Volume 3 Issue 14 - July 15, 2005

Pioneering effort to reach disabled people in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

DNIS News Network - Vidya Sagar, formerly Spastic Society of India, Chennai, organised a series of Workshops and Assessment Camps for Disabled People at Port Blair and Rangath in the Andaman Islands. A team of seven members from Vidya Sagar along with Sue Mackey, a representative from Handicap International, which funded the team, participated in the programme.

Picture of Vidya Sagar workshop underway

This programme was a result of the initial visit of National Disability Network representatives, Rama Chari, Senior Programme Officer, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) and Rajul Padmanabhan, Deputy Director, Vidya Sagar. They had visited Andaman & Nicobar Islands, post Tsunami on a fact-finding trip and had found an enormous gap in services for disabled people.

Based on the findings of the team and taking cognizance of the fact that there are no services available for disabled people in the islands, Vidya Sagar, a Chennai based organisation initiated a project to catalyse rehabilitation services there. Their project, which has been built, keeping in mind sustainability, involves capacity building of teachers and community members, including parents and policy makers. Access is another major focus for the project, as it is imperative to create awareness amongst builders, engineers, government officials, etc. who are involved in post Tsunami construction activity, in order to ensure that the facilities that are being reconstructed are inclusive.

They initiated their mission on 25 June 2005 by having a meeting with Lieutenant Governor for Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Ram Kapse and discussed various issues faced by disabled people in the islands. The Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Secretary for the Government Udipta Roy extended tremendous support to the project.

Assessment camps and advocacy workshops for disabled people were organised in Port Blair and the process documented. In the workshop, the participants had come up with many issues, of which employment was the major concern. It was also felt that getting the disability certificate was a tedious job, where the authorised signatory is the District Collector. A teacher-training programme was also held in Port Blair. Poonam Natarajan, Director, Vidya Sagar and Dhanasekar, Ektha conducted a workshop on Advocacy for Disabled People in Rangath (Middle Andamans).

A sensitisation workshop for the Mass Media at Port Blair was also conducted. Representatives from the prominent newspapers of Andaman & Nicobar Islands as well as from All India Radio and Doordarshan participated in the workshop. There was an overwhelming response and all the participants promised to support the disability sector through the print and the electronic media.

Samarthya, an NGO in Delhi, which was also part of the team to the islands, conducted a three-day workshop on “Access for All” in Port Blair for the Engineers of the Public Works Department.

The team also did an Access Audit of the Collector’s office. A part of the team met Udipta Roy, Chief Secretary and Secretary, Education, and discussed about the present status of Education of Disabled Children in the Islands and the future initiatives of Inclusive Education. The Secretary proposed that Vidya Sagar send him a plan to implement Inclusive Education in a few schools as a first step.

They managed to build a good rapport with the government machinery there. They also enjoyed the exotic charms of the tropical Islands and the charm of the Andamans people who are very cosmopolitan, with Bengali, Oriya, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi speaking people. They are all families of ‘convicts’ or ‘freedom fighters’; it is an unexplored but beautiful part of India, but the disabled people there need much support.

N.C.P.E.D.P. and the National Disability Network are quite proud of their Tamil Nadu State Partner, Vidya Sagar, which has managed to make a solid impact and that too in such a short time, in the islands which remained totally isolated, as far as disability is concerned.

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