Paralegals for people with disabilities in Sri Lanka

Dear all,

I am just back from a pilot project on the (legal) empowerment of people with disabilities in Sri Lanka. It was run by a German non-profit association called “VisAbility.” The association offered two workshops on mixed-abled dance and disability rights in four main places or rather regions of the country for people with and without disabilities coming from remoted areas.

VisAbility intends to make the ability of marginalized people with disabilities visible within the family and society by using mixed-abled dance as a medium to break with stereotypes and thus, to cause change in perspectives (all mixed-abled dance workshop ended with a public performance in town, in some cases it started with a flashmob).

In addition, VisAbility seeks to build self-confidence and trust about the real potential and skills among people with disabilities, family members and society. In order to provide solid possibilities for change in people´s life, VisAbility also offered a workshop on disability rights and social benefits in the country. Moreover, the association has undertaken research in four regions, has started to provide advocacy, and offered legal support and mobility services to houses within this pilot project.

Consequently, as we saw the pressing need to establish a network of paralegals on disability rights in the country, I would highly appreciate any suggestions from you regarding this particular area. I have gone through different training materials so far - however, I would like to receive further insights (if possible) from practitioners on the ground, especially regarding practical training guidance on working with people with disabilities (and their parents) as a paralegal.

Many thanks in advance,

Helena

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Hi @helenamarambio

Great to hear from you, sounds like an amazing program and a good opportunity to offer improvements to benefits and service delivery for people with disabilities in Sri Lanka.

Firstly, I would recommend our online resource guide for a large group of resources dedicated to legal empowerment and the use of paralegals in public health work (found here: Justice Programs for Public Health. The main chapter “Populations Targeted” has a section specifically for people living with disabilities that has some useful information and tools. We are always happy to hear your comments and feedback on the guide itself too!

Secondly, I know that @LST is a Network member from Sri Lanka’s Law and Society Trust ESCR Program, which focuses on human rights documentation, legal research and advocacy. They are based in Colombo, although I believe they work primarily in the North, and they are working to improve servicer delivery using paralegals there who may have some local insights.

Also, there are a few Network members who could possibly give some advice too. @dsamarasan works for the Disability Rights Fund, who focuses on legal empowerment work with disabled populations. One partner of theirs doing amazing work in this area is Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities in Uganda.

Perhaps @gkayange with the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled has some insight? Or @elliefeinglass may have another suggestion?

Hope that helps!