In India, people with disabilities experience profound social exclusion, largely remaining hidden and having little chance to share their experiences. There is little data on this exclusion and little understanding of their abilities, skills and potential. This paper describes the processes, outcomes and learning from collaborative participatory action research, facilitated by UNNATI-Organisation for Development Education and Handicap International, in partnership with 13 grassroots organisations. The study aimed to develop awareness and a collective understanding of the needs, potential, rights and aspirations of persons with disabilities and challenge the attitude and behaviour of the community towards them. The paper looks first at the methodology used and gives a summary of some of the findings, which cover issues such as: profound exclusion; mobility, access and participation; family life; rehabilitation needs and services; public health services; access to rights,; livelihoods; education, and mainstreaming. It then goes on to look at methodological issues, such as how exercises are communicated, social mapping as an entry point for awareness, overcoming barriers to participation, different realities, disability issues from a womanÆs perspective and sensitivity towards stakeholders. The study represents the voices of 1154 persons with disabilities in 55 villages and eight urban slums across four Indian districts.
International Institute for Environment and Development