If you happen to stumble upon Enable Academy, you will be surprised by not only its visual appeal but also its clear functionality and the quality of its content. However, it is not the impressive site but the importance of its mission that really matters. It wants to become a platform for widespread collaboration and synergy in the fight against disability, and specifically livelihoods for persons with disability (PwDs). It wants to become the one location for comprehensive resources on a variety of topics for PwDs, employers and NGOs – and the beta gives us hope that it will be able to accomplish this ambitious goal.
The Bengaluru-based NGO EnAble India, which has been fighting to overcome the problems of persons with disability for over 10 years, launched Enable Academy recently. They aim to build a platform that helps each person onto the path to a self-sufficient working life.
It takes the form of an ambitious, sprawling website that has educational content, general awareness information, appropriate articles and helpful videos, guidance, and most importantly, connections to people who can help. This is in no way restricted to a resource for PwDs; but has content and a section each for all types of stakeholders. This includes PwDs looking for not just employment, but “economic independence and a life with dignity”. It also includes employers – an essential part of this ecosystem, and enablers or NGOs who want to volunteer and help, usually as trainers for PwDs to skill them.
Enable India, led by the dedicated and inspiring Shanti Raghavan, realised that there was a gap in the space of disability employment, created by a lack of coordination and collaboration between different parts of the ecosystem.
An organisation in Chattisgarh wants to begin computer training for persons with vision impairment, but it does not have the knowledge and experience required. An NGO in Bengaluru has the solution, but they do not know about each other, so the issue remained unresolved.
A ‘community collaborative initiative’, could be the solution in such cases, and so Enable Academy was born. As a platform for livelihoods for disability, all these NGOs, employers, and most importantly, disabled individuals, could be members of the community; and find what they need with each other’s help. At the moment, however, the site’s main offering is a whole lot of content.
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Only a beta has been launched so far: and we have yet to see what the final product will look like. But for now, there is a section each for employers, PwDs and enablers. Each gives specifically-targeted advice and curates content appropriate for each kind of user, based on their disability or need. One receives individualised guidance for a specified problem, in the form of a series of steps and recommended solutions, along with pertinent videos, articles and other content. There is also a resources section, under which one can find all the content – including publications, interactive tools and even courses.
There are tons of tutorials and short-term courses, on subjects like making a good resume, sign language, how to crack a job interview, and an innovative module on work ethics.
Formal educational content is available too, in the form of a certificate course for trainers of the blind. There are also generalised videos and publications that will increase awareness about disability and try to engineer a change in people attitudes towards it. An example is the Disability Terminology Poster which one company found so indispensable that they decided to print 500 copies of it and distribute them!
In its desire to become an e-campus, Enable Academy wishes to connect people. A physically-disabled person looking for a job of a sales executive will be led to a company looking for persons with that profile. There’s also a data resource that lists the companies who have employed PWDs in the past – detailing the job profile and the kind of disability, and how to get in touch with the organization. Further, there are helplines: if you don’t find what you’re looking for, there’s a number to call for assistance. The helplines are interesting, because the contact provided for a visually impaired person is not an Enable India employee as you would expect but that of Eyeway Helpdesk. It reflects what Enable Academy wants eventually. Pooja Rao, programme manager at Enable Academy, summarises it:
“Right now most of the content is contributed by us. But the goal eventually is to have a platform that is community-owned and community-driven.”
Funded by Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, and built from scratch by Lollypop Design and edutech firm CloodOn, Enable Academy is all set to achieve it. For now, one way to foster collaboration Pooja says is via campaigns. They’re currently running one that aims to employ 160+ PwDs from across the nation in various companies in the BPO sector in Mangalore, Pune and Bangalore. In just a couple of months and with no publicising, the site has 8,000 hits and over 750 registered users.
The site’s stated aim is to “mainstream livelihoods for disability” – this will reaching out to an audience beyond the stakeholders in the field and getting a general audience engaged in the problems faced by PwDs. Equally challenging is the task of building a large and active community that will use the Enable Academy portal to tackle issues of livelihoods for PwDs.
However the targeted, detailed and exhaustive content available and easily accessible on the beta already indicate that it will become an indispensable location for stakeholders in the field, especially PwDs. This one portal that is trying to be everything its users need has the potential to revolutionise the way we tackle disability in this country.