When the Karnataka State Disabled and Care Givers’ Federation was set up in 2008, the aim was have a large organisation to address the needs and rights of people with disabilities and their caregivers right from the village level to the national level. “We want to make people aware of their rights, so they can assert them,” says G.N. Nagaraj, who is president of the foundation and one of its founders.
With its head office in Nandini Layout, the federation also recently set up the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, fulfilling their aim of operating at the national level. “Only a massive organisation can secure rights for [those with disabilities],” says Nagaraj.
Focus on employment
The federation focuses on ensuring education and employment to those with disabilities: “a disabled person will gain respect only when he contributes to society,” Nagaraj says.
With most of the federation’s involvement being at the taluk and panchayat level, it concentrates on securing employment for those with disabilities through rural employment guarantee schemes.
Another of the federation’s activities involves facilitating marriages between people with disabilities. The stigma of disability, says Nagaraj, prevents several people from getting married, and society is particularly harsh on women in this respect; even a minor disability can mean that a woman will remain unmarried.
Parents and caregivers were included in the federation partly to involve them in a support system, says Nagaraj, as the stigma of disability extends to them too, as they are seen as somehow responsible for their children’s condition. “Sharing experiences gives them confidence,” he says.
The other reason caregivers were included, according to Nagaraj, is that parents can hinder their children’s growth and independence by being overprotective. “They do it out of love, but they can sometimes act as a serious hurdle in the development of the disabled.”