VSO has disability programmes in Africa and Asia. Our aim is to support disabled people to participate as equal members of their families, communities and societies.
Volunteers are supporting local agencies and governments to identify strategies that promote disabled people's human rights, such as education, employment and healthcare.
We do this in two ways:
by supporting disabled people's groups to raise awareness of issues that affect disabled people
by working to improve the accessibility and quality of mainstream and special services provided by both the government and by non-governmental organisations.
Working with local organisations
In all the countries where we work, disabled people are represented by groups that lobby for change in government policies, such as demanding improvements in the quality of education or requiring public buildings to be more accessible. Our volunteers work with these organisations to improve capacity so they are in a better position to meet the needs of the people they represent. For example, a management volunteer may look at ways to improve the financial or office management systems to make an organisation more efficient, or a publicity adviser may offer guidance on how to run effective campaigns so that more people hear the group's lobbying messages.
Accessibility and quality of services
VSO also works with government and national non-governmental organisations on accessibility and quality of services. When we talk about mainstream services, we mean services that target the whole population, such as schools and hospitals. When we talk about specialist services, we refer to those that support disabled people and their specific needs – for example, speech and language therapy or teachers with sign language skills.
A technical volunteer may work with the Ministry of Education to identify how schools can build ramp access and install disabled toilets so that disabled children in the community can go to school, or a health volunteer may provide training to local colleagues in community-based rehabilitation services or physiotherapy techniques.