Our Commitment to Disability Inclusion in Laos
November 29th, 2023 | News
November 29th, 2023 | News
We are excited to announce our continued commitment to disability inclusion, building on our achievements in the first phase of the USAID Okard project. Following six years of strengthening health services and battling stigma for people with disabilities in Laos, the project in its second phase will expand to a new province, Sekong, and three additional districts, Sepon, Nong, and Dakcheun to reach more individuals and communities – especially those in areas heavily affected by unexploded ordnance and possible Agent Orange and dioxin exposure.
In the last six years, the Okard project has worked to identify people with disabilities and connect them to essential services. Our Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) model serves as an identification, needs assessment, and case management tool, and allows facilitators to develop personalized action plans that include home-based modifications, assistive product referral, economic strengthening, psychosocial support, and more. The project has also sensitized people in Laos on disability inclusion, built community among people with disabilities, and strengthened the rehabilitation workforce through training and supplying facilities with equipment.
The Okard team has strengthened the capacity of the government and local organizations to sustain disability inclusion work beyond the project, including through developing national policies and strategies and training of over 140 civil society organization staff.
Through this work, Okard has supported more than 29,000 people with disabilities to improve their independent living and functional abilities, provided specialized assistive devices to over 2,000 people, connected over 8,000 people with health and rehabilitation services, and trained over 5,000 service providers.
In the coming years, the Okard project will leverage established relationships and systems, build on successes, and adapt on lessons learned from the first phase to guide the second phase.
In phase two, we will streamline the digital CBID modular tool needs assessment and further engage government partners in using it for sustainability. We will also continue gathering and storing data on people with disabilities to determine eligibility for official disability status using a digital survey tool and database. This enables the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare to provide disability ID cards and services.
Through ongoing partnerships with regional and international universities and training institutes, Okard will continue investing in building a strong, capable rehabilitation workforce to increase access to rehabilitation services for those who could benefit from it. We will also focus on partnerships with the private sector to promote employment for people with disabilities, addressing the gaps between vocational training and income generation, by strengthening disability inclusive placement services and mentoring opportunities.
The Social Behavior Change Communication Strategy and Action Plan, developed in phase one, will continue to be used to change people’s attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors toward disability by helping explore, understand, and celebrate human diversity. Data from new program districts and future community workshops will inform an updated version of the strategy.
We look forward to continuing to promote the meaningful inclusion of all people in Laos for years to come.