Whose Reality Counts? Notes on disability, development and participation


Disability continues to remain at the core of underdevelopment, and yet has failed to attract due space in mainstream development processes despite the paradigm shift in conceptualizing disability from the bio-physical medical model to a social model with work premised in a rights-based approach.  Recognizing the need for mainstreaming disability within development by building wider alliances within the development sector, a participatory action research (PAR) project was initiated in Gujarat, India.  Using self-reflexivity, the article examines the experiences of participatory approaches from a disability perspective.  It discusses the potential of participatory approaches in: revealing a community’s own and distinctive definitions/conceptions of disability, invisibility of persons with disabilities at the village level, unequal access to essential services and creating an educational space, both for persons with disabilities and others.  It further outlines the limitations in failing: to ‘accommodate’ persons with disabilities owing to methodological inadequacies in field level exercises and in providing space for persons with disabilities to resist domination, themselves.  The article identifies the re-emphasising of the researcher-subject power differential in participatory approaches from a disability perspective and calls for research strategies which are emancipatory for persons with disabilities.

Source publication information
Journal Title: 
Indian Anthropologist
Indian Anthropological Association
Department of Anthropology University of Delhi, Delhi-110007, India