide – remain amongst the most marginalized in every society. While the international human rights framework has changed lives everywhere, persons with disabilities have not reaped the same benefits. To fill this gap, the United Nations General Assembly adopted in December 2006 the new Convention and its accompanying Optional Protocol.

“Parliaments and parliamentarians have a key role to play in promoting and protecting human rights. This Handbook is our contribution to help bring down barriers, remove prejudices, and outlaw discrimination in the area of disability. We stand behind the new Convention as an important tool to help persons with disabilities achieve the transition from exclusion to equality”, said the IPU Secretary General, Mr. Anders B. Johnsson.

“The Convention, the first human rights treaty of the new century, marks a historic step in ensuring that disabled persons enjoy full participation in society and can contribute to the community to their full potential. I hope that the Handbook, in addition to raising awareness, will foster the speedy ratification of the Convention so to end the protection vacuum that has, in practice, affected persons with disabilities”, said Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The Convention has enormous potential to advance the great goals of human rights and development for all. It provides a framework where all stakeholders can work together to create policy and practices that lead to societies where persons with disabilities are fully appreciated, acknowledged, and encouraged to flourish. Parliamentarians have a crucial role to perform in this effort, hence the launch of this Handbook”, added Mr. Sha Zukang, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The English version of the Handbook was launched October 8, 2007, before some 600 legislators attending the 117th IPU Assembly in Geneva. French, Spanish, and Arabic translations were launched in spring 2008. The Handbook will also be available online on the websites of IPU, OHCHR and UNDESA.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will enter into force after twenty ratifications are received. As of today, 117 countries have signed the Convention and 7 have ratified it. In addition, 67 countries have signed, and 3 countries ratified, the optional protocol. The CRPD prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, with specific provisions related to rehabilitation, habilitation, education, employment, health and access to information, public facilities and services. The Optional Protocol addresses how individuals or groups can seek redress for violations of the CRPD once national remedies are exhausted. The original text of the CRPD is available in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, or Chinese. The plain-language version of the CRPD is available at

Advocates are able to use a pair of guidebooks from Disabled People International to help them persuade their governments to sign, ratify, and fully implement the CRPD. The guidebooks–a ratification toolkit and an implementation toolkit–are available in English, Spanish, or French at

Established in 1889 and with its Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPU – the oldest multilateral political organization in the world – currently brings together 147 affiliated parliaments and seven associated regional assemblies. The world organization of parliaments has an Office in New York, which acts as its Permanent Observer to the United Nations.

The Office of the High Commissioner is the principal United Nations department responsible for United Nations human rights activities. It is mandated to promote and protect all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The main development department of the United Nations, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) works on a wide range of economic, social and environmental issues, with the core mission of promoting development for all.

Contacts : IPU: Ms. Luisa Ballin, IPU Information Officer. Tel.: +41 22 919 41 16, e-mail: or IPU website:

OHCHR: Mr. Yvon Edoumou, Information Officer. Tel. +41 22 917 9383; e-mail: OHCHR website:;

UN: Mr. Edoardo Bellando, Information Officer. Tel. +1 212 963 8275; e-mail: UN website:

Most of the text for this announcement is taken from a press release. We Can Do modified this press release particularly to add background information on the convention and to add links to the handbook and other useful information, as well as to alter verb tense as relevant. It was edited in June 2008 to note the availability of Spanish, French, and Arabic translations.

Also see a subsequent United Nations story from after the launch.

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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

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NEWS: Disability Rights in Malawi

Posted on 19 October 2007. Filed under: News, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Disability rights activist Mussa Chiwaula, a polio survivor, has been lobbying the Malawi government to enable people with disabilities to improve their lives and contribute to the development of their country. One result has been a government policy called Equalization of Opportunities for People with Disabilities, which has started to help some disabled people enter the job force for the first time. Chiwaula, however, says the policy still needs better implementation.

For the whole story on Mussa Chiwaula and his activities in Malawi, read the Voice of America story at

We Can Do was alerted to this story by Ghulam Nabi Nazimani.

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Reminder Call for Abstracts for CONFERENCE on UN Convention

Posted on 19 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Events and Conferences, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

A couple of weeks ago, We Can Do posted an announcement from the organizers of a conference on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). The organizers have sent out a reminder notice, posted here below:

A final reminder that the deadline for the Call for Abstracts for the above Conference is the close of play on Monday 22 October 2007

More information the conference and an on-line submission for the call for papers can be found on:

Summary of information on the Call for Papers:

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: a Call for Action on Poverty, Lack of Access and Discrimination

19–22 May 2008

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Organized by UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Leonard Cheshire International (LCI)

Deadline for submission of abstracts: Monday 22 October 2007

The conference will support governments’ efforts to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and seek to ensure that the process of implementation is transparent, meaningful and fully inclusive. The meeting will examine what changes are required to combat the poverty, lack of access and discrimination that people with disabilities face. It will also draw up a global call for action to ensure that persons with disabilities have full and equal enjoyment of all human rights.

