Course Aims to Provide Training to Create Accessible Homes

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Asia-Pacific, Built Environment, October 23 2019

INDIA: Vidya Sagar, the prominent Chennai NGO has finished a three-month course to create a pool of professionals who can support people with disabilities and the elderly to become independent in their homes.

Many people sitting around a table, some on a wheelchair.

Accessibility in public spaces is coming in for attention and that’s needed and welcome. But what about accessibility within homes and other personal spaces? That is what prominent Chennai NGO Vidya Sagar is focusing on in its project which is called Begin to Live Interdependently with Support Systems (BLISS).

BLISS is made up of nine components, one of which is Team for Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation (TARA). This week a three-month long training programme aimed at creating a a pool of professionals who can support people with disabilities and the elderly to become more independent in their homes or other personal spaces came to an end.

Why this Matters

The Constitution of India promises adequate housing to all citizens of the country. For a person with disability this would mean a home that addresses specific access need. Lack of this means he/she is home-bound and unable to participate and contribute in their homes or the larger community. Recognising this, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) highlighted adequate accessible housing for persons with disabilities in the concluding observations of the first CRPD review of India recently.

Realising this need for home modification and personal space accessibility, Vidya Sagar, with the technical support of AccessAbility ran a course with trainees from Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Assam.

Eight people were trained for the TARA team to make home modifications so homes become accessible. No one thinks of accessibility at the home and that’s where people get stuck. They are not able to open the fridge or the door. The idea is to enable people with disabilities to lead a better quality of life. – Dr Poonam Natarajan, Founder, Vidya Sagar

The eight trainees came from diverse backgrounds and were put through a series of six multidisciplinary theoretical modules.

“The training began with a human rights perspective, what the law states and then understanding disability”, says Shivani Gupta. Gupta led the training and is the founder of the Founder of AccessAbility, a cross-disability consultancy working for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

“We also had advocates from 18 disabilities come in and talk about their needs and ways to enable them”, adds Gupta. Assistive technologies were also a part of the training, which included looking at ways to negotiate with families, neighbours and the community. There were home visits as well across homes from different economic and social backgrounds.

“TARA is one of the nine pillars of the resource centre, BLISS, which has been conceptualised to answer the question what happens to adults with disabilities when the support of the family diminishes after the parent’s lifetime”, says Dr Natarajan.

“The course provided an engaging learning environment for new learning from a different perspective”, says Krishna Kumari, a special educator. “It questions a lot of my belief systems and provides great scope for introspection. I never thought that I would be doing an access audit or design an accessible space”. Vedavalli.S, an engineering graduate, said she looks forward to explore the dimensions of accessibility further”. For Shivangi Agarwal, a disability and queer rights activist and artist with the Determined Art Movement (DAM), the training programme offers a means to empower the community. “As a disabled person myself, I feel empowered by what this training offers. I have had the most unique experiences being part of this team. Everything I am learning is something I can take forward to empower my peers with disabilities”.

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