Independent Living Institute

Organisation Building

Disability Awareness in Action
Resource Kit No. 4


Download the "Organisation Building Kit" as a PDF file (135 KB)

Part two continued, Skills and Stratagies


8. Holding Meetings


Why Have Meetings?

A meeting could be a conference, workshop, seminar, committee meeting or annual general meeting. One big reason for holding a meeting is to allow members to gain the information they need to take on responsibility for activities of benefit to the organisation.

Meetings can empower disabled people and allow us to express ourselves collectively. They gather the experience and skills of members together. They can be informal groups of four or five disabled people who know each other well, or grand-scale gatherings, with people travelling from far away.

Full participation at meetings is only possible if the needs of all disabled people are considered. You need to think about how to get people to attend, transport, physical accessibility, making information accessible and speech/Sign Language interpretation for Deaf people. Interpretation of local languages can enable poor people from rural areas to participate.



For a big meeting, such as the annual general meeting of a large organisation or a conference on a particular issue, a committee of interested people can make the planning process go more smoothly. By dividing the tasks equally among the committee members it is less likely that people will feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. If you have little experience of organising meetings, talk to someone, such as a town councillor, tribal chief, or civil servant, who has that experience.



You may wish to divide major responsibilities among smaller groups of the organising committee members. These smaller groups, called sub-committees, may be formed whenever the organising committee feels it necessary.

Some examples are:

  1. Interpretation and Translation
  2. Volunteers
  3. Transport


A Guide to Careful Planning of a Large-Scale Event

1. Choosing a theme

Decide on a priority for the meeting. The theme can be as broad or as narrow as you wish but it should be focused. Too many issues will create confusion. The theme should be reflected in the title of the meeting. Examples include: "Housing", "Equal opportunities within the disability movement", "Disabled women", "Independent Living".

2. Encouraging participation

Try to make sure that there is equal representation of both sexes and various groups of disabled people at all meetings. Talk to people in advance to make sure there is a fair selection of topics, speakers and facilities that will attract and encourage equal participation. You could encourage and enable disabled women to take part by providing child care, as women still take the major responsibility for this, and by appointing women to at least 50 per cent of the leadership positions - such as chair, keynote speakers, workshop leaders.

3. Tasks for the organising committee

4. Funding

Begin looking for sources of funding as soon as you have started planning a big event. You will need to draw up a budget. Possible expenses include a final report, the cost of printing and mailing needs, hire of a hall, hire of Sign Language interpreters, making information accessible in alternate media. Estimated costs should be as realistic and as thorough as possible.

Remember to look at all financial procedures:

See Chapter 22 for an example of a budget.

5. Resource people - chair, speakers, leaders

6. Practical arrangements

7. Publicity

Prepare publicity (brochures and posters) including potential speakers, costs, maps and registration forms with the deadline for registration.

8. Invitations

9. Check arrangements for the meeting facilities and accommodation

10. Programme of the day

11. Support facilities

Choose facilitators and rapporteurs for evaluation during the meeting, for writing the evaluation report, the final report and for other follow-up activities.

Choose people to help participants at the airport, train or bus station, at the meeting and at the hotel if participants are staying.

Arrange for readers and guides for blind people.


Structure of a Meeting

In determining the structure, consider the following:

Structure depends on the theme and goals of the event. A traditional structure involves presentations by an individual or panel before a large audience, followed by questions from the audience. This is most suitable when the entire group is present - during keynote addresses or when decisions are made, resolutions approved or votes cast.

Another structure involves workshops. Participants break up into groups of about 5 to 10 people, to discuss a specific issue. A note-taker may be chosen by the working group to take a report and comments back to the larger group. The advantage of this format is participation. Another advantage is that the meeting organisers can determine which individuals would benefit from meeting one another in a more personal setting and organise a workshop around them.


Chair or Workshop Facilitator

A chair is needed for a meeting to make sure that the discussion is on the right track and that each participant has an opportunity to ask questions or to comment. She or he attempts to ensure everyone's maximum participation and is responsible for:



Interpretation is a very demanding and important job, especially for fast-paced meetings involving a lot of debate. To make the job of interpreters easier, ask the speakers to have their speeches or summaries written up beforehand for interpretation purposes.



