A New Way of Thinking about the Potential and Possibility for an Inclusive India

Throughout India and the world, people with disabilities experience a quality of life which is much below that of typical citizens. For many, these experiences have included being kept apart from their community, whether by discrimination alone, or by complete separation from family and community into segregated facilities and institutions.

On December 5-8, the Keystone Institute India, a national institute providing values-based training and consultation, provided a ground-breaking, intensive course to 48 people who are equally concerned about the futures of people with disability within India. The course was called Social Role Valorization, and the ideas provide a strong framework for how to assist people with disabilities to have rich and meaningful lives, and, in equal measure, how to change negative societal stereotypes and judgements. It was held at the Piccadily Hotel in Delhi, and taught by a global leadership team of experts from the United States, the Republic of Moldova, and India.

Course leaders and Organizers Mrs. Geeta Mondol, Dr. Nidhi Singhal, Ms. Pamela Seetoo (US), Mr. Sergiu Toma (Republic of Moldova), and Elizabeth Neuville (US)

This idea has been spreading fast across India over the past 2 years, and 100 people nominated by the National Trust for Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, The Hans Foundation, and Keystone Institute India were offered the opportunity to apply. From these applications, only 48 persons were accepted. Course participants include established leaders in the field, new and emerging leaders, activists, family members of people with disability, and people experiencing disabling conditions themselves.

In the past two years, the ideas of Social Role Valorization, or SRV as it is sometimes called, have reached nearly 3000 people across 12 states in India, and has had a remarkably strong and positive reaction. The Hans Foundation, a major philanthropic organization supporting capacity-building projects across India has selected SRV as a unifying theory which is shared and promoted by their partners and used in service development. They have formed Keystone Institute India by partnering with Keystone Human Services International, a US-based organization committed to using its 45 years of experience for the benefit of marginalized people everywhere.

This is an excellent time to be promoting strategies and frameworks which work toward the creation of an inclusive society where everyone experiences belonging. Just this year, The Ministry of Justice and Social Empowerment launched the Inclusive India Campaign, and SRV is a perfect fit to contribute to the realization of its aims. The workshop itself galvanized all 48 participants, who listened intently to many presentations on relevant topics, participated in small group discussions, and even attended optional evening sessions devoted to the topic. The event was inaugurated by words of encouragement from Mr. Paul Glick, the Director of Grants for the Rural India Supporting Trust and The Hans Foundation, and Mrs. Poonam Natrajan, who has in many ways been a leader and an architect of the Indian vision for full citizenship and equality for people with disabilities. For the closing General S.M. Mehta, CEO of The Hans Foundation, provided remarks and inspirational guidance for the SRV Course Graduates.

Graduates of the 2017 Course in Social Role Valorization

This workshop builds on the expertise developed in India over the past few years. The practice of SRV is having an impact in education, social welfare, livelihood, residential, and quality of life for many Indian people with disability and their families. In the past year and a half, 90 disability leaders and emerging leaders have graduated from this course, first held in August of 2016 in Delhi, and the list of accomplishments and implementation strategies in the efforts of those graduates are impressive. Over 30% of the course graduates have served as faculty and trainers of the ideas to yet more people, and most participants have kept in touch, worked together in collaboration, and made change as a result of their learning.

Some of the responses gained from feedback on the event include:

  • “This training has opened new vistas for ideas that have fired my mind”
  • “Hugely enriching and enlightening”
  • “The training has a deep and powerful impact on creating value for people who lives I (and) we touch.”

Social Role Valorization brings new ideas, powerful strategies, and “tried and true” ideas about helping people with disability take their place in the society. Elizabeth Neuville serves as the Director of Keystone Institute India, whose operating office is in Green Park, and has over 30 years of experience teaching and using the ideas in the lives of people with disability across the world. KII offers workshops and short courses in SRV across India, and can be contacted directly for those interested in future courses. She can be reached at [email protected], and divides her time equally between India and the United States.