The conference is the second in a series of joint UN Regional Commission and LCI global meetings on disability. It will provide a platform for debate on policies, barriers to inclusion, best practice and the formulation of concrete strategies for the implementation of the UNCRPD.

Panel sessions and workshops will explore good practice and identify strategies for the implementation of the new Convention to combat the challenges of poverty, lack of access and discrimination.

The Conference Secretariat is now open for abstracts for proposed papers concerning disability and poverty, lack of access or discrimination. These closely linked and interdependent themes constitute lines of action that flow throughout the articles of the Convention. Within each theme, it is suggested that papers could approach the theme from one or more of the following perspectives:

1. Innovative policies
2. Good practice
3. Catalysts for change
4. Situational report on research and the availability of data

Interested individuals can download the instructions and form for submitting abstracts at in Word document format. Abstracts should be submitted by 22 October 2007. Click on for more information.

We Can Do obtained this announcement via the mailing list for the Global Partnership for Disability and Development (GPDD).

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CONFERENCE: Improving Education, Rehabilitation for Deaf

Posted on 19 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Deaf, Education, Events and Conferences, Middle East and North Africa, Rehabilitation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The 8th Symposium of the Arab Federation of the Organs of the Deaf

“Improving Education and Rehabilitation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing People”

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
April 28 – 30, 2008

The Arab Federation of the Organs of the Deaf will hold its 8th symposium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The title of the symposium is: “Improving Education and Rehabilitation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing People”.

Call for papers:

The scientific committee is seeking papers about (but not limited to) :

* The latest method in Deaf education Bilingual/Bicultural approach.
* Latest method in teaching Math, science, reading and writing.. etc.
* Deaf education at college level.
* Inclussion of the Deaf and hard of hearing in mainstream schools.
* Latest methods in training teachers of the Deaf.
* Cochlear Implants.
* Early intervention in Deaf and hard of hearing education.
* Speech therapy.
* Hearing aids and assesstive devices.

Languages of the symposium:

1. Arabic language.
2. Sign language.
If needed:
3. English language (upon request)
4. International Sign Language (upon request).

Important dates:

Deadline for submitting abstracts: December 25th, 2007.
Deadline for submitting full papers: February, 22, 2008.

All papers should be sent by the email or by air mail on a CD to Dr. Zaid Al Muslat Al Meshari, Vice president of the Arab Federation of the Organs of the Deaf and the president of the scientific committee.

This event is organized by the Saudi Deaf Sport Committee. Its address is:

P.O. Box 154311
Riyadh 11736
Saudi Arabia

Tell: +966 (1) 4784198
Fax: +966 (1) 4761665
sma20006 at hotmail dot com

The symposium organizers will provide free tickets and accommodations for those who present a paper.

I obtained this announcement via the Intl-Dev mailing list. However, neither We Can Do nor Intl-Dev are associated with this conference.

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NEWS: Researching Mental Health in Developing Countries

Posted on 15 October 2007. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Announcements, News, Psychiatric Disabilities, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This press release is taken from the Global Forum for Health Research web site.

PRESS RELEASE Geneva, 10 October 2007– Mental and neurological disorders are responsible for 13% of the global burden of disease. In addition, more than half of the 10 leading risk factors that cause one third of premature deaths worldwide have behavioural determinants, such as unsafe sex, tobacco or alcohol consumption, etc. Despite this evidence, mental health is a neglected and an under researched area of public health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, the Global Forum for Health Research is pleased to launch the following electronic publication:

Research capacity for mental health in low- and middle-income countries: Results of a mapping project

Pratap Sharan, Itzhak Levav, Sylvie Olifson, Andrés de Francisco and Shekhar Saxena (eds.) Geneva, World Health Organization and Global Forum for Health Research, 2007 (

Download full-text PDF (146 p.): or see

The printed publication will be launched at Forum 11, Beijing, People’s Republic of China, 29 October to 2 November 2007 (

This report provides an account of the current status of mental health research in 114 LMICs of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The scale of the study makes it the first systematic attempt to confirm the pressing needs of improving research capacity in mental health. Thus, the report enables evidence-based decision-making in funding and priority setting in the area of mental health research in LMICs. It strongly requests all policy-makers, programme managers, and funders of research for health, at national and global levels, to place mental health high on their agendas.

