International Week of the Deaf – Strengthening Human Diversity

23 September, 2014 - Philip Waters

For the International Week of the Deaf 2014, one of our amazing Programme Officers, Philip Waters, talks about diversity at the workplace among deaf communities around the world.


Inclusion at CBM

This image shows Philip Waters smiling at the camera

Philip Waters during a project visit in Luzhou, China in September 2013

©Susan Emerson

I am a Program Officer of Philippines, Indonesia and China for CBM in Australia. CBM Australia is very supportive by providing sign language interpreters both in the office and to accompany me when I travel. We also have annual deaf awareness training with some Australian Sign Language lessons.
Internationally, there are at least 5 deaf and hard of hearing staff working for CBM with various roles such as a Senior Technical Advisor, Assistant Officer for Inclusive Development, Project Coordination Manager and Administrative Officer.


Restrictive attitudes must change
Human diversity of peoples around the world is mirrored by the diversity within the deaf community. Deaf people have a diverse range of employments just like everyone else. Common perceptions around the world exists that without speech, it is not possible for deaf people to be educated or have meaningful employment. Many societies believe deaf men can only do physical labour or trades such as carpentry or motor repairs. As for deaf women, jobs are limited to painting, drawing or sewing. These attitudes can be very restrictive and place a barrier to achieving a greater range of human diversity.


 This image shows Philip Waters with other CBM staff and partner staff in Xinjiang, China in September 2013.

Right to meaningful employment
Article 27 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities relates to the rights of deaf people to meaningful employment, which also includes access to training and workplace modifications to enable deaf people to work. Additionally the International Labour Organization has also set standards for people with disabilities and employment.
In fact, deaf people can and do a wide range of jobs. Listed are examples of jobs deaf people exercise with an example of a well-known deaf person:
  • Dentist – Dr Steven Rattner
  • Sky diver – John Woo
  • Actress – Marlee Matlin
  • University President – Dr Robert Davila
  • Head Chef at JW Marriot in China – Sean Han
  • Lawyer – Rebecca Adam
  • EU Member of Parliament – The Hon Dr Adam Kosa
  • Emergency Services – Andrew Welshe
  • Philosopher – Dr Teresa Blankmeyer Burke
  • US Army Cadet – Private Pete Nolan
  • Street Performer – Tie Feng
  • Olympian – Dean Barton-Smith
  • Journalist – Dawn Jani Birley
  • Film maker – Samuel Dore
  • Regional Policy and Campaigns Manager – Washington Opiyo
And the list goes on. All of these people are deaf and use sign language as their first language. By removing barriers in education and employment, deaf people have shown they can and do anything.
Kentalis International in association with CBM has recently launched a videofeaturing deaf role models in Kenya. Successful deaf professionals share their stories about how they achieved their goals. Have a look!


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Why I love Miracles Day

28 August, 2014 - Stevie Wills

Miracles Day is an exciting day on the calendar for us at CBM Australia. It’s a day where we can work with generous Australians to transform lives! It’s a day where the means is provided for operations for people with cataracts to restore their sight. Operations that are provided for people who live in developing countries, who otherwise couldn’t receive the sight-restoring surgery.

The transformation doesn’t end there! People who are blind, can face many barriers. These barriers are most dense in developing countries, often excluding people from participating in education, employment and community life. Barriers can be physical, including a lack of access, resources and medical care. There can also be social barriers, such as stigma, and a lack of knowledge and awareness within communities.

A cataract operation can allow people to integrate into school, work, and their communities, thus completely transform their lives!

In developing countries, not only people who are blind face barriers to participating in life, but so do people with all kinds of disabilities.

I have cerebral palsy. I have grown up with the opportunities I needed to complete mainstream primary, secondary and tertiary education. I’m now employed with CBM Australia as a Community Education Officer. I’ve been enabled to reach my potential. I want all people with disabilities to have the opportunities they need to reach their potential too. CBM works with partners to enable people with disabilities who live in developing countries to reach their potential. That’s why I love CBM, and I’m excited about Miracles Day.

We would love you to join us in transforming lives! For $32 you can provide for a sight-restoring operation for someone with cataracts. You can help us to change lives! You can give somebody else the opportunities they need to reach their potential.

To donate; please call 131 226, or go to

Thank you!

Together we can restore sight!!

