At last month’s ICTU’s Disability conference in Portlaoise, John Coghlan founder and chair of Disability Aid Abroad told the conference, chaired by Marcel Dummigan of NIPSA, of the unique support that NIPSA had made in promoting the human rights of disabled people in developing countries, particularly with regards to the employment rights of disabled women in sub Saharan Africa.

In 2018 Disability Aid Abroad are celebrating their 10th anniversary and the conference was told that, right from their inauguration, NIPSA was the largest, and most progressive trade union in supporting the TUCs and NIC - ICTUs Disability Champions programme for disabled workers, as well as a wide range of other Disability projects in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Nepal, Belize and Ethiopia.

In 2008, in partnership with the Tanzanian Union of Industrial And Commercial Operatives, NIPSA sponsored the first Disability Champions programme to be held outside of the UK and Ireland.

To date over 500 Disability Champions have been trained using local trade union facilitators. An interesting feature of the project is that Tanzanian trade unions passed the training onto Ugandan trade unions and they, in turn, passed on the training to trade unions in other sub-Saharan countries.

The Ugandan programme is perhaps the most successful to date because as well as training Disability Champions, our trade union partners NOTU have set up national and regional Disability Committees and amended their constitution to have the chair of their national Disability committee be an automatic member of NOTUs Executive Committee.

Another important outcome of the Uganda programme is that NOTU have had Disability mainstreamed as a stand alone issue in CBA discussions with Uganda Government and employer organisations.

The lessons learnt from these programmes are now being developed in the current project in Ethiopia

NIPSA has also been involved in facilitating Disability awareness training for teachers and educationalists in providing workable examples of the benefits of Special Needs Assistants in classroom structure.

There is a real difficulty in providing appropriate schooling for disabled children in most developing countries because of the very large class sizes - teachers often tell of over 80 pupils in one class!

We have also been privileged to be involved in other, smaller, programmes. Such as a Mental Health project in Belize and a Spinal Injuries project in Nepal.

NIPSA looks forward to, hopefully, continuing our relationship with DAA in providing support for international trade union projects.