Skill Development for the Disabled
Skill development for the disabled is the personal and professional goal of guest blogger Natasha Israt Kabir, who started an initiative that has already changed many lives.
There are well-known and important debates about how inclusive policies ‘involve’, ‘engage’, ‘consult’, and (more recently) ‘co-produce’ services with and communities of people especially who are not considered to be in the mainstream. But these debates help us consider the extent to which taking different approaches can lead to different outcomes for communities.
At the age of twenty, I watched ‘Forrest Gump’, and it left a lasting impression with me. A few years later, I came across ‘My Left Foot’ and read autobiographies of Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking. These stories inspired me to work for the marginalised group of our society: those with ‘disabilities’, whom I prefer to call ‘differently abled’; I believe there should not be a norm in the way things are done. There should always be opportunities to do things differently.
In 2005, I started volunteering along with Democracywatch, a Bangladeshi youth-oriented NGO based in the capital Dhaka that works closely with this vulnerable and excluded group of people. I found that our society in Bangladesh is not flexible and supportive towards this marginalised community.
It also made me understand that achieving sustainable development cannot become a reality without the social inclusion and empowerment of people living with disabilities. So I searched for ways to help these people.
Visiting the USA on a US Study Initiative supported by the US Department of State in 2007 was a life-changing experience for me. The idea of community service I found there moved me. After returning to Bangladesh, I looked for opportunities to make an impact on the lives of these challenged people and came up with a plan to empower them with IT (Information Technology) skills.
In 2013, I initiated the ‘Project IT for the Differently Abled’ with a grant from the US Department of State, and I turned my dream into reality. The project aims to pass on technological education and skills to people with disabilities. I believe technology will give them a voice, help them connect with the world and become independent.
Falguny is one of our physically-challenged participants. Despite issues with her arms and hands, she has developed fast computer-operating skills, as it seems even disabilities could not limit her access. She hopes to receive admission into a university soon.
Ryad, a student suffering from deafness, attains all objectives when given a task. Saydeur’s determination means he is never late for class even though he travels from outside Dhaka every single day. Rajon offers another great example of courage, attending classes with the support of his crutches.
These people are the source of my strength and inspiration now. I strongly believe that ‘if you have the idea and vision to change the world, yes, you can.’
Submitted by Natasha Israt Kabir, grant winner of the U.S State Department Alumni and Charles Wallace Trust Fellow, UK and Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund in 2013 and Founder and President of BRIDGE (Bangladesh Reform Initiative For Development, Governance and Empowerment) Foundation. Click here to learn more.
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