A keynote speaker is one who talks about general issues relating to the overall meeting, usually at the beginning and at the end of the meeting, to stimulate thought and discussion. The type and number of keynote speakers varies from one meeting to another, depending on the purpose of the meeting, the topics to be discussed and the format of the meeting. A workshop speaker, on the other hand, often discusses an issue specifically related to a section of the meeting.



Agendas are very important. The agenda acts as an outline of the topics to be discussed. It should reflect the theme of the meeting, to which each sub-section is related. The agenda helps organisers to select the right people as speakers and participants. It also helps members to be prepared for what will be discussed at the meeting.

It is wise to send a planned agenda to the speakers in advance so that they can have time to think more thoroughly about the agenda items. They can suggest any changes to the agenda if they wish, either before or at the beginning of the meeting.



A schedule lists the exact times of all discussions, workshops and breaks. In some cases the agenda and schedule are combined. Be sure to provide a schedule for the duration of the meeting and set the least important agenda items at the end, when people's energy levels are lower.

Think about starting and finishing times. Many disabled people need plenty of time to get ready for the day in the mornings - don't make the start too early. Don't try to do too much - people will get tired. Schedule regular breaks for food and drinks.


Remember: Responsibilities for the Organisers

  1. Think about the right way of organising the session (panel, small groups, etc.).
  2. Identify and contact speakers.
  3. Identify a rapporteur for reporting the meeting.
  4. Provide participants with a brief outline of the issues you wish to give attention to.
  5. Encourage participants to comment on the outline and alter it according to group concerns.
  6. A major responsibility is to stimulate discussion among participants.
  7. Ensure that all issues are dealt with in the outline.
  8. Keep track of the time allowed for the session - so that people cover the whole agenda.
  9. Provide time for the participants to summarise the major points that will go into the report.
  10. Assist the rapporteur in preparing and submitting the report.


9. Equipment & Facilities


For big meetings that may be going on for several days, try to make sure the meeting rooms, eating places and sleeping areas are close together. Make sure that accessible transport is available. Planning the details of the meeting area are among the most important organisational tasks. Be prepared well in advance. Try to balance the demands of the meeting with the budget.


The Meeting Room

The type of room needed depends on the type of meeting. Consider the following questions:


Breaks, Refreshments and Meals

Providing refreshments is not just a way of making people feel welcome. It is also an important way of keeping up the energy of the participants. Group meals are a perfect time for networking. Find out the cost of providing refreshments and meals throughout the meeting, including group rates. Make arrangements for those with particular food and drink needs. Make time for people to use toilets.



The following things may be necessary:

If the venue has no equipment, find out:

You may also need the following supplies:



Find out the costs of various options, with and without a meal. Can you get a reduction for booking lots of places? Make sure accommodation and meals are affordable for everyone taking part, or try to provide subsides.

Think about transport to the hotel or other accommodation from main travel centres.



The most important considerations are:

Consider climate and road conditions when suggesting travel plans. It is also helpful to provide local and regional maps to make trips as worry-free as possible. For long meetings, suggest that participants coming from some distance arrive a day early to rest before the meting. Encourage people to stay until the end to achieve maximum participation of as many members as possible.



In order to ensure that all information shared at the meeting will be properly communicated to each and every participant, it is important to find out in advance the communication needs of people with visual and hearing impairments and also people with learning difficulties (intellectual impairments). Make sure that every effort is made to make information available to everybody.



As soon as any registration fees are determined, an agenda is prepared and speakers are invited, prepare publicity for the meeting. Publicity should include the theme, sub-topics, speakers, location, dates and costs. It is helpful to include the agenda and maps of the area. Include registration forms with spaces for requirements such as Sign Language interpretation, wheelchair access, diet needs, etc. Also include registration fees, with or without accommodation, and possible subsidies. Set a deadline for registration forms to be returned.

Where possible, organise volunteers or sub-committees to prepare posters, flyers and brochures. Correspond with potential funders, participants and resource people.



People need time to relax in order to refresh their minds and restore their energies after working hard, listening and sharing information. Entertainment offers people time to rest, to reflect upon and discuss what has been happening in the meeting and socialise with other members who may have different backgrounds and cultures and will certainly have had some different experiences.

Entertainment could mean a special meal, or performers (such as singers, dancers or actors) Remember to include entertainment that is accessible to all. A varied programme, with audio-description for visually-impaired people and Sign Language interpretation for Deaf people will be well received. If there is dancing, make sure wheelchair users have the space to take part.

