In rural India, there is a huge stigma associated with disability. People with disabilities are seen as a burden on the family and face discrimination within families and communities and from institutions. Awareness of their rights is incredibly low, not only amongst the general population, government officials and teachers, but also amongst people with disabilities themselves and their families.
AVI and NBJK began the first phase of work, supported by DFID, in 2009, working to educate people about their rights, establishing self-help groups, encouraging disabled people to attend government run medical assessment camps and to apply for disability certificates. These certificates allow women and men to apply for a range of benefits such as a small monthly pension, a free rail pass, quotas for government jobs and aids and appliances. All of these enable people with disabilities to become more independent, both physically and financially.
AVI and NBJK found that as people with disabilities begin to access their rights, contribute financially and started to run their own organisations, that the views of their family members, doctors, government officers, media and the wider community also changed. An evaluation cited: ‘People with disabilities are now called by their own names and listened to when coming to district hospitals for medical assessments, whereas they were previously ridiculed…. This is connected with them now contributing to the family income.’ – Rahul Mehta, Rehabilitation Professional
The three-year phase from 2016-2019, funded by The Big Lottery Fund, continued to support over 32,000 people. The project extended its support to disabled children so they could access education and established a micro-credit scheme for individuals to access small business loans. 25 block and district level federations were formed with over 500 members. These advocacy groups bring people with disabilities and their families and carers together. They organise vigils and meetings, to influence and pressurise officials to ensure camps are held and that doctors attend and create awareness amongst their communities.