A total of 4633 mental health researchers and 3829 decision-makers, university administrators and association workers working in the field of mental health were identified:
• Half of the countries mapped had only five or fewer mental health researchers.
• Fifty-seven per cent of the 114 LMICs were found to contribute fewer than five articles to the international mental health indexed literature for a 10-year period (1993–2003), while very few articles could be identified from non-indexed sources in almost 70% of the countries, suggesting a paucity of researchers and mental health research in many LMICs.
• Some countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, the Republic of Korea and South Africa contributed significantly to international mental health publications – a finding that attests to notable variations in mental health research production within as well as across regions.

The main reasons for this paucity of mental health research identified in the study are the many demands faced by clinicians and academics in a context characterized by poor funding, a lack of trained personnel, little infrastructural support, and a paucity of research networks, in institutions which mostly lacked a research culture.

The survey results showed broad agreement among researchers and other mental health related stakeholders, and across regions, regarding priorities for mental health research in LMICs. Epidemiological studies of burden and risk factors, health system research, and social science research were the highest ranked types of needed research. Depression/anxiety, substance use disorders, and psychoses were identified as the top three priority disorders, while prioritized population groups were children and adolescents, women, and persons exposed to violence/trauma. The most important criteria for prioritizing research were burden of disease, social justice, and availability of funds, although researchers and other stakeholders differed markedly regarding the importance of personal interest of researchers as a criterion for prioritizing research.

These findings highlight the need to review and strengthen the management of mental health research so that it meets the national needs of LMICs as well as contributes to the global fund of knowledge. Governments and other institutions in LMICs should devise mechanisms to allocate greater funds to research, capacity and infrastructure strengthening. Although some examples of research impacting policy and practice are available, in general there is little interface between research and policy. There is a need for organizations to bridge the gap between policy and research by sensitizing researchers about the usefulness of involving other stakeholders in their research and sensitizing stakeholders about the importance of good mental health research.

“This report highlights the weak research structures and the lack of connection between mental health decision-makers and researchers in LMICs. It gives nine key recommendations for the development of research for action.”
Professor Lars Jacobsson, Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Psychiatry, Umea University, Sweden

Principal Investigators: Carla Gallo, Oye Gureje, Exaltacion E Lamberte, Jair de Jesus Mari, Guido Mazzotti (deceased), Vikram Patel, Leslie Swartz–ENDS


For additional information or interviews, contact Sylvie Olifson T +41 22 791 1667 or Shekhar Saxena T +41 22 791 3625

If you have been to We Can Do before then you may have noticed that this blog has a new appearance and structure. How do you like it? Do you find it easy (or hard) to find the information you’re looking for? Any other feedback on how to improve the We Can Do blog in general? Whether you’re a new-comer or repeat visitor, please share your thoughts in the comments area at the post where I describe We Can Do’s new look or email me at ashettle at patriot dot net.

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CONFERENCE: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Posted on 15 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Cognitive Impairments, Events and Conferences, Mobility Impariments, Multiple Disabilities, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Most of the text for this announcement is taken from the web site for the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC).

Certain types of disabilities, such as deafness, speech impairment, cerebral palsy, autism, or auditory processing disorders can affect the way a person communicates. Certain technologies and strategies can enable people with these or other disabilities to communicate with each other and the wider world. These technologies and strategies are collectively referred to as “augmentative and alternative communication.”

“Leading the way” is the theme of ISAAC’s 13th biennial meeting, which will be held in Montréal, Canada in August 2008. ISAAC and its members have been leaders in AAC around the world for almost 25 years! ISAAC officially began in 1983 with a small group of individuals and has grown into an organization that is recognized internationally for the expertise, dedication, and creativity of its members.

We have much to celebrate in 2008, ISAAC’s 25th anniversary. The field of AAC has changed enormously in the last 25 years, and will continue to evolve in the future. Technological advances and new perspectives on human communication have shaped the evolution of AAC. Individuals who use AAC for their daily communication have increasingly taken on leadership roles in many different ways. Examples of leadership will be showcased as part of the 2008 conference program.Papers, presentations, and discussions of research projects, clinical and educational concerns, and issues of interest to individuals who use AAC systems will round out the program.

The conference committees are preparing an exceptional event! In addition to the exciting main conference program, there will be pre-conference workshops on current topics in AAC, and the research symposium following the main conference will be a must for AAC researchers. Montréal is the perfect site for the 2008 conference. A city with an interesting history and a bright future, Montréal is a lively place to visit, especially in the summertime. There will be opportunities to take advantage of all Montréal has to offer!

We are looking forward to welcoming ISAAC to Montréal in 2008!
See you there!

Your conference co-chairs,
Ann Sutton and Jeff Riley

Pre-conference workshops will be held August 2 and 3, 2008. The main conference will be August 4 to 7. A research symposium will be held August 8 and 9. A reduced registration fee is available for individuals who use augmentative or alternative communication systems, students, and individuals from developing countries. However, the conference is not able to provide financial assistance.

