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Supporting People with Disabilities

Two of the blind women who passed one of the training courses we support in Makeni.

As in many low-income countries, disability is widely seen as punishment for past sins: many disabled children are deliberately kept from school, and disabled adults have no alternative but to beg because they lack education and training. The situation is especially difficult for blind women and children, and puts them at serious risk of abuse.

In Sierra Leone there are very few facilities for people with disabilities (PWD) and virtually nothing by way of official assistance for education or skills training. We first came into contact with PWD in 2003, through our work on women’s education, and that year helped a group of blind men and women set up a new pressures group, Vision for the Blind. And we have been working with them ever since to provide education and skills training so that people who are blind can become more independent economically. The photo shows two of the blind women who passed one of the training courses we support in Makeni.

One of DAAG

We have also been working with Disability Awareness Action Group on education and skills training with people crippled by polio. The second photo (right) shows one of DAAG's street cabins in Makeni where disabled men and youths make and repair shoes. Having a place to work, and regular clients, means that PWD no longer have to beg to support their families.

Our projects with VFB and DAAG are as much about changing understanding, attitudes and behaviour as they are about providing practical help -- this includes the attitude of those who are blind or visually impaired, who are conditioned into thinking of themselves as third-class citizens.