Some countries have a "disability arts movement" of people who, through their creativity in pictures, poems, songs, dance or comedy reflect their experience of being a disabled person. Sharing these things can be a great way of building solidarity, making issues clear and understandable, building up the passion and energy needed for change. By inviting people to share their experiences in this way, you give them the chance to develop their artistic skills and to try things out.


10. Workshops & Seminars


Workshops and seminars are very useful for developing and informing your membership, and for informing the leadership of the ideas and hopes of ordinary members.

In seminars, one or two leaders educate and inform participants. In workshops, everyone has responsibility for exploring ideas, though one or two people 'facilitate' - rather like the Chair of a meeting: they decide who will speak, in which order and sum up at the end.

The findings of workshops can inform the management committee of action that might be taken to encourage everyone to take part and to swell the membership. It is also a good way of allowing members with different experiences and different areas of expertise to educate each other.

There is no ideal size for a seminar or workshop. As few as five and as many as 100 have proved efficient. However, numbers will affect how you organise things.

Disabled people who take part in workshops and seminars can:


Planning Considerations


Involving Everyone

Make sure that just a few individuals do not dominate the discussion. It might be useful to report back the main points made in the workshop or seminar, without the need to identify which particular individuals made which points.

It is important to consider the most supportive and relaxing environment for disabled people to develop their ideas and their confidence. It is good for people to develop public-speaking or presentation skills, as this will boost their self-esteem, but at times it can also be useful to break off into small groups for support and discussion.

A good way for a workshop leader to start is to identify the main areas of debate. It is very important that everyone takes part. There will often be one or two people with a lot to say. The leader needs to make sure these people don't dominate and to open the discussion up to others. Often, the quieter people, who are listening carefully to all that is being said, will have as valuable points to contribute as the people who come to the workshop with a lot to say.



Common complaints from seminar and workshop participants are that too much time is taken up by lectures from guest speakers or facilitators. A good seminar or workshop will have a brief introduction from the person leading the session and then will move on to group discussion, guided and prompted to some extent by the leader. Too many workshops are run like seminars.

You need to strike a balance. When a seminar is organised to convey new ideas, some participants will complain about a lack of opportunity for individuals to exchange opinions and experiences. Yet when a workshop is organised to allow for this exchange, some will feel that there is a lack of new ideas.

Remember that some people need more time than others to express themselves. Give space to everybody who wants to make a point or comment. Make sure that everyone understands that they must be patient and must express themselves slowly, so that Sign Language interpreters can keep up.

You might want to run through these guidelines before starting a workshop or seminar session:


Ground Rules


11. Commitment & Motivation


Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm comes from exciting ideas and aims and a clear plan for turning these into action.



There must be time for debate within the organisation about what its aims are and what its activities should be. This is necessary throughout a group’s existence not just when it is starting up.

Allowing enough time for debate on disability issues is essential. People within the organisation will have different ways of looking at things; different ideas for reaching goals. Understanding and consensus are not brought about by preaching. They develop through debate.

Meetings which give everybody the chance to express their views:

Communication is also about keeping in touch. If members aren't regularly informed about what is going on, they won't feel part of the organisation or that they have any responsibilities towards it.


Group Spirit

The atmosphere to encourage within an organisation is one of patience, tolerance, cooperation and solidarity. Membership that is based on unity and solidarity can help to create a feeling of belonging. It can encourage the development of a sense of common purpose and overcome narrow individual concerns to benefit all members and the wider community.

One of the main reasons that people remain committed and motivated is that they feel an organisation is working effectively and that they are central to that effectiveness.

How does your organisation rate on the following points?

Keys to Success


12. Information & Communication


Among the most important functions of an organisation are its information and communication structures. If these don't work well, the group itself can't function properly. Research has shown that, for example, about 75 per cent of all conflicts in an organisation happen because of shortcomings in communication and misunderstandings between people.


Internal Communication

There are two essentials of internal communication: keeping members in touch with each other and what the organisation is doing; keeping records of the organisation's activities, its membership and its finances and objectives.


Reaching Everybody

A newsletter is a very good way of keeping people in touch with what is going on. The simplest way to produce one is to write or type it and then photocopy it. If you have some funding, you can get it printed, perhaps through getting sponsorship or having advertisements for goods and services. Try to encourage contributions from members. You can start by asking people to write about themselves and their experiences as disabled people - examples of their achievements or times when they have experienced discrimination.