Please note that, at this time, ISAAC chapters all seem to be located in industrialized countries. We Can Do is unable to determine the extent to which workshop presentations would be sensitized to the needs and challenges of people using augmentative or alternative communication methods in developing countries. Those who are interested in the conference should explore their web site at Remaining concerns or questions should be directed to the conference organizers at:

ISAAC 2008 Conference Secretariat – JPdL
1555 Peel, Suite 500
Montréal (Québec) H3A 3L8, Canada

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If you have been to We Can Do before then you may have noticed that this blog has a new appearance and structure. How do you like it? Do you find it easier, or harder, to navigate and find the information you’re looking for? Any other feedback on how to improve the We Can Do blog in general? Whether you’re a new-comer or repeat visitor, please share your thoughts in the comments area at the post where I describe We Can Do’s new presentation or email me at ashettle at patriot dot net.

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Finding Development Organizations and Resources

Posted on 14 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Small, local DPOs (Disabled People Organizations) can be a valuable resource for disabled people in the communities where they work. But they cannot fight poverty and oppression among disabled people (or Deaf people) on their own. No single organization can.

Because of this, many DPOs may wish to reach out to larger, mainstream organizations. For example, perhaps you want support in persuading a micro-entrepreneural program to do a better job of including disabled would-be business owners in their training programs. Or you want to make sure the new water pump being installed in the village where you live or work is accessible for the many women in the community who have lost one or both arms due to land-mine accidents. How do you find organizations that might help? Or, how do you contact the organizations that are already working in your community or country?

In some cases, well-intended international organizations may implement projects that inadvertently create barriers for people with disabilities in your country. They may build schools without ramps. Or they offer training programs but fail to obtain sign language interpreters so that deaf people can participate in them. In most cases, this may be due to ignorance. They may lack experience with disabilities and fail to realize that the way in which they implement their programs can create problems for disabled people. Or they may even mistakenly assume that “there are no disabled people in this village” or that “disabled people aren’t interested in participating in this program” or “this program is for everyone, therefore disabled people are already included.” It can sometimes be worth the effort to reach out to these organizations to alert them to potential barriers for people with disabilities in your community and to offer your knowledge and advice in removing these barriers.

One starting point would be a listing from the World Bank entitled “Related Links, or Who’s Who in Disability and Development” at

Here, you will find a list of multi-lateral donors and bi-laterial donors; civil society organizations; organizations committed to corporate social responsibility (i.e., businesses that try to behave responsibily in the communities and countries where they operate); foundations; bibliographic sources; sources for statistics; and technology (internet accessibility). If you’re looking for disability-related statistics, then you may also wish to see an earlier We Can Do post entitled “Numbers Don’t Feed People” for links to more resources.

In case you didn’t already know: Multi-lateral donors are development banks like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and so forth. These are generally supported with donations from dozens of country governments. Their budget is used to make loans that support the country governments of developing countries in establishing development projects like roads, water and other infrastructure, schools, training programs for medical personnel, and so forth. Bi-lateral donors are individual country governments, like the United States or Japan, that make their grants or loans directly to the countries they support. Usually multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors do not directly fund smaller, local organizations: if you wish to receive funding from these organizations you may need to work through your country’s government. However, in some cases, these donors have made commitments to ensure that the projects they already support are accessible to people with disabilities. They may welcome your feedback and insights on how to do a better job of including disabled people in their programs.

DPOs may wish to explore the web sites for mainstream development banks, civil society organizations, and other mainstream organizations. This would allow you to become familiar with the development projects they support in your area. You could then contact the organization to start a dialogue to help ensure that these projects do not ignore or overlook the needs of people with disabilities in your country.

What about the other side of the equation? What if you’re a large, mainstream development organization that wants to find disabled people in the communities where you work so you can make sure your projects are accessible to them? One of the earliest posts I wrote for We Can Do, entitled “Finding Local Disability Organizations” should be suitable for your needs. You may also want to explore the many links in the We Can Do blogroll, posted at the right hand side and also at the very bottom of every page at We Can Do.

(Full disclosure alert: Yes, I currently work at the World Bank. However, I do not work directly on disability-related issues there. I maintain the We Can Do blog in my own time. Information posted here cannot be interpreted as speaking in any way for the World Bank or any unit or department within the Bank.)

If you have been to We Can Do before then you may have noticed that this blog has a new appearance and structure. How do you like it? Do you find it easier, or harder, to navigate and find the information you’re looking for? Any other feedback on how to improve the We Can Do blog in general? Please share your thoughts in the comments area at the post where I describe We Can Do’s new presentation or email me at ashettle at patriot dot net.

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Numbers Don’t Feed People–Or Do They?

