The Story of Lukas Zida: From blind shepherd boy to full time student counsellor

A blind shepherd boy, now with full employment at a high school

Lukas Zida was born and raised at Boditi Woreda, a short distance outside of Wolaita town. As a young shepherd boy, Lukas was attacked by an angry cow, which resulted in his total blindness. Although his father lost hope for the boy’s future, by studying hard Lukas managed to graduate from secondary school, and then from Hawassa University with a degree in sociology in 2014.
After graduation, however, Lukas was frustrated by lack of employment. He found it difficult to cover the cost of transportation and a personal assistant to apply for announced job vacancies. Worse, even when he did apply he was always turned down by recruiters because of his disability.

Fortunately, it was at this moment that Lukas was recruited by the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development to be a beneficiary of its Inclusive Skills Training and Employment Programme, funded by the US Agency for International Development. The programme offered Lukas three days of job search training before placing him in an internship in a government bureau for six months. During the internship, Lukas was provided with an allowance to meet the cost of transport and a personal assistant. The training and internship helped Lukas develop his work capacity by equipping him with both theoretical knowledge and on-the-job training in a formal working environment.

After successfully completing his internship and passing an exam, Lukas is currently employed at Otana High School as a student counsellor. As he reports, when he returned to his village for the first time after being employed, the residents were amazed at his success.

The story of Yolanda: Supporting others with a disability to find a job and to persist

“I tell them that they must persist in their job interviews.”

I’m Yolanda Viera Zalazar, now 54 years old. When I was just six my mother took me to a nursery because she had to travel to visit her sick mother in another town. In this nursery a man came to make some pyrotechnical games, but he forgot some of his equipment in a room. My friends and I entered into the room and started to play with the equipment when it exploded in my hands.

Today I work for Ecuador’s Labour Integration Service, where I help persons with disabilities to find a job. This is the most important part of my life – to help persons with disabilities, to tell them that we can be useful to society and that we mustn’t allow ourselves to be discounted. I tell them that they must persist in their job interviews – not only to help themselves but to help their families a well.

Currently I am studying English, and my dream is to obtain a college degree, even at my advanced age. If I couldn’t do it when I was young, I will do it today – and I will do it, because it is useful to have a degree. I want to continue to work and to help people, and I thank my colleagues and friends for supporting me. The only things that persons with disabilities need are love and understanding, and I think it is beautiful to work towards those goals.

Learn more about Ecuador’s Labour Integration Service (SIL) which is supporting persons with disabilities to access the labour market, especially women and youth with disabilities.

The Story of Marcela: Training in a new field, leading to a secure job and better home-life

“We grow up when we feel able and have a salary”

My job search led me to the Municipal Office of Labour Information (OMIL) of La Granja. I was already working as production operator, but I was looking for something more motivating. I found out about the More Capable Programme from SENCE, which offered me the opportunity to be trained as pastry assistant at the Francisco Frías Valenzuela of my municipality.

When I started the training, I had not a lot of expectations. However, now I realise that the best thing I could have ever done, was to register with the More Capable training. Thanks to the programme’s labour intermediation, I had the possibility to work at the same place where I was trained. It was better than my entire job search. I had worked in many different areas, but never in something I really liked.

A few months after finishing the training, already in my new job, I revived. At home I was always muted, I didn’t use any make up, I was fatter and this was a shot of energy. Now I have my own money, I count, I’m a women and I’m able. I can stand up and I don’t care if I’m alone. I’m happy.

Before the training I wasn’t able to make a cake, but a short time after it begun, I understood that I could. When I arrive to home and show my cakes, my family loved them; this was very important for me. My kids could see a better, more secure mom.

Before we had not enough money to afford the Internet, for example. Now I can pay for it with my own salary and my kids are happy. It’s crazy how we grow up when we feel able and have a salary. Now I’m working at the bakery of the Líder Supermarket and I couldn’t be in safer hands.

Learn more about how Chile’s More Capable Programme is supporting persons with disabilities to access vocational training and the open labour market, especially women and youth.

The Story of a Teacher and his Pupil with Autism

“The student even got a role in a music clip”

I participated in a training course to be a support teacher for children with disabilities in the city of Erbil. I was placed in a school and assigned to work with a child with autism. I found the behaviour of the child very challenging. Hearing about my situation, officials from the Ministry of Education came to visit our school. They spoke for a long time with me, the family, and the school leadership about the rights of this child. They also came to the classroom, gave practical advice, and promised follow-up visits and support. Realising the importance of my job, I persevered.

The student is now fully accepted in the school and making progress in the classroom. He has demonstrated a musical talent and even has a role in a music clip made to raise awareness of autism (http://bit.ly/1S41uF1). Now, even if you asked me to leave, I would do the job voluntarily.

Learn more about Iraqi-Kurdistan’s Inclusive Education Programme demonstrating that with the help of inclusive learning materials and staff training early intervention, Inclusive Education is possible within post-war instability and dire economic conditions.

The Story of Sven

“They find dignity and a sense of purpose”

I have been working as a counsellor for students with special needs since 2010. I see on a daily basis how many of my students now continue to university, because they have noticed that others have been able to succeed in that environment. It is a wonderful feeling to see the beam in their eyes thanks to their newly found dignity, sense of purpose, and independence when they realize that an academic life at a university is truly accessible to them. At awareness-raising events, I have met students, cloakroom staff, and even cleaning ladies who have come to me to say how great it is that there are so many disabled students studying at Tallinn University of Technology (TUT). I have seen students with neck injuries able to study alone, to live in dorms, and to put on clothes with the help of a motorized bed. They are happy, independent, and capable of pursuing their futures and careers as valuable members of society.