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Twin-track approach to inclusive eye health in Pakistan

13 August, 2014 - CBM Australia

According to the new World Health Organisation (WHO) action plan, adopted in May by the World Health Assembly, people with disabilities should have access to all health services offered to the general population.

Last year, CBM updated and launched a ‘how-to’ guide on inclusive eye health, providing comprehensive guidance to eye care service providers to ensure that all people with disabilities can access adequate eye care services. We speak here with Dr Babar Quereshi, a medical adviser for CBM’s Eastern Mediterranean Region, about how CBM is working on inclusive eye health with partners in Pakistan.

A CBM inclusive eye health program in Pakistan.


CBM is working hard in Pakistan to spearhead inclusive access to eye health care. How have you been doing this? 

“We’ve been working with CBM partners and discussing inclusive eye health. We held partner workshops where our manual, Inclusion made easy in eye health programs, was discussed to ensure that our partners begin to implement inclusive practices in their projects and programmes. Implementation is going to be in phases and every year our partners will report their progress.”


How long will it be until changes are seen in practice?

“Since the first version of the manual was launched one or two partners have started to implement it. We’ve seen changes in physical access made to buildings and healthcare workers being trained in sign language. But it is too early to see big changes. We’ll probably see results coming over the next five years. Though of course some partners will implement things faster than others, it’s not a fast-track process.”


What about where CBM hasn’t got partners?

“We’ve been addressing inclusive eye health from two perspectives and the second part of our strategy has been to go to Pakistan’s national eye care programme. With our partners, we can only have limited reach. With the national programme we can implement in every single district of Pakistan. Government works slowly, but the infrastructure and reach is much bigger and so the impact will also be much greater and sustainable.”


How did you set about such an ambitious task?

“We went to a lot of advocacy meetings and made a lot of presentations with policy makers and the national committee on eye health – the Ministry of Health’s top policy body on eye care. Pakistan’s national eye care programme has been in operation for more than 20 years and every district of that country now has a state-of-the-art eye care programme. We said, ‘The essentials of the eye care programme are there, but what you need to do next is to make it inclusive for people with disabilities.’ ”


How open were policy makers to what you had to say?

“There was resistance but this wasn’t because people wanted to resist becoming inclusive, but because people weren’t clear what inclusion meant. They thought, ‘Are we now going to be looking after people with physical disabilities? Are we going to be doing hearing care?’ We had to explain that that wasn’t the idea. We had to say, ‘You are still involved with eye care, but we want people with disabilities to be able to access your services too.’

“Then it was like a curtain lifting off their eyes – ‘Oh that’s what’s meant by inclusion of other people with disabilities in eye care.’ It was about breaking what we want to see down into simpler, understandable pieces.

“The national committee has now appointed a task force to recommend to government the steps that need to be taken at all districts in Pakistan to make eye health inclusive, as well as to consider the cost.”


So what are the next steps in Pakistan?

“The next important challenge is considering who is going to actually put the recommendations in the manual into practice. For the partners it’s easier. They can look at their workplace and think of what they need to do and how they’re going to do it. For the national eye plan it’s about how they’re going to operationalise the whole programme.

I’ve been asked to work with the task force to break it down into small, achievable steps so implementation doesn’t become a monumental task. CBM can play an instrumental role in providing successful models of inclusive eye health in one or two districts.”


Are there any successful models you can point to at the moment in Pakistan?

“When the primary healthcare initiatives (PHIs) to reconstruct the flood-hit areas in the Union Councils of Charsadda,  Abazai, Bakook, Hassan Zai and Shack No 6. were launched after the severe flooding in the summer of 2010, we set about trying to make the PHIs inclusive. That was a good experience and people were very engaged, very motivated. We’ve since seen a massive influx of patients, and access to eye health by people with disabilities has improved by 200%-250%.”


What are the main challenges in implementing inclusive eye health programmes?

“Changing the mindsets of people about disability is the biggest difficulty – at a project, programme, national and policy levels. That’s what takes a lot of time and it shouldn’t be underestimated.

Just by having a workshop or sending people a manual doesn’t mean things will change. There has to be continuous reinforcement of the ideas so they begin to register people with disabilities as individuals, they need to consider when planning and implementing. There needs to be continuous advocacy, continuous mentoring.”


What’s next after Pakistan?

“We’ll be slowly taking the inclusive eye health programme out to other countries. Later this year we’ll carry out a similar exercise for the Middle East region. The whole region is aware of inclusive eye health care and the manual has already had good exposure there. It’s just a matter of closer follow-up in the implementation and facilitating understanding where it’s needed.”


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The right to a full life of faith

15 July, 2014 - Steph Gaut

I’m not sure why I was so taken aback – after all, the conference was labelled ‘Honest Conversations.’ But as I sat and listened, I realised I still have so much to learn about the value of inclusion…

CBM’s Luke14 Honest Conversations conference took place in Melbourne on July 10 and 11. Over two days, more than 100 delegates were propelled into a world of challenging truths and sometimes-confronting situations that encouraged people to share intimate thoughts and feelings about the current state of disability inclusion in Australia’s church communities.

In his opening address, guest speaker Jeff McNair highlighted the ways in which Christian communities often overlooked people with disabilities as valuable and valued participants.

Integration, Jeff championed, was “absolutely critical” to any kind of disability ministry or program – and you “better have a doggone good reason as to why you’re not fully including people if you’re not!”

Jeff McNair speaks passionately about disability and the church at Luke14′s Honest Conversations conference.


I could feel people shifting uncomfortably in their seats – I know I was. Our church absolutely includes people with disabilities! I was feeling silently indignant. We have programs for people with disabilities don’t we? And I’m sure other people here have special programs too that cater specially for people with disabilities.

It was almost as if Jeff had read my mind. Because he continued: “Many ministries are designed, to a lesser or greater degree, to be segregated. These ministries range from churches for people with a disability where those without a disability work within the ‘disabled church’ to serve to segregated ministries, and to programs experiencing varying degrees of separation. But for the church to be the Church, we must acknowledge that segregated ministries send the wrong message.”


Dr Shane Clifton guest spoke at the Honest Conversations conference about his life-changing experiences with acquired disability, and the importance of emotional and spiritual wellbeing.


It was a powerful message: that true inclusion occurs only when people with disabilities receive the same opportunities and experiences as people without disabilities.

The conversations flowed freely over the two-day conference; people were sharing their deepest and most intimate thoughts, sharing experiences of exclusion and how it made them personally feel, and bonding and learning through some incredible panel discussions and workshops designed to enhance your understanding of disability experience in the church.


Conference delegates learnt about different types of disabilities and the importance of an all-accessible church community.


Among new-found friends and some fabulous food, I realised that inclusion was about more than just ‘ticking the boxes’. People with disabilities have rights to worship, study the Word and serve others in whichever faith community they choose to do so with full access to and support from their wider community.

Here’s looking to more Honest Conversations next year!

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The Silent Barrier: sexual abuse and violence against women and girls with disability

27 June, 2014 - Rachel Wallbridge


Women like Oumou (left) and Bissara face the triple of being female, living with a disability and being amongst the poorest of the poor.

Women like Oumou (left) and Bissara face the triple of being female, living with a disability and being amongst the poorest of the poor.


Rachel Wallbridge is an Advocacy and Policy Officer at CBM Australia and has a particular interest in gender issues.

Preventing and addressing violence against women and girls as well as their empowerment and participation is a topic that has always been very dear to my heart, and last year it took me to work with a Pan-African NGO in Ghana, West Africa. While I was somewhat prepared for facing gender challenges, what I saw with women and girls with disability was something I was not prepared for.

Globally, violence against women is an epidemic and ending it will require all the will, drive and savvy political manoeuvring leaders and local activists can muster. Yet violence against women and girls with disability remains a brutal and silent barrier to the fulfilment of human rights. The impact of sexual abuse and violence against women and girls with disability remains to be adequately acknowledged and discussed in many mainstream gender discussions, at both a local and international level. For example, most of the highly publicised and hashtagged Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London failed to meaningfully acknowledge the unique threats facing women and girls with disability.


The problem

Women and girls with disability are often at greater risk of violence, injury, abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation.[1] Violence against women and girls with disability not only causes physical, psychological and social pain, but it’s also a significant barrier to a woman or girl with a disability meaningfully contributing to and participating in family and community life.

The facts are sobering. Women with a disability are two to three times more likely to be physically or sexually abused than women without a disability.[2] Women with disability are also most vulnerable to abuse in their own homes,[3] and women with an intellectual disability are particularly at risk and are also less likely to seek refuge or access redress than women with physical impairments.[4]

Although women with disabilities experience many of the same forms of violence all women experience, the intersection of gender and disability means that violence takes on unique forms, has unique causes, and results in unique consequences.[5] For example, people with disabilities can experience abuse such as withholding essential care and medications.[6] Other abuses include physical, physiological, sexual or financial violence, neglect, social isolation, entrapment, degradation, detention, denial of health care, and forced sterilization and psychiatric treatment.[7]

Women with disability face additional barriers to justice that can magnify the effects of abuse and violence. Firstly, it can be more difficult for women with disability to leave a violent or abusive situation. This could be due to being care-dependent on the abuser, not being able to take children with her, inaccessible support services and transportation to leave, being physically unable to implement an escape plan or the inability of a shelter or support service to adequately provide for her daily needs.[8] Secondly, discrimination through the justice system means that women with disability may not be considered as reliable reporters or witnesses of crimes. In addition, prevailing social stereotypes may mean that women with disability can be dehumanised or excluded from the services.

It is important to also understand how violence and sexual abuse against women, including girls, can also be a cause of disability. For example, in the Kup region of Papua New Guinea, it has been reported that rape against young girls has caused serious injury and disability.[9]

An important related issue magnifying the impact of sexual violence and abuse against women and girls with disability is the inaccessibility of sexual and reproductive health care. Ignorance and attitudes from both the community and individuals (including health care professionals) represent one of the main barriers for women accessing this type of health care.[10] Society prejudices often assume women with disabilities are ‘asexual’ and are unable to manage their own sexuality and fertility.[11] This stigma and discrimination then affects the access, level and availability of sexual and reproductive health services.


Current protections and solutions

A rights-based approach uses human rights principles and conventions as guiding frameworks, and views people with disabilities as rights-holders as opposed to passive beneficiaries.[12] Like all people with disability, women and girls are protected under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). The UNCPRD in Article 6 acknowledges the intersection of gender and disability, saying “state parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”[13] The convention also includes a specific prevision on the elimination of all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including their “gender-based aspects.”[14]

While the human rights of women with disability are protected under the UNCRPD, implementation remains a significant barrier. Attitudes and social stigmas present the largest barrier yet to the fulfilment and enjoyment of all human rights for people with disability. Women and girls with a disability face a triple threat: being female, having a disability and being amongst the poorest of the poor.[15]

A human rights approach to this issue will ensure that services including education and health are disability inclusive. This is done through a twin-track approach where disability is both mainstreamed throughout regular services as well as creating disability specific interventions that aim to increase the empowerment and participation of people with disabilities. A focus on disability inclusive development positively impacts those with disability as it helps work towards lowering the stigma and discrimination faced by people, including women.

The development of entire communities is dependent on the recognition and fulfilment of human rights of its entire people. Individuals and communities who perpetrate violence against women and girls with disability not only directly risk the health and lives of the women and girls within them, but also prevent the community from reaching its full potential.


[1] United Nations (2006) Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability, Preamble, Retrieved from

[2] United Kingdom Department for International Development (2000) Disability, Poverty and Development at

[3] Stephanie Ortoleva and Hope Lewis (August 2012) “Forgotten Sisters – A Report on Violence Against Women with Disabilities: An Overview of its Nature, Scope, Causes and Consequences,Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 104-2012, 16.

[4] United Nations Population Fund (2013) A Deeper Silence and Pacific Sisters with Disabilities, 18.

[5] Ortoleva and Lewis (2012) “Forgotten Sisters,” 14.

[6] United Nations Population Fund (2013) A Deeper Silence, 19.

[7] Carolyn Frohmader and Stephanie Ortoleva, “The Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women with Disabilities”, ICPD International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014, July 2012 see

[8] Pacific Sisters, 19.

[9] Pacific Sisters Report, 17.

[10] World Health Organisation and United Nations Population Fund Guidance Note, “Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health for Persons with Disabilities” 2009, 1.

[11] Spratt, A Deeper Silence, 18.

[12] Key conventions include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

[13] UNCRPD, 2006, Article 6(1).

[14] CRPD, 2006, Article 16: Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse.

[15] United Nations Population Fund, 2005, Promoting Gender Equality,

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