While funds are low, you could ask someone to read your newsletter and other materials to blind members of your organisation. Many organisations are able to provide them on audio-tapes, in braille and large print. If there are many languages among your members, try to make sure that everyone has access to the material somehow.


Money-making idea:

More and more companies and local government departments are making material available in formats accessible to people with sensory impairments or learning difficulties. Why not try to get funding to start a business producing documents and tapes for organisations and business in your area? Look at the expertise within your group for inspiration.


What’s Happening?

An important way to improve the efficiency of an organisation is to develop a careful system of gaining and keeping information, so that it is readily available whenever it is needed. You might think that you can remember everything but often a few months later, you have forgotten even very simple things. Although it can be time-consuming, keeping records is essential to an organisation. You don't have to record every conversation but minutes of meetings and reports, even short ones, of conferences, workshops, visits, etc. are important. Record-keeping is also an essential part of the process of development: when you write down exactly what happens, as it happens, you are providing yourself with a reminder for the future of how things are done. You also have the chance to think through clearly what worked and what didn't work. Records are important for evaluation and monitoring.



Groups need to gather many kinds of information with long-term uses: books, videos, lists of members, volunteers, mailing lists for campaigning and fund-raising, journals, media lists, research reports. There are also short-term uses for information: news of membership activities and forthcoming events for the newsletter, internal information about members' or employees' activities.

One of the most important things to keep track of is a list of your members, where they live, perhaps a few personal details. You might want to record whether they need material in braille, a Sign Language interpreter, what their access needs are. You need to collect this information when people join your group and to make sure they remember to tell you if circumstances change.

It's very important to keep records, or 'minutes', of meetings. This is a useful way to remember what decisions were made, which tasks were given to which people. You can look back at these minutes at the next meeting and see what has been achieved.

Your financial records are very important. This is usually the job of the group's treasurer. This person needs to be honest, reliable and good with numbers. They are responsible for supplying the finance committee, or management committee, with the financial information necessary to make decisions about the organisation's activities. Careful accounts will also be needed for fund-raising and for satisfying national legal requirements.

Information needs to be stored so that is as accessible as possible as quickly as possible, for as long as it is needed. Some in-coming information needs an immediate response, such as replies to letters or letting members know about important things. You need a high efficiency, low cost way to do this.



Most groups have some sort of library or filing system to store information needed in the long-term, even if it is just some shelves in the corner of an office or someone’s house. This information needs to be accessible to anyone who might be interested in it. Some groups have lending libraries, so that members can borrow books and other materials for use at home.


Information Person

Many groups have at least one person who has responsibility for handling information. This may include maintaining the library, deciding which incoming information should go to which officer, editing and writing the newsletter. This person needs to be able to make things easy to understand. They need to become aware of, and continue to educate themselves about, the different information needs of all members, including use of plain language and production of documents in alternate media - such as braille, audio-tape and large print.

A useful resource for the information person is for them to make contact with people performing a similar role in other organisations. Sharing information with each other is a cheap way of keeping up-to-date. When important reports and studies come out, try to get hold of them for free. If this isn't possible, perhaps several organisations can share the cost and the materials.


External Communications

Communicating with the outside world helps to integrate the organisation and its members into the community and to improve the status of disabled people.



Publicity helps an organisation in many ways:



A poster is a very good way of letting people know who you are and what you are up to. You can have posters printed if you have the funds or make them yourself. Use simple language. Keep it short. Sometimes pictures are the best way to get the message across. Here is an example:

People Working Together for a Better Future Overcoming Problems


For information on using the media to raise the profile of your organisation, see DAA Resource Kit One. For information on running campaigns to raise awareness, see DAA Resource Kit Three.