I suppose one has to have lived in a post-Soviet state to realise how remarkable it is that in such few years both the older and the younger generation have seen and welcomed so many changes as part of their everyday life. By providing funding to people with disabilities and by giving them a push to try something that had previously been considered unthinkable and too expensive, the Primus programme has achieved a lot: greater awareness, accessibility, and joy for disabled people.

Learn more about Estonia’s Primus Programme improving access to higher education for students with disabilities.

The Story of Kofi

“My class became a virtual sea of pictures.”

On weekends I reflect on my weekly activities. While reminiscing, my thoughts turned to a particular student who had caught my attention. I had not realized how long I had been serving as a special educator at the Anglican Primary School till my encounter with a young boy who was using a hearing aid. He approached me and we had a bit of a conversation.

As I reminisced, in my mind’s eye I could see him as he shyly walked into class with his head low and his face expressionless. I remembered the confusion in his eyes and his state of utmost isolation because he could not hear well while I taught the day’s lessons. Gradually, I developed techniques to coax him out of his shell and to help him with his studies. My class became a virtual sea of pictures, as I used a lot more images to communicate. I recalled how I vehemently opposed the administrative decision to send him out of the school.

My insistence led to the admission of a few other students like him, and soon my class had become inclusive. Other teachers learned from my example and more children like Kofi had the chance to become educated. Today, he stands before me a beneficiary of Inclusive Education. He had come to express his gratitude after learning how instrumental I was in getting him an education at the fundamental level.

Learn more about Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy rolling out inclusive education to 216 districts in all ten regions of the country.

The Story of Jose

“Now I feel useful”

This is my first job! I feel very happy and satisfied because they have accepted me as I am. Prior to becoming a Loan Officer at BAC Credomatic I had been searching for work for many years, but no company would give me the opportunity to show my full potential because of my disability. My family has always been supportive, but life has not been shiny all the time. A few years ago I had to leave my university studies because I did not have enough money to cover the expenses. I felt very frustrated, but I never gave up. One day I applied for a job in a company that opened its doors to many unemployed persons with disabilities like me.

Since that day my life has changed a lot. Thanks to this opportunity, I was able to finalize my university degree in Accounting and to have sufficient economic stability to help my mother with the household expenses. Now I feel useful. Now I realize that I can manage many administrative tasks and can take on additional responsibilities because I have acquired new knowledge in the banking area. Now I see a future that before I never imagined. I see myself growing into new positions in the company, having new opportunities, and learning more every day. I hope my story can inspire more companies to believe in the potential of people with disabilities.

Learn more about Costa Rica’s National Plan for Work Inclusion of People with Disabilities boosting the employability of Costa Ricans with disabilities.

The Story of Dick and Andrea Allen

“Greer is not marginalized, but inspiring others”

We have been gifted with two beautiful daughters:  Sydney and Greer.
Sydney flew through the public school system from kindergarten through grade 12 in a relatively uneventful way, as did Greer. What’s exceptional about Greer’s experience is that she has Down Syndrome. Years ago, she never would have been afforded the opportunity to follow in her sister’s footsteps like many younger siblings dream to do. What’s even more exceptional is that Greer not only followed her sister’s footsteps in many regards, attending the same elementary and secondary schools, but she also paved her own path, participating in even more school activities than had her sister, and as such is today a capable, confident, and contributing member of our community. Because of New Brunswick’s Inclusive Education policy, Greer attended regular classes, received the necessary support, and participated fully in all school classes, activities, and clubs. In elementary school she participated in the drama and reading clubs and was acknowledged with a Bravery Award. Now in her final year of high school, she has:

  • Celebrated being a “Four Year Vet” in the annual high school musical production
  • Held leadership positions in the Best Buddies Programme
  • Developed lifelong friendships
  • Lived an ordinary life

Who could ask for more?
Many people who have taught Greer or had her in their clubs have commented on what she had added to the respective group and its dynamics. She has often been acknowledged for adding joy to the group, bringing people together and inspiring others to conquer challenges. We are thankful for Inclusive Education, which has enabled Greer to thrive rather than be marginalized as have many before her and many in other less progressive places.

The Story of Harry Hötzinger

“I am now playing with the Jazz band that I listened to in the audience!”

My name is Harry Hötzinger, and I am 35 years old and live in my own apartment in Vienna. I consider myself a cineaste, and I love music and travelling. Due to my physical challenges (I cannot move my head or limbs due to muscular dystrophy) I rely on my personal assistants to help me accomplish everyday tasks and activities. When I met the guys from the AsTeRICS Academy team at a jazz concert in Vienna in 2013, they asked me if I wanted to participate in the development of their special input devices, and I agreed. I was equipped with a “Lipmouse”-sensor which allows me to control a computer via lip movements and sip/puff actions. Since then I have been able to use my computer autonomously for reading or writing emails, browsing the web, playing games, and much more. I can also control my home entertainment equipment via infrared remote. In 2014 we developed the idea that I could learn how to play a computer-based musical instrument. An eye-tracker was added to my setup, which allows me efficient selection of notes or chords in a graphical user interface. The system worked so well that I started playing keyboards in a band – the same Jazz band that I listened to in the audience two years ago! Since early 2015 we have had three public concerts in Vienna and we have further developed the capabilities of the musical system. I want to share my story because this technology was a real game-changer for me.

The Story of Vanessa from Vanuatu (film)

The project seeks to develop a simple and effective method for children with diverse disabilities to express or communicate their life priorities and human rights issues through the use of ICT and other resources. The project also aims to achieve the transferability and scalability of this method, utilizing accessible ICT, by designing education activities and resources for governments, services providers, and community members both in the target country and globally.

More about the Innovative Project Giving a voice to children with disabilities: