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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Improving disability inclusion practices across South Asia

Posted: 3 December 2021

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Disability, Impact, Inclusion,

On 3 December, the world will come together to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to promote a greater understanding of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions. This year’s United Nations’ theme is ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.’

Aligning with the theme, Australia Awards aims to empower future leaders, including those with disability, to drive behavioural change and contribute to equitable development. The Program offers Scholarships and Short Courses based on merit, transparency and fair access for all and supports recipients with disability to achieve their educational aspirations.

To further support the Australia Awards Program for better responding to the needs of people with disability, six Australia Awards alumni from across South Asia have recently formed an Alumni Disability Advisory Group.

In addition to highlighting their own notable contributions and sharing their inspirational leadership stories, alumni Nurunnahar Nupur (Bangladesh), Pema Chhogye (Bhutan), Fathimath Shadhin Rasheed (the Maldives), Chudamani Poudel (Nepal), Abia Akram (Pakistan) and Dr Samitha Samanmali (Sri Lanka) will provide a platform for discussions on key issues regarding disability inclusion and around innovative solutions to eliminate barriers.

Australia Awards alumna from Bangladesh Nurunnahar Nupur

The key objectives of the group are:

  • Work with Australia Awards during their Scholarship cycle including promotion, application, selection, mobilisation, placement, and reintegration, to provide support to people with disability
  • Facilitate greater  enrolment of people with disability in the Australia Awards –  South Asia & Mongolia  network by ensuring the availability of information in accessible formats as well as creating a network that builds confidence and encourages people with disability to apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship.
  • Promote Australia Awards among Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) and support country offices to liaise with DPOs, paying special attention to women with disability.

In the first year, the focus of the group will be to identify and map barriers for people with disability from the application stage through to their Scholarship completion. Another task will be to review promotional material, Awards thresholds, and carer support  to ensure accessibility. Updating the directory of disability service providers with expertise in sign language, Braille, psychosocial/mental health and physical access audits so they can be contracted for inputs as needed is another priority action. The final task will be to look into the accessibility of English language testing in each country Australia Awards Scholarships are offered (not the providers but the test itself).

Read more about the profiles of the members of the Alumni Disability Advisory Group.

Applications for Australia Awards Scholarships for study commencing in 2023 will open in early 2022. Learn more about the support available for people with disability and other groups.

Image at top of page: Australia Awards alumna from Sri Lanka Dr Samitha Samanmali