By OUR STAFF REPORTER
DEHRADUN, 17 Jul: Doon based NGO Latika Roy Foundation (LRF) has been recognised by Bank of America as one of the top seven organisations in the disability space in India. Action for Autism, Bethany Society, Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, Jai Vakeel Foundation, Muskaan, Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal Sanstha, Satya Special School, Ummeed Child Development Centre and Vidya Sagar have also been lauded. The recognition came in the wake of a study on inclusive education conducted by Dasra, a pioneer in strategic philanthropy in India. LRF was also lauded in UNESCO’s State of Education Report, 2019, for its innovative approach and ‘comprehensive model that offers an ecosystem of services’ for disabled children and their families. Dasra’s findings reveal the dire shortage of comprehensive systems and servicesfor India’s approximately 200-million- strong disabled population. Their greatest challenges lie in early childhood services, education, employment and adult support, all of which LRF provides. The Foundation assesses about 1,000 new children annually, provides therapy, education and opportunities to over 260 children every day, and follows up with 500 families elsewhere in the city and state. Describing her experience as a parent at LRF, Maya (name changed) said, “When I first brought my child to LRF, she wouldn’t leave my lap. Four years later, she’s in mainstream school and doing well. Her confidence and maturity make us proud. The credit for her remarkable progress goes to the staff here.” Manju Subedi, a Project Head at LRF, attests to the organisation’s commitment to staff development as a pathway to continual improvement. “Most of my colleagues have received training in multiple therapies to become better teachers and therapists. I joined as a volunteer 22 years ago and today I’ve done my B Ed and become a special educator,” she said. Combating the stigma, marginalisation and ignorance that excludes people from participating in community life is a key part of the Foundation’s mission. LRF sensitises about 5,000 people annually through training, workshops, awareness and outreach initiatives that extend to remote parts of Uttarakhand. Its advocacy and legal team is held in high regard for its contribution to the rules for the state under the Rights of People with Disabilities Act, 2016, and for enabling over 22 survivors of child rape receive the compensation due to them. Now in its 25th year, LRF plans to conduct year-round community events to increase awareness and support for the rights of disabled children. Its recent Concert for Inclusion, performed free of charge by the renowned Sufi singer Shabnam Virmani at the Doon School, was the first of these. The Foundation is now looking to build a state-of-the-art campus as a model of inclusion that this will lead to an increase in the quality and reach of its services, decrease operational costs and showcase how architecture and design can reduce, even eliminate, barriers for people with disabilities.