Based on the storytelling webinar and emails with Scott Shigeoka, I am adding this exchange into the comments so it is captured during review. S=Scott's Question, A=Angela's answer.
S: I really like your second sentence. The first one is a bit wordy, and the second is clearer to me. A: Thank you for your feedback! I adjusted the idea content in the final submission to reflect this.
S: When I see the word "toolbox" I think of a physical object — that could just be me! A: That's super interesting and just proves how stuck I am in my world of jargon. In my world, my "toolbox" refers to all of the information and skills I have to accomplish a goal. For example, I could say "in order to successfully do my job, I have the following knowledge in my toolbox: knowledge about international development, project management, evaluation, reasonable accommodation, workplace adaptations, disability...etc.
S: Is there a certain region you focus in? Is your employment for a certain kind of disability or is it anyone? A: Our goal after piloting the toolbox is to minimally use it across our current country presence. Please find our country presence here: http://www.handicap-international.us/where. We do not focus on one type of disability.
S: Is it important to you to say "environment, tools and work methods"? A: Yes - many individuals think of workplace adaptations and only think of the built environment - doorway size, ramps, desk height, etc. However, barriers are not only found in the built environment. They are also found in the way people communicate at work (verbally, over email, in staff meetings, over the phone, across a field of corn, etc.), within the tools used at work (a tool could be anything from a laptop to a garden hoe) and within specific tasks or methods needed to do a job (e.g. to be a farmer, you need to be able to irrigate your land). We intentionally differentiate these within the submission because we want the resources in this toolbox to be comprehensive and go well beyond the built environment in order to ensure success.
S: I'm curious about how you distribute the toolbox A: Initially we will distribute it in a pilot or testing phase, using our presently running projects and partners for this test. After the pilot across four countries is successful, our field staff will be the "ambassadors" for distribution and use. To give you perspective on our international network, we have between 3000-3500 staff globally, depending on the flare up of emergencies around the world.
S: Is there a specific kind of employment opportunity that you focus on? A: We focus on any and all employment in low or middle income countries, in both development and emergency contexts. We do not believe that employment for persons with disabilities should be prescriptive or segregated. Many organizations create centers for persons with disabilities to work in, e.g. massage centers for persons who are blind or call centers for persons who are deaf, and the job opportunity is based on the perceived abilities of the individual rather than their career aspirations. Our projects work to empower individuals to enter the career of their choice, and correspondingly work to adjust the work environment, etc. to be accessible. This paradigm is at the center of the toolbox, and we will attempt to cover as many work environments as possible in this toolbox.
S:Does the toolbox have a name/brand? A: Not yet - I would love help with this if we are funded!
S: When you say: "will create" it sounds less tangible to me, because it feels like it isn't real. But your idea is real! Could you possibly reframe to something like: "Handicap International's toolbox is..." A: You're 100% correct - I tried to do this throughout the document. Thank you for the great tip!
S: I'm curious about Handicap International, who you are, and why you're best positioned to support with employability. A: Handicap International (HI) works alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, taking action and bearing witness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Founded in 1982 in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border, our work quickly expanded across borders. At present, HI works in 59 countries globally running between 300-400 projects annually. This includes 25 years of experience designing, implementing and evaluating inclusive livelihood programs.
HI currently runs 40 economic development projects in 30 countries. We are one of the oldest and only organizations in the world with global, cross-cultural expertise on how to employ persons with disabilities in low and middle income countries. Similarly, we are one of the only organizations globally that actually implements our inclusive employment projects (versus sub-contracting the work). Importantly, we implement almost all of our work in partnership with DPOs.
Very excited to see your idea on the shortlist. I'm interested in hearing more about how your idea could be applied to refugee/IDP camps in East Africa, especially in communities where persons with disabilities come from different countries and cultural backgrounds, and represent a wide variety of communities and religions.
Since we primarily operate on a project basis, for the pilot and within the majority of our projects, we ensure that non-experts budget for workplace accommodations prior to finalizing contracts. When you factor in inclusion from the beginning and use universal design principles, reasonable accommodation can occur at minimal extra cost – international organizations estimate 1-5% of a project’s budget will be allocated toward reasonable accommodation. However, for organizations that have preexisting structures, adjustments can cost a bit more. In this toolkit we will try to remedy this by pulling innovative low resource solutions from preexisting projects with the intention of minimizing the cost of the intervention. For example, in Kakuma (a refugee camp in Kenya), where funding is extremely scarce, while it is difficult to tear down preexisting structures and rebuild them to do things such as create larger bathrooms with accessible toilets – you likely will not have the funding to rebuild a new structure - our teams are taking old “unusable” wheelchairs, fitting a toilet seat on top of them and adding in all terrain wheels to roll into narrow bathrooms over squat toilets. These can be used everywhere from the home to places of employment to vocational training centers, so that persons with disabilities have access to bathrooms everywhere. There are so many innovative ideas like this that occur at the field level that could be used globally – this is why I want to create this toolbox, to capture the low cost innovations that can benefit persons with disabilities globally.
Another barrier to use of this toolbox is that it may need to be used within a larger framework in order to make change. For example, many of our projects use the “twin track approach” meaning that we support both the employer (via HI’s inclusive livelihoods methodology, partially encompassed in this idea) as well as the employee/individual in livelihood projects. We recognize that a limitation of this tool is that it focuses on the employment stage and doesn’t highlight important prerequisites like access to education, rehabilitation and other services. We will continue to work with both the individual and the workplace within our overall project methodology and do not discount the need for individualized service provision and preparation, especially in low resource settings, but will use this toolbox as a resource guide specifically focusing on the workplace.
Besides cost, limitations within the twin track approach and potential use of internet/need for high bandwidth, the other area highlighted extensively by all staff was the need for the toolbox to be totally accessible for all persons with disabilities, especially as many of our staff are persons with disabilities. We will work to ensure this is not a barrier to accessing this toolkit!
Previous Experience (Q3)
Yes, we train non-experts (other NGOs, governments, private sector employers, microfinance institutions, etc.) throughout many of our employment projects, and are continuously refining our training methodology. Out of the 60 countries we operate in, we currently run about 40 livelihood projects in 30 countries. Whenever possible, HI prefers to use this “mainstreaming” model to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all employment opportunities that persons without disabilities have, rather than creating separate, segregated livelihoods opportunities. All of the pilot countries were chosen because their livelihood programs current operate under a similar model.
Typically we get these non-experts “on board” through a combination of advocacy and use of data. Many non-experts simply lack exposure to the idea that persons with disabilities can work, and once initially exposed to a positive, successful example of inclusive livelihoods, are eager to obtain the tools necessary to incorporate persons with disabilities in their workplace or livelihood programs. After providing the tools, our staff usually stick around for awhile as coaches, to help overcome road blocks encountered on the journey toward inclusive livelihoods.
This toolbox will fill a gap we currently see within our overall training methodology. Our trainings give examples of "how" to do task adaptations and workplace accommodations. This toolbox goes beyond examples and provides a comprehensive resource allowing field teams and non-expert partners to implement workplace accommodations in a variety of low resource settings for a variety of disabilities! To the best of our knowledge, there is not a resource like this to date that captures best practices for reasonable accommodation in low and middle income countries. In addition to supporting non-experts throughout the "coaching" stage of training, this toolbox will help us sustainably capture knowledge that is often lost with staff turnover.