13. Draft Project Proposal


When you apply for funding for a particular project - for example, a leadership training seminar - you need to submit a project proposal. Funders have different formulas and you should begin with a letter or phone call to grant-making bodies to ask how they like to receive proposals, what amounts are available, what the criteria and deadlines are. Below is a list of things to include in a proposal:

Basic Proposal Outline

  1. Name of project or event.
  2. Where it will take place (venue, town, country, etc.).
  3. Date or time frame.
  4. Background information.
  5. Purpose of the project in general terms.
  6. Goals and objectives, in specific terms.
  7. Design or description of project.
  8. Target groups of project.
  9. People responsible for running the project.
  10. Number of people taking part or benefiting.
  11. Staff required and their titles.
  12. Volunteers needed.
  13. Projected cost.
  14. Projected revenue.
  15. Contributions of local organisations (approximate value of volunteer labour, etc.).
  16. Funders approached.
  17. Endorsement/references from government, religious leaders, and other authorities.
  18. Social, political and economic factors in the area.
  19. Monitoring and evaluation process.
  20. Optional extras - local and regional maps, photographs of meeting site, examples of a newsletter, annual reports.


Where to Give Detail

A. Background

(i) Information on the organisation and its past achievements.

(ii) Why this particular project is necessary.

B. Goals and Objectives

Identify exactly what you want to achieve.

C. Target Groups

Disabled women? All disabled people?

People with particular impairments? Professionals?

D. Activities

How will you meet your goals? e.g. through a two-day conference, workshops, producing information, providing services or training.

E. Implementation

Who will carry it Out? How are office staff and members involved? Who will the speakers be?

F. Results

Who will be educated?

How many people will the project reach? Be as specific as possible.

G. Evaluation

For example, a questionnaire asking for feedback.

Will decision-makers discuss the findings?

H. Budget

The budget (expenses and revenue) must be balanced.

What contributions is the organisation itself making?

How much matching funding [funding from the grant-maker] is needed?


Keep the proposal short and specific - about 4 or 5 pages for an initial proposal. If more specific detail is requested you can supply it. Include this point.


14. Income Generation


The greatest problem experienced by most disabled people is poverty. This is just as true for organisations as for individuals. A group of disabled people with a decent income is in a far stronger position to help themselves in all areas of life. It provides positive role models for other disabled people and shows the wider community what disabled people can do.


Setting Up

If you know where to go, sponsors are relatively willing to provide buildings, equipment and vehicles which advertise their name but they don’t always like to give revenue funding. The secret of fund-raising is an imaginative but inexpensive presentation of the case for the project and sound administration. Self-help groups can be attractive to trusts, large companies (including foreign corporations) foreign embassies/governments and churches.

You might start by asking employees to work just for daily transport and a midday meal. Take one step at a time. Start with a small, workable project. Once you have built up a reputation for hard work and reliability, you can expand and get more funding because of a good track record. Nobody is going to give large sums for over-ambitious projects.


Positive Images to Present to Funders

Self-help groups made up of the people experiencing the problems are in a unique position to identify the best solutions and courses of action to counter the effects of disability.

Self-help employment schemes, due to their low overhead costs (as a result of donated capital), can compete for a wide range of sub-contracted work from industry.

Self-help employment schemes are capable of relieving the poverty of disabled people in a relatively short time and with a reasonable amount of capital expenditure.

Self-help factories and workshops differ from the traditional sheltered workshops because they are run by disabled people, with all staff, including any non-disabled people with specific skills, responsible to an executive committee of disabled people.



Control/ownership: Control of the project belongs to the management committee, which is made up of a majority of disabled people elected by the members of the self-help organisation. There are no shareholders and any profits derived from the project's activity are put back into the business or used to fund service programmes for members - transport, education, health, recreation, etc.

Staffing: The project is staffed by disabled people whose continued participation in the project is determined only by their ability to produce.

Marketing: The project sells its products and services on the open market, dealing with all levels of industry and state contracts. (Potential buyers may be more sympathetic or prejudiced against the project's ability to produce. Sometimes they may also attempt to exploit the project by trying to pay less than the market rate.)

Funding/viability: The project registers as a fund-raising organisation. As such, it is able to raise capital. It aims to be economically independent (excluding the recovery of initial start-up capital and ongoing fund-raising for buying capital items such as equipment, vehicles and building extensions) and to pay living wages and salaries.


Turning Services into Income-Generating Projects

In many places, disability services are controlled by professionals who work in rehabilitation, produce and give out aids and appliances, and provide such services as "care" and "special" transport.

As a result of professional control, the services we get are often insufficient in quantity and quality and make us far more dependent than we need to be. These services, especially their administration, use up a lot of resources. At the same time, many of us are unemployed and lack training opportunities.