Posted on 8 October 2007. Filed under: Funding, Opinion, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , |

[Looking for disability-related statistics? Skip to the bottom for useful links.]

Some of the people reading this blog are working with disabled people in developing countries who are starving for food, for medical care, for shelter, for clothing, for an education, for vocational training, for jobs, and for equal opportunity to participate in community and family life. In short, you serve people starving for all basic necessities.

When you are busy educating people with cognitive impairments in Guatemala how to protect themselves from AIDS, or if you’re working to persuade a village in rural Bangladesh to make their new school building wheelchair accessible, then the idea of gathering statistics may seem remote from your daily concerns. Why do we need research to understand people’s problems? Just go to the streets of Uganda or to people’s homes in Yemen and see the problems yourself! Why waste funds on a good census of disabled people when the same money could be used to start helping them?

But most of us–including grassroots advocates in developing countries–know that statistics can provide crucial information. For people in a position to decide how and where money should be spent, statistics can help them understand how many people need help and where they are located so they can ensure that they use resources wisely. Most decision-makers do not have time, money, or staff, to go out into the field to see all the challenges that people face first hand–especially if they serve a large geographical area with a large population. Numbers can never give the full picture of where all the needs are located. But they can be a helpful, and critical, starting point.

For grassroots organizations that already know who the people are they want to help and what their biggest challenges are, having well-researched, reliable numbers can make it easier to secure funding for the programs you want to establish. Wisely chosen statistics, when they are available, can make your funding proposal stronger and more persuasive.

For example, if you simply say, “People with mobility impairments cannot go to health clinics because public transportation isn’t accessible. Please make all the city buses wheelchair accessible.” The city might wonder, “Why should we invest thousands or millions of dollars (or Euros or pesos) that we don’t have to serve what is probably only a tiny number of people?” But suppose you could say, “We have 100,000 people in this region with mobility impairments. We did a study in which we interviewed 500 people with mobility impairments. Half of them have never been to a clinic in their entire lives, and another one-third say they have only visited a clinic once or twice when a relative or neighbor was able to transport them. One of the most common reason they give for not going to health clinics is that they cannot use the public buses to get there. Yet, among the thousands of buses in the city, only 4 have wheelchair lifts.”

This kind of information could make the difference between enough funding or none at all. Statistics don’t feed people, or purchase Braille textbooks, or put wheelchair lifts in public buses. But they can help persuade people with resources to support projects that do.

It can be an enormous challenge for grassroots workers to gather appropriate data, or to find data that has been collected by others. Often, the exact numbers that you need or want may not yet exist at all. It may become necessary to use the “next best thing.” For example, if you cannot find a census on the number of disabled people in your country (the “prevalence” of disability), then you could try to find similar statistics on people with disabilities in a country that is very similar to yours in ethnicity and socio-economic status.

Resources are available on the web that may be able to help you track down some of the numbers you need. The newest of these focuses on statistics related to children with disabilities:
UNICEF has created this resource in acknowledgment that children with disabilities may often experience discrimination even from service providers and their own family members. In their documents and publications area, they have papers you can download in PDF format on topics such as violence toward children with disabilities; an initiative on “child-friendly” schools in Africa; and efforts in inclusive education in the East Asia and Pacific region. Their statistics tables provides statistics related to disabled children in selected countries.
For other statistics related to adults and children with disabilities around the world, particularly developing countries, the World Bank has some useful links and papers available. Researchers seeking to improve their data collection methods may find some of the publications listed at the top of this page of interest. People looking for statistics that have already been gathered will want to follow the links provided at this page to find databases and tables of statistics from a range of sources.

Still more links to potentially useful resources are listed at:

Not all statistics you want are provided in convenient on-line databases or tables. That means you may need to expand your search. For example, it can sometimes be helpful to look for research publications on the general topics you are interested in to see if some of those publications have numbers that will be useful to you. For example, if you want statistics related to education, then try searching for research studies related to educating disabled children.

A long list of research papers on disabled people in developing countries is provided at
Although most of these publications are in English, a few are translated into other languages.

Also try locating peer-reviewed journals related to your profession in your country to see if any of these have published recent research on disabled people.

Many international organizations of (and for) people with disabilities have relevant statistics if you search their web pages carefully. You may wish to follow some of the many links offered at the “blogroll” on this page–see the right-hand navigation bar, or scroll down to the very bottom of this page, and look for the name of an organization that seems relevant to your needs and concerns. As just one example, Action on Disability and Development has a few quick facts and numbers about disabled people on their “Disability Facts” page. Or you can find information related to HIV/AIDS among people with disabilities at the HIV/AIDS Disability Global Survey.

Don’t overlook the links page for the organizations you look at (if there is one): following links from other web sites may lead you to helpful new resources.

