The rights of people with disabilities (PWDs) are a key focus of Ekta’s work. As part of our partnership with VSO we work to advocate for disabled rights and to encourage the mainstreaming of PWDs into education and the workforce. In terms of community level changes, this year Ekta has organised an access audit in every gram panchayat of Koraput block to emphasise the importance of disabled access in public buildings. The access audit also identified public buildings with an absence of barrier free environments and led to a redesign of offices with accessibility in mind.
We were also able to put pressure on panchayat and other public buildings to develop accessible buildings. We have also organised a capacity building initiative for women with disabilities. 20 women from various gram panchayats attended the programme which was held over two days. They shared their issues not only with us but also with other participants coming from different parts of the block. The programme aimed to orientate the women regarding the various schemes, provisions and policies which are available to them. They also visited various different places and institutions for exposure visits. Furthermore, we have supported and strengthened the Odisha Disabled People’s Network. An orientation session was held with Ekta staff to highlight roles and responsibilities of members of this network, the benefits of being a part of ODPN, how the ODPN can help Persons with Disabilities and the Network’s future plans. We also observed the International Day for the Disabled with people with disabilities from across Koraput district.