SPARK: Empowering Persons with Disabilities Through Participatory Research

AIFO, in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s Disability and Rehabilitation team, has launched an innovative research initiative called the Samagama Participatory Action Research & Knowledge (SPARK) project. This groundbreaking program aims to actively involve persons with disabilities in evaluating and improving community-based rehabilitation (CBR) efforts in Mandya district, Karnataka, India.

At the heart of the SPARK project lies an “Emancipatory Research” component, a pioneering approach that empowers individuals with disabilities to take charge of their own lives and become agents of change. Through this component, persons affected by leprosy and other disabilities in Mandya district are supported to critically assess the impact of existing CBR programs, identify their successes and limitations, and propose practical solutions to enhance their effectiveness.

The Emancipatory Research component commenced in April/May 2010, with an initial meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group and representatives of disabled persons from Mandya district. This collaborative process is expected to continue until 2011, fostering a meaningful dialogue between stakeholders and ensuring that the voices of persons with disabilities are heard and their insights are integrated into future CBR strategies.

In February 2011, AIFO organized a thematic meeting in Kanakapura, inviting persons affected by leprosy to participate in discussions on issues related to their disability. This meeting served as a platform for open dialogue, where individuals could share their experiences, challenges, and aspirations, shaping the direction of the SPARK project.

The SPARK project exemplifies AIFO’s commitment to promoting inclusive and participatory approaches in disability research and rehabilitation efforts. By actively involving persons with disabilities as critical partners, the project aims to develop sustainable and effective CBR programs that truly address their needs and empower them to lead fulfilling lives.