If you have been to We Can Do before then you may have noticed that this blog has a new appearance and structure. How do you like it? Do you find it easier to navigate and find the information you’re looking for? Or is it harder? Any suggestions for how this blog can be improved in general? Please share your feedback in the comments area at the post where I describe We Can Do’s new presentation. You do not need to register in order to leave comments at this blog.

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Pakistan: Report on Disability Forum

Posted on 6 October 2007. Filed under: News, South Asian Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last month, people with disabilities in Pakistan gathered to discuss their challenges and possible solutions. This report summarizes the discussions at the Nawabshah Disability Forum (NDF-Nawabshah). Thank you to Ghulam Nabi Nazimani for passing this along.


ndf_nawabshah at yahoo dot com

One day seminar on “Problems of PWDs in Pakistan organized by Nawabshah Disability Forum (NDF-Nawabshah) member of SDF and DPI Pakistan at Suroor Hotel Nawabshah on 12 SEPTEMBER 2007.

Nawabshah disability forum (NDF-Nawabshah) is a non-profitable organization of Person with disabilities, which is run by energetic & dynamic persons with disabilities on self-help basis in rural area of southern Pakistan. It was working with Sindh Disabled Welfare Association since 1995 and then separated as NDF in 10-01-2002 to work in It’s area of operation is district Nawabshah of Sindh province of Pakistan. NDF – Nawabshah leads to all categories of persons with disabilities. NDF- Nawabshah came into existence to help deprived community of persons with disabilities of rural Sindh. NDF-Nawabshah is affiliated Sindh Disability Forum (SDF), Disabled peoples International Pakistan (DPI-P).

1: To seek attention of the district Government towards the problems faced by PWDs of Nawabshah.
2:To sensitize the civil society regarding the issues of special peoples.
3: To raise the Public awareness regarding the issues of special persons .
4: To provide an opportunity to the PWDs to intermix with the society.
5: To build up confidence among the PWDs.
6: To create close Linkage between institutions working for PWDs.

Schedule of the Program
Chaired By: Mr. Abdul Haque Jamali Sahib,
Naib Nazim District Nawabshah.
Chief Guest : Ghulam Nabi Nizamani Sahib,
President Sindh Disability Forum (SDF) and vice chair person Dpi Asia Pacific.
Recitation made by: Rustam Jamali Sahib.
Facilitator : Ghulam Muhammad Sarang Sahito.

Abid Lashari (President NDF-Nawabshah)
He first of all thanked all the participants, who devoted their precious time for the seminar .He highlighted the main objectives of the seminar. He said that we want to involve Local Government to solve the problems concerned to disability .NDF wants to realize that PWDs are not burden over the society but PWDs have to play vital role in the development of the society. He Further said that we want to raise our voices at assembly Floors for the redresses of our grievances. PWDs are ignored in all developmental fields; even 2% reserved job Quota is not implemented .we want draw attention of the district government Nawabshah that we PWDs are also part of the society. He appealed to the civil society to give space to the PWDs for their independent living.

Mr: Saleh Biloo (Renowned Journalist)
He said in his speech that civil and governmental institutions for PWDs in Nawabshah are failed regarding the rehabilitation of PWDs. Reserved 2% job Quota is sold on commission to Person with non-disabilities. He further said, we should change our attitudes towards special persons. Special children must be offered out-door activities as they may not feel themselves chained in the institutions.

Mr: Sarng Sahito (A.D , RCMHC)
He said that our institution RCMHC is also working for the cause of Rehabilitation of PWDs from government side, our institution facing lot of hardships due to un-availability of convinces despite it we are working to meet the cause. He further said that NDF is playing pivotal role to create mass awareness.

Mr. Khan Bhadur Bhatti Sahib (Taluka Naib Nazim Nawabshah)
He said that TMA Nawabshah will try it’s best to address the issues concerned to disability .He apprized the role of NDF ,to raise the voice of PWDs .He maintained that TMA Nawabshah will provide every possible support.

Mr Ghullam Nabi Nizamani (President Sindh Disability Forum(SDF ) and vice chair DPI Asia Pacific
He said in his speech that Disability is not curse but blessing in disguise. It is our moral duty to support our fellows. He said that PWDs have God-gifted abilities ,they have proven themselves in the History, like Moririo Mirbhar, Helen Keller and others. He further said that Morrio Mirbhar is my role model, who fought against a wicked crocodile with bravery in spite of disability ,we should proud over Morrio, hero of Sindhi folk stories. He said Due to unavailability of Ramps in the public offices, PWDs could not make easy access to reach the competent authorities. He demanded of Authorities to make Barrie-Free Society for PWDs in the Pakistan. He said that UNO has passed convention on rights of PWDs, meanwhile Pakistan is reluctant to sign the document. He demanded of Pakistan Govt: to sign the document forthwith as rights of PWDs could be protected .He lauded the sincere efforts of NDF team under leader ship of Abid lashari for organizing such type of Seminar; He said there should be series of such type of programs for public awareness.