What we need to do is use our creativity and experience to find ways to reallocate some of the money spent on our behalf by other people. Many disabled people in various parts of the world are starting businesses and taking over some of those services. As a result, there are community-based rehabilitation programmes, workshops providing aids and appliances designed by disabled people that truly empower us, and personal assistance services based on business relationships, control and dignity, rather than charity, passivity and gratitude.

The advantages are better quality services, income for our organisations, jobs and training for disabled people.

Self-representation and self-determination have to be the central ways of working for organisations of disabled people. We are the experts. No one should speak for us but ourselves.

Disability Awareness in Action’s Resource Kit Five: Fund-Raising will contain more information about income-generating projects, including examples from all over the world.


15. Financial Management


Good financial management is essential to development. If you have cash-flow problems, your activities will be limited and you may have difficulty paying any staff salaries. You need to think about fund-raising in the long-term and be seeking the next cash-instalment before the last one is finished. This isn't as difficult as you might think. Many people are frightened but if you ask a professional or someone with experience for advice, you can avoid major mistakes.

Step One: What do you want to do? Agree actions and then cost them.

Step Two: Budget. It must be reasonable. Change it if you don't get the funds. The golden rule is:

Step Three: Fund-raising.

Step Four: Keeping control. Keep records regularly so that you know how much money you have and what your cash flow situation is. Adjust your budget if necessary.

Step Five: Reporting. Make interim and final reports to the funder.

Funders must understand exactly why you want money. If funding in your area usually goes to organisations run by non-disabled people, write to funders to explain that projects have to have disabled people involved in positions of responsibility, as they best understand the issues: this involvement, in itself, achieves many of the aims of projects designed to empower disabled people.

Don't be frightened if you can't make a deadline. Talk to the funder. Tell them that you won't make it and when you can get the proposal to them. It is always better to communicate than to keep silent. Funders are very reasonable but they can imagine that silence means you have misspent their money.


Annual Accounts

There may be strict rules about drawing up and presenting annual accounts and you should find out about these. You might need to ask a qualified accountant to help you. Are there any accountants who are disabled people in your area? Perhaps they might like to join the group and offer their skills.


Annual Reports

These should include accurate accounts for the year plus descriptions of the organisation's policies and programmes. Reports from the Chair and various committees allow discussion of particular issues - such as funding, women's issues, campaigning, media. Try to include some photographs or cartoons - perhaps of members at work. Give quotations from individual members on what they think about your work. Annual reports are useful for attracting funding and can act as an introduction to your organisation. They can keep people in the wider community up-to-date with what you are doing. This is a real opportunity to market your organisation - so make the most of your application.


DAA's fifth resource kit will include more information on fund-raising and managing money


16. Equal Opportunities


In fighting our own oppression we should not oppress others. We are all part of the societies and communities in which we live. We are all influenced by them and sometimes we share many of their prejudices. We must make sure that we don't repeat the discrimination we all face in society within our own organisations. If disabled people are to have full human rights, all disabled people must be involved in working towards them. All disabled people, and all people, must have their human rights.

An important way to develop an organisation, and to keep people involved, is to include groups who often get left out - disabled women, poorer, rural disabled people, people with learning difficulties, black people, gay men and lesbians, older disabled people. These people often experience double or multiple discrimination. They enrich our organisations but they won't join if they don't feel welcome.

There are several ways of finding out how good your organisation is at equal opportunities. The first is to ask members how they feel about it. The second is to ask people who aren't members why they feel left out or don't want to join; whether they feel the organisation is about things that matter to them. One way of doing these things is to send out a form for people to fill in - or to visit people in their homes or residential institutions to ask them the questions directly. Arranging workshops so people can talk about these issues is a good way of developing people's awareness of the complicated ways in which oppression works. Monitoring is also an important tool for equal opportunities.


Sample Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form

Agree an equal opportunities policy. Look at how well you are meeting it.



'Gender' means the different characteristics we think men and women have or should have. These characteristics vary in different communities: they are different from place to place and in different times; they can change, just as definitions of what disabled people are like can change.

What people expect you to be like, and what you then expect of yourself, can be oppressive for all disabled people. Disabled women who do not conform to a stereotype of beauty, of being good and quiet, of bearing children, of caring more about others than themselves experience discrimination. So do disabled men, who are not seen as strong, responsible and economically active. We should question these limiting ways of defining women and men and show that disabled women, men, girls and boys all have the right to be viewed in the same way as non-disabled women, men, girls and boys.



