ADD International was founded as ‘Action on Disability and Development’ in 1985 by Chris Underhill, following a trip to Zimbabwe. Chris was blown away by the disabled people he met who were successfully changing attitudes and policies.
A new approach.
At that time other charities working with disabled people in Africa based their work on the medical model which frames disability as a medical problem requiring ‘treatment’. Chris saw a clear need for a new approach, and wanted to create a development agency for disabled people.
Disability is a revolutionary movement – about how disabled people can liberate themselves.
We wanted to shift the narrative from ‘charity’ and ‘gift giving’, which can be quite short term, to people being able to take charge of their own affairs.Chris Underhill, Founder.
And so ADD’s locally led way of working evolved, taking on a social or human rights perspective that states it is not the individual who is disabled, but the way society treats them that creates disability.
The birth of self help groups.
In many countries, ADD International was the first organisation introducing the idea of “self-help groups of people with disabilities” (SHGs). These were initiated to service the need of people with disabilities to gain self-motivation, capacity building and the ability to advocate for their rights.
Still today, people with disabilities use self-help group as forum for to share concerns and experiences and to develop together.
Throughout the years, ADD International helped self-help groups to form their own organisations at district and provincial level to ensure sustainability. Since then, we turned our focus on developing the capacity of these organisation and to become disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), empowering them to support the development and running self-help groups at village level.
And as our work has grown we have become more aware of the complexity within the disability debate and the myriad needs and issues faced by disabled people, including the necessity to tackle marginalisation within the disability movement itself, which can exclude people who are poorer, uneducated, women, younger people, and people with certain impairments.
Back to our Roots.
ADD International is currently getting back to our roots by becoming a participatory grant-maker. This change will mean more resources, money and decision-making power given to disability rights activists.