MR: ABDUL HAQUE JAMALI SAHIB (Naib Nazim District Nawabshah)
Mr: Abdul Haque Jamali said in his presidential address that PWDs are most active they have potential to work every where. He appreciated the services of NDF-Nawabshah and termed the seminar as an historical event in the District .He said that special persons require special attention. It is our moral duty to pay proper attention over the problems faced by PWDs of Nawabshah. He maintained that District Govt: will provide every possible help to NDF ,which works for the betterment of PWDs of district .He said that He will try his best to implement reserved 2% job Quota in civil & private sector .He said that I salute those persons who have broken begging bowl and captured PEN in their Hands. We all must be united to Help PWDs as they could prove themselves as useful part of the society.
· PWDs must be given equal partnership in the society.
· Reserved 2% job Quota may strictly be implemented in the civil and private sector.
· Survey of PWDs be collected and then plan of action be made for rehabilitation of PWDs.
Provision of office for NDF-Nawabshah.
Provision of Special grant for NDF-Nawabshah.
Provision of special club for PWDs .
Provision of Ramps in Public places.
Restructuring Of district assessment board.
Free education college and in university level in special scholars should be offered to special candidates
To maintain 20 percent funds quota in Zakat in Baitul Mal for PWDs
Provision of helping hands and artificial limbs

At the end Mr. Ghulam Sarwar jat presented vote of thanks, and two hundred participants were served refreshment.

If you have been to We Can Do before then you may have noticed that this blog has a new appearance and structure. How do you like it? Do you find it easier to navigate and find the information you’re looking for? Or is it harder? Any suggestions for how this blog can be improved in general? Please share your feedback in the comments area at the post where I describe We Can Do’s new presentation. You do not need to register in order to leave comments at this blog.

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We Can Do’s New Structure and Appearance

Posted on 6 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Introduction to "We Can Do" | Tags: , , , , , |

As you know, We Can Do is a brand-new blog. That means I’m still looking for different ways to improve it. If you’re a regular reader at We Can Do, and if you’re sighted, then you may have noticed that I have now changed the visual appearance of We Can Do. (Is any change noticeable to readers with visual impairments using voice synthesized or Braille readers? I’d be interested to know.) Most importantly, I have changed the way that information is organized on the page. I would like your advice on whether this new presentation is helpful to you–even if you only read We Can Do on occasion.

You will notice that the main text of the newest blog post is now presented at the left hand side of this page. If you scroll down past the text of the newest post, you will see at the bottom a list of titles for the most recent few blog posts before it. (Or, if you’re blind, then you’ll hear or tactile that list!) You can click on any of these to read the post in question. Further down still is a list of links to other web sites of interest to people involved with fighting poverty and oppression among people with disabilities in developing countries.

There are also two navigation bars to the right. In these navigation bars you can find a search engine that will allow you to do a key-word search throughout the entire blog; you can browse through the We Can Do archives to make sure there’s nothing interesting here that you’ve missed; see the five most recent blog posts; link the 10 most popular blog posts at this time; see the list of categories into which I organize my blog posts (so, for example, if you want to see all my posts on deaf people, or all my posts related to the South Asian region, or whatever, then you can do that); see a list of the five most recently posted comments at this blog; and more.

Previously, if you clicked on, let’s say, the archives for all the posts made in the month of September, then the full text of all 17 of them would show up on the screen at once. Then if you wanted to skip over some of them, you could only do that by scrolling … and scrolling … and scrolling down the screen. Now, with this new structure, you only see the title and the first paragraph or so for each post in September, then you have to follow the link to see the rest of the post. That makes it easier to scroll down past the posts that aren’t relevant to your concerns to find the ones that are. I hope this improvement will assist readers in browsing through the backlog of posts at We Can Do (now 38, including this one).

I am limited in what changes I can make because I am not a computer programmer. Also, 99% of the structure and presentation of any blog hosted and programmed by is controlled by, not by me. However, if you encounter any frustrations with the appearance or presentation of this blog, then please do let me know. I have access to a limited range of possible “themes” for this blog, each of which organizes information in a somewhat different fashion. I am willing to explore alternatives–as long as they exist!

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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:

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.

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.

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Pacific Rim CONFERENCE on Disabilities

Posted on 6 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Events and Conferences, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

[ADDENDUM, November 1, 2008: Please note that this is an annual event. The text below refers to the conference that was held in 2008. I have left it here for historical interest. However, people interested in attending this conference should consult the more recent announcement for the May 2009 event.]

