Disability Awareness for School Children (DASC) Programme, India
By Fiachra Brennan
Disability Awareness for School Children (DASC) is a pioneering initiative by the Association of People with Disability (APD) in Bangalore, India. The project aims to tackle stigma and discrimination towards people with disability (PWD). It strives to do this by engaging school children in sensitisation training, an experiential learning experience that allows the participants to get a glimpse into the challenges and obstacles faced by those living with a disability. Students participate in a 90-minute session, taking part in activities such as using a wheelchair, walking whilst blindfolded, and learning basic sign-language. They get to learn directly from people living with a variety of disabilities, many of whom work for APD.
At the end of the day participant feedback is gathered to assess the impact of the training on the participants and gauge how their knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) have been altered as a result. The project has been active since October 2018. 2,226 students and 213 teachers have taken part so far, with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
This project is co-funded by SERVE (through Redemptorist International Solidarity), with the support of Misean Cara. Fiachra Brennan, SERVE Volunteer and Fundraising Coordinator, recently completed a monitoring visit to India and had the opportunity to visit the project, observe the progress achieved, and engage in planning for the next stage of the initiative. According to Fiachra,
‘This project is a ground-breaking initiative. It makes students aware of the difficulties faced for people with disabilities in a very interactive way. It is completely different from reading about it in a book. More so than that, this project is designed to inspire change. Students return to school armed with additional knowledge and a fresh perspective, ready to do their little bit to make the world a more inclusive place’
DASC is a core element of APD’s advocacy and policy formation efforts, which seek to influence attitudes towards disability at a local, state, and national level. According to APD,
‘The programme hopes to positively influence and impact the attitudes and behaviour of the youngsters towards the differently-abled. They are after all the next generation of decision-makers – employers, service providers, business owners, advocates, policymakers – teachers, colleagues, neighbours and friends’
SERVE and APD began working together in 2007. Since then SERVE have successfully placed over 35 volunteers and secured several rounds of institutional funding to support a range of APD initiatives including an educational outreach programme for out-of-school children with disabilities, the renovation of key training facilities, and the provision of specialist equipment.