Do you want fun and practical insights into disability inclusion/awareness?

Do you want fun and practical insights into disability inclusion/awareness?

In 2011, I landed in Timor-Leste, a country that was foreign to me, yet it was so close to my home – Australia. My assignment was to address the lack of inclusion and access in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for people with disability and the elderly. I was given this opportunity through my practical research expertise as an engineer, as well as someone with a lived experience of disability. The people in Timor had something of interest to look at during my stay – a foreign wheelchair user!

Being a wheelchair user from outside of Timor-Leste gave me the unique opportunity to break down some of the barriers that the partners I was working with (Plan, WaterAid, DWASH, TLM and BESIK) had experienced in the past, when trying to engage with people with disability in the communities.  Taking a peer to peer approach made people more comfortable to first of all, particularly in rural communities where people with disability are hidden due to a family’s shame. Then as a peer, other locals with disability can practically relate with through personal experience.

Photo of Joel in Timor-Leste being assisted down a cliff side

During this project I collaborated with Joel Fernandes, a local person with disability who was introduced to me by the local Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) RHTO. Joel, who now is married and lives in Australia became instrumental in the outcomes and success of this project – you will hear about his story in the coming week. The project was so successful that it led to a publication in the UN Best Practices for Including People with Disabilities in all Aspects of Development Efforts 2011.

While it is ideal to take a peer to peer approach, we have identified strategies that can be implemented by anyone to start to break down these barriers too.

Since then, we’ve established the social enterprise Enable Development to bring on board other professionals with lived experience of disability and have work with RedCross, The Switzerland Embassy in Canberra, WaterAid and recently the Department of Foreign and Affairs and Trade (DFAT) staff on their disability inclusion journey. With our passionate team, we’re assisting organisations in Australia with their practical steps towards disability inclusion, both as organisations and in programs.

What we have discovered through this journey that most organisations are much smaller and with limited budgets to access our inhouse training and consultation.  We recognise that so much of the amazing work in this sector is done by these smaller organisations so we wanted to help them to access the training that until now has been out of reach.

We are excited to invite you to participate in one of our unique workshops in the coming months.  These workshops will share our practical experiences and the lessons we’ve learnt and how you can easily apply them in your organisation and your programs.  They will also provide a valuable chance to network with other professionals in the sector.

You may have already been involved in the consultation process with DFAT to inform their next Disability Inclusive Development Strategy following the success of the Development for All Strategy. This new strategy outlines DFAT’s priority on Disability Inclusive Development for the period of 2015 to 2020. We know that disability is a cross cutting theme and by prioritising disability in our work, we’ll be making a deeper impact in all areas of development.

To learn more about our training workshop please visit As we would like to share Joel’s story in the following week we’ll be in touch again, but if you don’t want to be include please let us know by replying back to us.

Huy Nguyen

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