I received this text via the Disability Information Dissemination Network:



April 14 & 15th, 2008
Sheraton Waikiki Hotel & Resort
Honolulu, Hawaii

Due to concerns related to holiday travel, the 2008 Pacific Rim Conference has
been rescheduled for April 14th & 15th, 2008. We apologize for any
inconvenience, and we thank you for your understanding. Please visit our
website at for proposal submission.

CDS will be celebrating 20 years of academic and community excellence.
Building on the overwhelmingly positive outcomes of previous Annual Pacific
Rim Conferences and harnessing the excitement of this special anniversary,
this will be a conference you wont want to miss.

As a part of that celebration, we have broadened our program topics to reflect
the diversity that the field of Disability Studies encompasses. Your
participation and proposals are vital to make the 2008 Pacific Rim Conference
the most successful yet.

Program topics are chosen each year based on suggestions from previous
conferences, the latest industry trends, and community need. Proposals from
around the world are accepted and should address best practices and innovation
within the selected program topic.

This years program format is designed to address multiple topics including:
X                 Autism
X                 Differentiated Instruction
X                 Disability Studies: Envisioning our Future
X                 Employment
X                 Family Supports
X                 Hidden Disabilities
X                 International Disability Rights
X                 Native Hawaiian Education
X                 Pacific Footprints of Change: Walking the Talk
X                 Teach to Reach All Learners
X                 Technologies for Realizing Potential and Building
X                 Transition to Adulthood

We will have numerous pre and post conference meetings, workshops and forums
including International Forum 2008: Securing the Rights of Persons with

Now is the time for you and your colleagues to consider submitting to the Pac
Rim Call for Papers.  Please visit and click on
Call for Papers for complete details.

If you have attended previous Pac Rim Conferences, we look forward to seeing
you again. If you have considered attending before but havent, this is the
year for you to visit our lovely islands and experience one of the countrys
largest conference on disabilities.


Pac Rim Strand – Disability Studies: Envisioning Our Future

“Disability studies is us looking out at the world and seeing
how that looks to us.”

-Simi Linton, Advocate, Scholar, Author

In recent years, the focus of Disability Studies has become increasingly
interdisciplinary and multicultural. The Pacific Rim Conference program on
Disability Studies seeks proposals for presentations that envision the
possibilities of future collaboration between Disability Studies and other
fields of study. The topic leaders are particularly interested in
presentations that focus on disability as a sociological and cultural
phenomena within the context of the social sciences, humanities, arts and
sciences. This topic area will feature: noted speakers, breakout sessions,
panel discussions, and poster display/presentations.  (The submissions
deadline is Monday, November 12, 2007).

For more information or to submit a proposal visit: or contact the topic leaders: Megan
Conway at, Steve Brown at, or Norma Jean Stodden at For information about the Pacific Rim 2008
Conference please contact or call 956-7539


We Can Do received the above information from the “Disability Information Dissemination Network,” which is managed by the ”Centre for Services and Information on Disability”(CSID), Bangladesh and currently sponsored by Sightsavers International.  People who wish to receive mailings like this one directly in their email can contact or with the word “join” in the subject line of your email message.

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CONFERENCE: 21st World Congress of Rehabilitation International

Posted on 6 October 2007. Filed under: Announcements, Events and Conferences, Opportunities | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Rehabilitation International (RI) will be holding its 21st World Congress next year, August 25 to 28, 2008, in Quebec City, Canada.  More details are available in English, French, or Spanish at the conference web site.  Conference organizers are accepting submissions of abstracts through October 31, 2007.

The following text is taken from RI’s conference web site:

Disability Rights and Social Participation: Ensuring a Society for All

The international community is facing a unique opportunity to drastically improve the living conditions of hundreds of millions of people with disabilities by implementing the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This treaty provides the framework for the development of good policies, actions and projects which can have a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities all over the world. People with disability, their family and friends, human rights advocates, experts, government representatives, service providers and civil society leaders from all over the world will gather in Quebec City, Canada from August 25-28, 2008, for the 21st RI World Congress to discuss key disability issues and build partnerships. The event will take place at the Quebec City Convention Center.

The theme of the Congress “Disability Rights and Social Participation: Ensuring a Society for All” is in accordance with RI priorities as well as Canadian and Québec social policy objectives in the field of disability.

The reality of disability is not only the problem of a social minority since disability affects almost every person in society at some point in their lives.


The aim of the RI World Congress is to share concrete good practices at the local, regional, national and international levels. Such achievements are founded on partnerships that encompass specific responsibilities assumed by public authorities and society in making significant progress in disability-related areas.

The purpose of the RI World Congress is also to act as a catalyst for concretely implementing human rights for people with disabilities by creating a society that is accessible for all.

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