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Acting local: influencing governments

In this video, Therese Sands and Antoni Tsaputra share some perspectives on working with governments to create change for people with disabilities.

In the above video, Therese describes the importance of working independently from government influence to progress the rights of people with disabilities whilst simultaneously maintaining an open and productive dialogue with government. This is relatively easy to do in a country like Australia, where even government-funded institutions maintain a certain degree of independence from government opinion.

Antoni describes how he has worked for change from within the Indonesian government, in his role as a government officer. While on the one hand he has been able to work with Disabled People’s Organisations to advocate for a new law on disability rights, he notes that the government itself is still not inclusive of people with disabilities, suggesting that there is a lack of political will to address issues of access and opportunity in his local context.

Both Therese and Antoni stress the importance of working with the local or domestic government, through formal channels. However, as Therese suggests, when the government won’t listen, an advocate or advocacy group might decide to escalate things to the next level — for example, by taking their concerns to the media.

Since 2015, disability activists in Bolivia have undertaken some high profile campaigns to highlight their concerns. The campaigners are trying to highlight their situation as publicly as possible, rather than through more formal meeting and reporting processes.

They have done this using a range of techniques — including dramatic actions, such as people who use wheelchairs for mobility suspending themselves off bridges and other public buildings; or marching more than 1,000 miles over treacherous landscapes to the capital La Paz. You can find out more by looking at the links in the See Also section below.

Consider how this Bolivian advocacy is different from the other forms of advocacy we have discussed so far.

Talking points:

  • How effective do you think grassroots activist movements, like the Bolivian movement, can be?
  • Who are the audiences for such actions?
  • Are the intentions and/or impacts of these activist campaigns different from more formal advocacy routes? In what ways?
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Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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