Andrew Antenucci, an Australian volunteer working with a local council in Kiribati, has seen firsthand the multiple challenges that people with disability face in their daily lives. Visiting the council office to collect elderly payments or to access services is very difficult for people with reduced mobility because of the steep steps up to the council entrance. Even shopping for fruit and vegetables is a challenge because council market buildings are up several stairs, and large potholes are a persistent problem in the surrounding paths.
Andrew, who is volunteering with the Teinainano Urban Council to help strengthen their human resource, governance and finance procedures, is working to address some of these challenges with the help of an Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Disability Initiative Grant, supported by the Australian Government.
The grant, valued at $1,000 AUD, will enable Andrew to purchase materials to construct ramps and rails at entrances and create safe access paths to the council's office and two markets. The local community, including the national disabled persons organisation Te Toa Matoa, will be involved in the improvements which Andrew hopes will help change attitudes towards people with disability.
"This project provides a physical, tangible symbol of disability inclusion in Kiribati society" says Andrew. "The introduction of disabled access at these three high profile locations will increase awareness among members of the broader community about inclusive practises. Importantly, this project will show that the council is taking a strong lead and initiative on disability inclusion."
A public awareness roadshow is also planned to launch the new facilities, further drawing attention to the need for disability access.
This week, twenty Australians currently volunteering with the AVID program were awarded AVID Disability Initiative Grants, to implement activities that promote collaboration, capacity development and equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
Grant applications were received from volunteers in eleven countries across the Asia Pacific, and all supported a twin track approach to inclusive development, ensuring people with disability are involved both as beneficiaries and agents of development. The Australian Government is an international leader in inclusive education and the Disability Initiative Grant is just one of the ways that Australian aid is assisting people with disability in our region.
Ariane Forsythe is another Australian volunteer, supporting the Independent Living Centre for Persons with Disabilities (CIL) in Nepal to develop their public relations capacity. She will use her grant to create a suite of awareness-raising materials and a new website for the organisation, with design and production carried out by freelance professionals with disabilities.
"The current situation for people with disability in Nepal is incredibly challenging" Ariane says. "Everything from gaining access to education, to social stigma, to gaining financial support is a struggle." Ariane's project will help the organisation to promote the human rights of people with disabilities while breaking down attitudinal barriers around employment of people with disabilities.
AVID Disability Initiative Grants - Round 3 Awardees [PDF 140 KB]