The Spark Minda Foundation: Empowering Disabled People in India
There are around 1 billion disabled people in the world. And the prevalence of disability within a nation’s population is often higher in the developing world. Disabled people in India are more likely to miss out on education and employment opportunities and experience higher poverty rates than their able-bodied counterparts. In India, one organization that is fighting to improve the lives of disabled people is the Spark Minda Foundation, and it is doing this through its SAKSHAM program.
The Challenges of Being Disabled
Individuals with disabilities encounter numerous challenges in their daily lives, ranging from inaccessible transportation and buildings to inadequate access to mobility and adaptive aids. They also face social stigma and discrimination, which is widespread. The Covid-19 pandemic has also caused lasting repercussions for many disabled individuals, impacting their health and access to transportation and education.
Disabled people in India also face challenges that are a result of the country’s infrastructural weaknesses. And socially, some perceive disabled Indians as a burden to their families if they cannot contribute to their household income or medical expenses. Unfortunately, this kind of outlook further perpetuates discrimination.
On the bright side, the Spark Minda Foundation continues working to alleviate the challenges and issues of discrimination that affect people living with disabilities in India. The following is a brief look into the organization’s efforts.
SAKSHAM and the Spark Minda Foundation
The Spark Minda Foundation’s SAKSHAM program is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities in India. It provides employment training and develops and fits mobility aids to help create a harmonious and inclusive society where disabled individuals can realize their potential. The program aligns with the Indian government’s Accessible India Campaign, which kicked off in 2015. It employs the following key strategies to improve the lives of disabled individuals.
- Providing accessible and assistive technologies
- Offering on-the-job training to improve their skills
- Ensuring inclusive workplace environments
- The incorporation of ergonomic changes into workplaces
- Employing more people living with disabilities
The Spark Minda Foundation employs more than 300 disabled individuals throughout India and has aided disabled Indians in securing employment elsewhere. In December 2019, the SAKSHAM program held a week-long camp in Chimbali Phata, Pune, which included a job fair for local disabled individuals to connect with potential employers. Companies such as Aegis Global, Sodexo, and Accenture participated in the job fair, resulting in 265 disabled individuals finding employment in Pune alone thanks to the program’s efforts.
The SAKSHAM program has also distributed almost 8,000 assistive devices in India. In addition, the program has helped over 500 disabled individuals in Indonesia and Vietnam, granting them life-changing disability aids. The fitting of 1,335 assistive aids took place at the Pune camp in Maharashtra.
The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development asserts that disability should not hinder access to development programs or fundamental human rights. Seven of the agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals directly reference the rights of disabled individuals, which are often under threat, particularly in developing countries. The Spark Minda Foundation is working to help realize these goals in India and beyond by creating more employment opportunities and providing vital assistive aid to those in need.
– Martha Probert