You might spend some time looking at the ways in which people with different types of impairments have been kept apart from each other in the past; how myths and stereotypes about particular types of impairment are shared among people with other impairments.

What characteristics and phrases are associated with being Deaf or blind, having an intellectual impairment or using a wheelchair? Are these fair ways of defining people? This might be a good subject for a workshop.

Some of the ways in which oppression is structured, such as segregated transport, affect some disabled people more than others, or in different ways. We need to look at how the oppression itself is something we all face, though maybe in different ways. We will be most effective if we all fight this oppression together in all the ways it presents itself.



In every society there are people who experience a lower standard of living because of prejudice based on racial or cultural differences. They may be the minority or the majority in a particular country. If they are also disabled people, then they will experience a double oppression and may be last in line for services and support.

We all share some attitudes with other people, many drawn from the society in which we live. We need to look at the possibility that we view people differently because of their race or culture. We need to try to change imbalances within our organisations that shut some people out. These things are difficult to face, and we may think they don't apply to us, but we do need to be honest and patient with each other and spend some time discussing these questions.


Class and Rural Disabled People

Class, tribe, caste or economic status is an important element in many societies. It also affects the ways in which disabled people are viewed within and outside the disability movement. Often, people who have been members of richer families, many living in towns with some access to education, become leaders of a movement. By sharing their experiences, leaders can empower others, rather than oppress them.


Older Disabled People

How is growing older viewed in your society? Is age recognised as often bringing wisdom and is there respect for elders? Does society see disabled people as becoming more of a burden, more worthless, as they get older? It is very important to encourage older disabled people to take part in organisations. These people often have a good view of how things have changed, what has been achieved and what the new problems are. The vast majority of disabled people in many countries are over 45, yet these people are very under-represented in organisations. What could be done to change this?


Young Disabled People

Are young people involved in your group? Do they see it as relevant to the struggles they face?

Growing up and fitting in are important to most young people and adolescence can be a very difficult time for disabled people. What support can the group offer?

Younger members can take the message of human rights for all into classrooms and playgrounds. They might influence the politicians and decision-makers of the future. They maybe the politicians and decision-makers of the future.


Role of Families and Friends: our Non-Disabled Allies

Although it is essential that disabled people make their own decisions and run their own organisations, non-disabled family members and friends can be an enormous resource, particularly in the setting up of organisations.

Often, especially for people with intellectual impairments (also called learning difficulties), parents have run organisations for their disabled offspring, whether they are children or adults. Some of these traditional organisations have developed their activities in the last few years to include disabled children and adults in decision-making processes and the running of organisations. They have seen that this move to self-determination develops the skills and confidence of disabled people, shows society that they can be active members, and achieves the very things the organisation was set up to do.

In a few places in the world, people with learning difficulties have set up their own groups, with or without a non-disabled 'facilitator' or helper. Traditional organisations can support these new organisations, passing on their knowledge and expertise, but they must also allow these newer groups to develop in their own ways, even if that might mean making some mistakes. Working together and supporting each other is the important thing.


New Partnerships

In many places in the world, the disability movement is building up links with other groups of people who face discrimination and with organisations who are also struggling for an end to ignorance and prejudice, demanding dignity and full human rights for all.

We can forge useful alliances with all sorts of other organisations, benefiting from their experiences, offering our expertise and sharing resources and skills.


17. Evaluation


Monitoring is keeping a continuous record of something; observing and recording the activity or performance of something as you go along. It is an important evaluation tool. Evaluation is judging the value or effectiveness of something, and usually happens at the end of a particular project or process.


What is Evaluation?

  1. A review of the activities, strategies and objectives of an organisation or project.
  2. An analysis of what has happened to it, how and why.
  3. A measurement of results and achievements.
  4. A method for learning from experience and improving on it.


Why Evaluate?

  1. So the group can make decisions based on good information about necessary changes.
  2. To assess the results, learn from experience and make judgements about the value of a similar project or organisational structure for the future.
  3. To share information on successes and failures with people working on other things.
  4. To help members or participants to see the wider context and implications of their work.


When to Evaluate

  1. At the beginning of the project, to show where you started (part of planning).
  2. Throughout the project, or in the middle, to see what changes are needed (monitoring).
  3. Weekly, monthly or six-monthly reports may help; or a mixture for different purposes.
  4. At the end of the project, to assess what it achieved and help decide what to do next.


