Diriya 2004

An exhibition with a difference

"My disability gave me the strength to achieve many things in life. Today, I am the Deputy Minister of Small and Rural Industries. It is my disability that gave the strength to come a long way. Therefore, I think people with disabilities should be given equal rights and opportunities."

The Deputy Minister of Small Industries Sunil Handunneththi was speaking at the Diriya 2004 international conference and exhibition, organised by ITDGPractical Action South Asia in association with the Development with Disabled Network and Ministry of Social Services at the National Youth Services Council, Maharagama on the 30th November and 1st of December. Minister Handunneththi further said that from next year the Ministry of Small Industries will start a fund for craftsmen with disabilities.

Dirya 2004 International conference and exhibition was organized to mark the World Day for the Disabled - December 3rd. For the first time in history, in Sri Lanka many state sector service-providing organisations, non governmental organizations, universities and international organisations working on this sector took part in the exhibition and conference. Among the many stalls were the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind, Council for the Deaf, Jaipur Foot Programme, Rehab Lanka, Centre for Human Rights - University of Colombo, Mechanical Engineering Department -University of Moratuwa, Sun Flower Village, Association for the Development of Ex-Service Personnel, Dayamina, Urban Development Authority etc. The power plus tricycle and power plus cycle for the disabled was a major attraction of the exhibition. These machines run on petrol but can also be pedaled.

Large crowds also gathered at the international conference which featured presentations on National Policy on Persons with Disabilities in Sri Lanka, Community-Based Rehabilitation and Empowerment; A sustainable approach - an experience from India, Administrative Steps towards Universal Design - Shizouka Preferecture government of Japan, Arts Therapy - Principals and Applications, Information Technology for Disabled etc.

The website ?Development with Disabled Network? was ceremonially launched by the Minister of Women Empowerment and Social Welfare Ms Sumedha Jayasena at this conference. The braille version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also presented to the Hon Minister Ms Sumedha Jayasena by Prof Sharya Scharenguivel, the Deputy Director for the Centre for Human Rights, University of Colombo.

The variety entertainment programme by Sunera Foundation, Islamic Rehabilitation Center - Thihariya, Sukitha Home for Children - Padukka, Sunflower Village - Mulleriyawa and Mr. Hemapala Perera added colour to the event.

Diriya 2004 exhibition while highlighting the importance of integrating disabled people into main stream development, provided an insight to the people with disabilities on different appropriate technologies, devices and services able and demonstrated that disability is no longer a barrier to lead a normal life.

Diriya 2004

Diriya 2007
In March 2007 Practical Action co-organised a follow-up conference, looking at how disability can be 'mainstreamed' into the development process.

Disability and exclusion

Almost every community attaches stigma to disability. Persons with disabilities are often considered as incapable, economically unproductive and need to be taken care of. It is this attitude that marginalises the persons with disabilities more than their impairments. Sri Lanka also is no exception. On the other hand public spaces, amenities and transport make no allowance for disabled people and little is being done to integrate them into mainstream society or prioritise their needs in development planning. As a result, the vast majority of disable people remain among poorest of poor; deprived from fulfilling their basic needs.

ITDGPractical Action's contribution so far?

Identifying this condition, in 1998 Intermediate Technology Development Group in Sri Lanka began looking at ways of encouraging the independence and participation of disabled women, men and children in community life by improving access to mobility as well as income generating and employment opportunities. Building on the successes of community based rehabilitation initiatives. ITDGPractical Action has instigated a pilot demonstration of including persons with disabilities to development interventions, adopting an integrated approach. The main focus of the intervention is to empower disabled people:

  • To improve access to mobility/ devices that assist and their maintenance
  • To improve access to information, income generation and employment opportunities
  • To demonstrate alternative approaches of including persons with disabilities in the society and changing discriminatory attitudes towards them
  • To share experiences with policy-makers and lobbying for policy changes and decisions that benefit disabled people

ITDGPractical Action South Asia shares its experience widely for maximum impact by catalysing and supporting national forums, networks and collectives of practitioners and policy-makers from NGOs, government, educational institutions and the private sector. In the process of sharing experiences and tackling the diverse needs of disabled people ITDGPractical Action-SA invited over 35 disability organizations to come together to discuss common issues and identify suitable interventions. Approximately 25 organizations have continued to participate enthusiastically in this process and formed a Disability Action Committee and Network named that has begun to voice the needs of disabled people and address issues of planning, partnership and more Development with Disabled Network strategic intervention for their empowerment.

Development with Disabled Network

The network is a cluster of about 25 organizations, comprising disability sector organizations and development sector organizations, the majority of whom are representing the disabled people. The formation of an 'action committee' within the network has paved the way to discuss common issues, constraints, share information and identify suitable interventions. Also the network strategies focus on sharing the resources and expertise in supporting persons with disabilities and develop as a pressure group in advocating the policymakers and implementers in the critical issues of disability. The Network, emphasizing on sensitizing local non governmental development organizations to issues of disability had conducted workshops on 'human rights and rights of disabled' and a training program on 'critical awareness on disability and development ' which had activated these organizations to include persons with disabilities to their interventions.

Read more about Diriya 2004 in the first issue of Jana Thakshana Puwath, the quarterly newsletter of ITDGPractical Action South Asia

Diriya 2004

Theme: Development with Disabled
Date: 30th November & 1st December 2004
Venue: National Youth Service's Council - Maharagama
Time: 9.30am to 9.30pm

International Conference
Sharing of successful experiments and experiences of inclusion implemented and currently being implemented in Asian countries of Japan, India and Sri Lanka

Of devices that is of assistance to persons with disability,

  • Access and mobility devices
  • Research and development work
  • Low tech assisting devices
  • Affordable technologies
  • Services available

Cultural Show
Display of skills and talents of persons with disabilities through drama and music

  • Drama from SUNERA foundation - 30th November
  • Variety entertainment show organized by the Persons with Disabilities - 1st December


  • On programs that include persons with disability into development activities
  • On services and facilities available for persons with disability (Services available by GO's, NGO's and private sector)

Art Competition
Sensitize school children on issues related to disability through an island wide art competition with the collaboration of the 'Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation'

ITDGPractical Action South Asia
No 5 Lionel Edirsinghe Mawatha
Colombo 5

Tel: 011 2829412
Fax: 011 2856188

Development with Disabled
45 Lionel Edirsinghe Mawatha
Colombo 5

Tel: 011 2822189
Fax: 011 5515462

Download the publicity document for Diriya 2004 as a PDF (310k)

Is disability the real problem - or poverty? Special Appeal
In many poor communities it is those with disabilities who are the poorest members. One of ITDGPractical Action's innovative pilot projects in Sri Lanka is helping community members with disabilities overcome their isolation and play an active part in finding answers to their poverty. Find out how you can help

Post-tsunami reconstruction - don't make disability an inability

Diriya 2007: Mainstreaming Disability into Development
A two-day conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 6th and 7th March 2007, examining how disability can be 'mainstreamed' into the development process.

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