IDPD 2020: Nepali alumni implement grant projects to help people with disability

Six people posing for a photo in front of an Australia Awards banner
Australia Awards alumni (from left to right) Dhiraj Pradhananga, Samridhi Rana Thapa, Sagar Prasai, Dr Kunta Pun, Ganesh Bahadur Khatri and Jamuna Subedi Chuwai.

Four Australia Awards alumni from Nepal have successfully completed their Alumni Disability Initiative Grant (ADIG) projects in 2020. Each grant recipient received up to AUD1000 for their ADIG projects through a competitive application process for Australia Awards alumni. In total, more than 100 community members, particularly people with disability, directly benefited from the four alumni projects, the implementation of which was adjusted to the context and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic where necessary.

Dhiraj Pradhananga (Australia Awards Scholarship, Master of Environment, the University of Melbourne, 2003) is an Assistant Professor at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University and President of The Small Earth Nepal, an organisation promoting sustainable lifestyles.

Dhiraj used his ADIG to help make weather and climate services more accessible to people with disability, by organising an online workshop on equal access to weather and climate information. The 39 participants included people with disability, representatives from various disability societies, representatives from the Government of Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology and Meteorological Forecasting Division, climate scientists, and members of civil society. Participants with disability shared their challenges in accessing weather and climate information. Based on this input and further consultation with people with disability, and referencing the global Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Dhiraj developed a report and toolkit for the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology to make its weather studio and mobile applications more user-friendly for people with hearing, visual or intellectual disabilities.

Jamuna Subedi Chuwai and Ganesh Bahadur Khatri (Australia Awards Short Course on Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology, 2017 and 2019) are Vice President and Secretary General, respectively, of the Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities, Kathmandu.

Their ADIG project focused on improving inclusive education at Saraswati Vidya Mandir School. They used the grant to construct a ramp at the school, increasing the accessibility of two classrooms for students and teachers. Additionally, Jamuna and Ganesh promoted inclusive education awareness among teachers, administration staff and students. They also distributed medical materials to ten financially disadvantaged individuals with spinal cord injury and provided COVID-19 hygiene and prevention supplies to ten impoverished people with disability.

Samridhi Rana Thapa (Australia Awards Scholarship, Master of Rehabilitation Counselling, the University of Sydney, 2015), now Disability Inclusion Adviser at International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was at the time of her ADIG project Inclusion Specialist – Disability & Ageing for Bihani Social Venture, a Kathmandu-based social enterprise working toward age and disability inclusive communities.

Samridhi designed her ADIG project to focus on vision disability prevention and management for elders. The project targeted eye-related support and interventions for abandoned elderly women residents of the Mata Tirtha Old Age Home in Kathmandu, a group particularly vulnerable to vision disability due to their age and socio-economic status. Samridhi implemented the project together with Bihani Social Venture. She conducted a daylong eye camp in which participants learnt about the importance of timely medical treatment, rehabilitation and assistive devices to prevent vision problems. Additionally, the camp gave participants access to healthcare professionals. The project also provided glasses, medicine and COVID-19 hygiene materials, reaching a total of 34 beneficiaries.

Sagar Prasai (Australia Awards Short Course on Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology, 2018) is Founder and Managing Director of Diverse Patterns, a company that provides business innovations through diversity and inclusion.

Sagar used his ADIG to develop ‘Learning Inclusion,’ an inclusive, accessible and free eLearning platform beneficial to people with disability and those who want to learn how to support people with disability. The platform includes features like easier keyboard navigation and descriptions of all graphics for those who are blind or have low vision, and is compatible with screen reader technology for increased accessibility. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, lecture videos incorporate Nepali sign language, and offer subtitles in Nepali and English. Sagar also produced a full course for this platform—complete with video lessons, text content, quizzes and certificates—on making documents digitally accessible for all. More courses are in the pipeline.

ADIG projects align to the Australian Government’s Development for All 2015–2020: Strategy for strengthening disability-inclusive development in Australia’s aid program, which targets quality of life improvements for people with disability in developing countries.

Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Short Courses funded by the Australian Government. They offer the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia. In the past five years alone, more than 1,000 individuals in South and West Asia have received Australia Awards Scholarships to study in Australia.

Australia Awards – South and West Asia is managed by Scope Global on behalf of the Australian Government. This article originally appeared on the Australia Awards Nepal website.

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