Who Evaluates?

  1. External evaluators (perhaps from a donor agency in the case of grant-funded projects) are supposedly more objective in their assessment of the situation, but they may not fully understand all the aspects of the community.
  2. Internal evaluators may be less objective, since they are involved in the daily working of the project, but they may cause less disruption, and have a deeper understanding of the area.
  3. Participatory evaluation may involve an external evaluator as a 'catalyst'. The group and the catalyst together select evaluation objectives and collect information. Evaluation is part of the group's control over their own project. Methods of collecting information should suit the group. The most and the least powerful should be involved.


Key Questions

  1. Will the evaluators need special training?
  2. Is evaluation an effective way to meet the needs defined by the group?
  3. Is the definition of the project or the objectives of the organisation still the same? If different, how will you change your objectives and work programmes?
  4. Have you kept to schedule? If not, look again at resources, constraints, interest groups.
  5. Do you need to add to your list of these, perhaps not having thought of them earlier?
  6. What side effects have there been, positive and negative? Any you did not foresee? Do they affect the programme?

Carry out a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats review (see chapter 10).


How to Evaluate

  1. You need to collect information before the project begins, to compare this with the situation afterwards; to judge how far the aims of the project have been met.
  2. Concentrate on the most important issues: which areas are most important to success and which might be a major problem.
  3. Look again at each objective; choose a question that will find out whether it is being met.
  4. Decide what information is available and what is needed. Too much is bad but so is too little. A survey of opinions may be useful but is subjective. Collecting facts and figures might be better but may show the quantity rather than the quality of what has been done - may not show the achievements in human terms.
  5. A combination of methods is probably the best approach.
  6. Once the information has been gathered, it must be thought about so that it can be used to make recommendations for action. The information should describe the changes that have taken place, how many people were involved, the impact on individuals and the community.




Specific Concerns for Disabled People’s Organisations


Participation and Control




Social Change


Example: Evaluating a Training Seminar

A. People Taking Part

  1. Which impairments are represented?
  2. What is the ratio of men to women?
  3. What other groups are represented (or left out) - in terms of race, comparative poverty, age, etc.?
  4. Do the participants work?
  5. Is this in open employment or on specially assisted schemes?

Often, at least to start with, leaders of the disability movement have been male, mobility or visually impaired and in relatively privileged positions within their communities. The absence of women, other impairments groups, and of the least privileged should be looked at in further development initiatives.


B. Background

  1. What effects do the political system have on disabled people?
  2. What about economic status?
  3. What is the status of disabled people where they live? Does this vary according to impairment?
  4. What are the attitudes of non-disabled people towards disabled people?


C. Organisation of the Seminar

In a questionnaire to people taking part, possibly anonymous (asking people to be honest and not to fear that their answers will count against them), assess the organisation:

  1. How much advance notice of the seminar was given?
  2. How well planned was the event?
  3. How useful was what happened in the seminar?
  4. How well did the structure of the seminar work - agenda, opportunity for exchange of experience and ideas, contributions from ordinary people?
  5. How were people's needs as disabled people met - in terms of access, diet or information?
  6. Any other comments?


D. Financing

  1. Were financial targets met?
  2. Was the budget efficient and accurate?


E. Achievements

Did participants:

  1. Develop communication links with individuals from other countries, districts or villages facing similar challenges to themselves?
  2. Learn from the presence of people with different impairments that all have problems which are caused by society's denial of disabled people's rights and that solidarity of effort is the best strategy?
  3. Develop a deeper appreciation of the strength that can come from groups of disabled people joining together with the purpose of seeking to have their rights met?
  4. Feel impressed by the expertise available both within and in support of the self-help movement?
  5. Gain confidence in their own ability to exercise leadership by participating in discussion?
  6. Gain knowledge of experiences available from others which had relevance to their own situation?
  7. Learn that leadership styles adopted in organisations of disabled persons must follow the goals of the organisation: to improve disabled people's image of themselves collectively without detracting from others, and to press for their rights without fear?


Try to draw up a monitoring form for each area of your organisation and/or each project. On the following page is a very simple form that you might like to copy or adapt.

Monitoring Form

What we want to achieve:


What we have achieved so far:


Problems we have run into:


What we can improve:


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Contents Organisation-Building