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Expanding your interests: AKASA case study – Part 1

In this video, N.G. Kamalawathie introduces learners to AKASA, the Association of Women with Disabilities in Sri Lanka.

Throughout this course we will use AKASA, an organisation for women with disabilities in Sri Lanka, as a case study for working with disability. This week, AKASA director N.G. Kamalawathie (Kamala) and her Sri Lankan colleague, human rights law academic Dr. Dinesha Samararatne, discuss what motivated the formation of AKASA.

As a background, Dinesha sets the history of armed conflict in Sri Lanka, dating back to the 1970s, which had significant impacts on women with disabilities. AKASA was formed in rural Sri Lanka in the mid-1990s when Kamala realised that women with disabilities in rural areas of Sri Lanka were in particular need of supports.

Dinesha explains that when Kamala moved to a rural community, she encountered different understandings of disability and experienced different treatment as a disabled person than in the urban context. She saw a need to start an organisation that could tackle the unique problems that women with disabilities face in the rural community, and she was able to bring together disabled women with shared experiences of hardship due to the war.

Kamala talks about the importance of equal opportunity in the lives of women with disabilities in rural Sri Lanka. Importantly, she doesn’t seek specialised treatment for women with disabilities, but simply wants women with disabilities to have the same opportunities as everybody else to participate in society.

The story of the formation of AKASA illustrates several key themes from this week:

  • disability as a dimension of human diversity;
  • experiences of disability as dependent on one’s social context;
  • diversity within the disability community itself;
  • the importance of social inclusion and equal opportunity for people with disabilities;
  • and the bringing together of like-minded individual to foster a sense of belonging.

Talking points

  • How does the idea of equal opportunity relate to human diversity and social inclusion?
  • Why might the promotion of social inclusion be particularly important in the lives of rural women with disability in Sri Lanka?
  • In what ways does Kamala’s story weave together the ideas we have been developing this week?

We will pick up on some of these threads in later weeks — in particular, when we discuss human rights and access.

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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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