On 1st February, 2022, the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development organised their first ‘Exchange Session on the Power of Disability Inclusion’. Eleven different consortia from across the globe participated in the session, to learn from each other and exchanging experiences and tools of disability inclusion. As part of the event, our founder and executive director Nidhi Goyal (Disability and gender activist) and Shuaib Chalklen (Director of African Disability Forum, We Are Able Consortium) were interviewed on how to make disability inclusion work in programmes. The interview session began with a discussion on what disability inclusion means to the candidates. Nidhi spoke about how it was a personal and political journey for her, and how as she acquired her disability at the age of 15, she started noticing inaccessibilities around her – “The more I was losing sight, the more I could see clearly the inaccessible structures. Disability inclusion thus became central to my life and existence.” She also stated that inclusion is key for the growth of countries, economies, and societies. Shuaib Chalklen spoke about how poverty was a huge issue in most African societies, and how persons with disabilities were the most marginalised there – which meant that inclusion was the way out of poverty for them. He also reiterated Nidhi’s point that persons with disabilities are the ones who point out the barriers that exist – those without disability won’t be confronted by these barriers; and thus organisations for persons with disabilities become the voice for why these barriers should be removed. When asked about the first step to inclusion, Shuaib focused on the need to not be patronising, and work together with organisation’s of persons with disabilities, right from the very beginning. Further, Nidhi also stated that there must be a wish, desire, thought, and willingness to be inclusive. “There is a need for organisations to commit to the idea of inclusion – it must be intentional. Without commitment, inclusion cannot exist, and efforts will only be tokenistic”. The event then went on to host a set of focused break out room discussions, and concluded with the sharing of available resources and tools.
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