Here we highlight our partner organisation 'Mobility India' in Bangalore, India, that focuses on supporting people with disabilities through rehabilitation services and poverty alleviation.
The cycle of poverty and disability in India
Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty. In India this is seen in the slums of Bangalore and in rural areas where access to adequate health services is weak. With a population of over one billion people, there are many disadvantaged groups across India, yet people with disabilities are often the most vulnerable and excluded. With children turned away from school and adults unable to attain employment, it is the stigma associated with disability that truly ‘disables’ people. Although the Indian attitude to disability is slowly changing, discrimination still prevents people with disabilities from having equal opportunities and full participation in community life.
The Anekal CBR programme’s approach
Mobility India is an independent disability and development organisation that focuses on supporting people with disabilities through rehabilitation services and poverty alleviation with the goal of achieving an inclusive community. Mobility India leads a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) project in Anekal, Bangalore, that supports people with disabilities, working across all five domains of the CBR matrix: health, education, social, empowerment and livelihood.
Mobility India has established its own physical rehabilitation workshop (prosthetics, orthotics, assistive devices and therapy services) in Bangalore City. The project in Anekal provides home based rehabilitation and refers patients to the service in Bangalore when extra support is needed.
Children with disabilities in India are approximately five and a half times more likely to be out of school than other children their age . This means increasing access to education is a key priority for the project. To increase demand for education, awareness raising activities such as street plays are used to show parents the benefits of enrolling their children with disabilities in school. At the same time, the project is reducing barriers to education within the classroom by providing training on disability inclusion to teachers, school development committees and local government authorities.
The project also establishes Community Education Centres (CECs) at the village level that are designed to support children with disabilities who may not receive an effective education solely through a mainstream school. They also provide an opportunity for children with disabilities to get to know other children in their village and engage with them in play and learning.
Children’s parliaments are a popular way of enabling children from marginalised communities to have a voice in issues that affect their lives. Children are elected as ministers in areas such as education and health and are set the task of developing an action plan to address issues raised in their group. In Anekal, Mobility India works with other development organisations to ensure children with and without disabilities can take part in the children’s parliament meetings and discuss issues important to them and their village.
To foster an environment of mutual support and encouragement the project established self-help groups in communities across Anekal. The groups receive information about relevant government schemes and training on leadership and human rights, partake in recreational and cultural activities, and conduct awareness raising activities to change community attitudes. Once established, Mobility India supports the self-help groups to set up Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs). The DPOs are trained in all aspects of the CBR program, with the intention that they will run the CBR program in the future
In Anekal, Mobility India assists representatives across multiple self-help groups to establish a cooperative society. Each individual self-help group member can choose to pay a small fee to become a shareholder in the cooperative. These funds are used to provide low interest loans to self-help group members and also contribute towards payment of the CBR project managers. The cooperative (originally trained by Mobility India) provides business skills training and mentoring to all loan applicants.
How is the Anekal CBR programme implemented?
The CBR programme is implemented in Anekal through a network of field workers selected from local communities. Where possible, people with disabilities are recruited for these positions to encourage ownership and self-advocacy and to increase community understanding of their abilities in a powerful way.
What is most effective?
Mobility India’s comprehensive CBR approach ensures all aspects of disability inclusion are considered. People with disabilities receive home based therapy and assistive devices as needed, while field workers support people with disabilities to form self-help groups and advocate with schools, employers and community members to increase their participation in the community and the economy. The success of these individual approaches is how they complement each other: no approach is as effective without the other
Beyond individual plans, the project has been successful on a wider community scale through children’s parliaments. Children with disabilities are starting to raise issues of concern and these are being addressed by other children. For example, at one children’s parliament in rural Bangalore, a wheelchair user noted she was having difficulty attending school because the road was not accessible. The children’s parliament raised this issue with the local government which agreed to improve the road. At the institutional level, largely due to the work of the Anekal DPO and self-help groups, disability has become an important agenda item in panchayat (local government) meetings, where people with disabilities are now invited to speak and share their views.
 Singal, N. ‘Education of children with disabilities in India.’ Background paper for the Education of All Global Monitoring Report, 2010, p. 8.