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21 September 2017

East Africa: trial EmployAble programme helps almost three quarters of participants with disabilities find paid work

London, 21 September 2017: The international disability and development organisation Light for the World today publishes new findings on inclusive vocational training in a report from its East African trial programme – EmployAble – encouraging governments, NGOs and vocational training institutes to include people with disabilities in training and employment. The project was developed in cooperation with and support of Edukans and Liliane Foundation.

You can download the full report – developed by the organisation’s Disability Inclusion Lab team – here.

9 out of 10 shut out from the job market

According to estimates*, 80% to 90% of young people with disabilities in developing countries are unemployed. One of the main reasons is that they do not have sufficient access to vocational education, leading to having insufficient skills for entry into the job market.

Responding to this context, the EmployAble report provides tips based on experience, anecdotes and tools to inspire and support other NGOs, disabled people organisations and vocational training institutes to include people with disabilities in training and employment opportunities.

Project leader and Disability Inclusion Advisor at Light for the World, Anneke Maarse, said: “People with disabilities are faced with several entry barriers for vocational training. The discrimination starts at school, where teachers often refuse children with disabilities or basically just ‘tolerate’ them without actually including them in class. Due to being discouraged all their life, young people with disabilities often don’t believe in their own abilities and in addition colleges are often not willing or don’t know how to teach youth who are blind or deaf. The EmployAble publication describes how to turn around these kind of attitudes and practices.”

Results & Impact
Light for the World’s programme enabled 448 students in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda to attain vocational training, of which 71% had paid employment one year after graduation.

  • Two thirds of them started their own business and one third is employed.
  • One quarter of participants who found work are able to put aside money regularly.
  • One year after vocational training, nine out of ten young people are socially active compared to less than half prior to the project.
  • Nine out of ten participating youth now look to the future with confidence compared to only one third prior to the project.

Infographic available to download here.

Anneke Maarse said: “We see that more young people with disabilities are now applying for vocational training. They are inspired by the positive experiences of their peers.”

Filling in the gap
There is little material currently available in the area of vocational training and its impact on the lives of people with disabilities living in developing countries.

Given the need for practical solutions to address the barriers young people with disabilities face that refrains them from attending college, and what can be done to ensure they do attend, Light for the World has been investigating the underlying causes and tested solutions in its EmployAble programme for the last three years.

Light for the World worked with seven colleges in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda to include people with disabilities in their curriculum.

Anneke Maarse continued: “Accessibility of the courses improved by providing the instructors with disability awareness training, making physical adjustments to buildings, provide sign language training for instructors and setting up computers with screen reader software to support blind students in their learning. Often the solutions were surprisingly simple. One of the young women had little strength in her legs and could therefore not control one of the sewing machines. A simple mechanical adjustment solved the problem. We also trained students in sign language in order to help their deaf classmates, to solve the problem of needing to hire expensive sign language translators.”

Scaling up
The findings and learnings of the project have been developed into a methodology to structurally improve access to vocational education and labour for people with disabilities in developing countries. The second phase of Employable will be developed in partnership with Liliane Foundation. Given the enormous extent of the problem, Light for the World shares this model with other organisations.

A success story
One of EmployAble’s trainees, Catherine from Nairobi, said:

“I live in Nairobi with my son who is three. I am partially deaf-blind.

“Through EmployAble, I was able to get a certificate in International Computer Driving License (ICDL) at Techno Brain. I was one of the first deaf-blind persons to do the ICDL course. I used JAWS, a screen reader program. Since it was the first time someone had done that, some of my trainers didn’t know how to assist me.

“In addition, during the national exams, the screen reader couldn’t read some of the icons on my computer. This issue has now been raised at ICDL Africa, and they are researching how they can adapt their systems so that screen reader users can take the exam. I get to be one of the first visually impaired people to try the new, accessible testing system! Despite these technological hiccups, the teachers were very willing to learn how to work with people with visual disabilities like me.

“I also really enjoyed interacting with my other classmates. EmployAble not only supported me through the technical part of the training, but also helped me learn how to use JAWS and provided activities to build my self-confidence.

“Because of the training, I am now computer literate. This meant I now meet the requirements for working at the Kenya Revenue Authority. I applied for a job at customer care services and got it! I now have a steady job! I have now bought my own laptop, and managed to purchase a smartphone online. I love my new job; talking is one of my hobbies!

“I am doing something I am trained in, and I am earning a good salary to support my family. My son is going to start kindergarten next year, and I will be able to pay his school fees with no struggle.”

*S. Mitra, A. Posarac, and B. Vick, “Disability and Poverty in Developing Countries: A Snapshot from the World Health Survey,” S P Discuss. Pap., no. 1109, 2011.

Picture of Catherine available to download here.

Contact information

Judith Baart

Judith Baart

Research and Documentation Specialist
T +31 (0)318 - 78 73 82 E

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