The Equally Able Digital Academy of Digital Empowerment envisioned as a co-learning and co-working space that encourages creative minds of the disabled and underprivileged people from rural areas of India to explore and solve local problems have started its operations and begun to show initial results. The Academy Centres in Nuh (Haryana), Pondicherry (Puducherry) and Ghazipur (Delhi) have started operations and are shaping the lives of many.
The Academy, a joint initiative of Digital Empowerment Foundation and the EquallyAble Foundation, comes from the idea that the agenda of inclusive and sustainable growth cannot be achieved without including the 600 million people of India, residing in the rural and underdeveloped areas, unconnected and deprived of basic needs. The Equally Able Digital Academy of Digital Empowerment project stems from the belief that the underprivileged and needy of India have immense knowledge that is untapped and excluded from knowledge networks and economy. The lack of accessibility to infrastructure, creative and educational tools among those with socio-economic and physical disabilities has resulted in the adoption of undesirable solutions rather than the creation of indigenous solutions that are organic to local problems. Solutions need to be inclusive and incorporate the sensibilities and voices of all. This is what the Equally Able Digital Academy of Digital Empowerment has been envisioned to do and to bring grassroots change.
Unlike formal education and vocational centres where students are required to follow a set curriculum and engage in structured learning, this project supported largely unstructured learning space allowing local adolescents and youths including those with disabilities to decide their own projects or solutions, take ownership of their education and create innovative solutions that has social impact and outcomes that enable indigenous and digital solutions to social, economic and environmental problems through inquiry, experimentation and innovation. The academy project has 3 major components – (i) A Makerspace; (ii) A Life Skill Training Centre and; (iii) A Virtual Training Centre.
The Academy activities are now operational in Nuh District of Haryana, Pondicherry, Puducherry in Southern India and Ghazipur in Delhi. A virtual learning centre is also available at https://www.defacademy.org/.
The Academy’s project aims to help communities through – Broadening experiential learning at grassroots level and enhance rural innovations by exploring interests in science, technology, and creative arts; enabling the understanding of concepts and application of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics); inculcating curiosity, analytical, design computing, mathematical and team working skills; leveraging design thinking approach for real time community problems and creating tangible contributions to rural development; Enable to inculcate a bottom-up approach to problem-solving and nurture a sense of inquiry; Enable adolescents and youths to equip themselves for further studies and careers aligned with the 21st century demands.
Together, the activities of the Academy would mobilise and target communities that have been excluded from mainstream society due to their economic, social, physical, cultural and political, geographical conditions such as the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS); Women and girls; Persons with disabilities (PWDs); Scheduled Castes (SCs); Scheduled Tribes (STs); Sexual Minorities; Non-script communities; Minority groups and encourages participation of children and youth within the age group of 10 to 24 years.
Since the launch of the Academy, it has seen active participation from the target groups. Under Makerspace, the project reached out to 277 students and youths with 28 STEM related activities with 14 facilitators from different expertise areas in all these 3 project locations. 1 overall curriculum with 16 modules and activities developed and designed. The modules cover Science, Art and Craft modules. A total of 3 Makerspace infrastructure setups were executed. Furniture, Makerspace kits (STEAM) kit, Internet facility, laptop, and projector were made available in these learning centres. Under life skills training, it reached out to 421 beneficiaries with 21 activities supported by 14 resource persons in activities including screen printing; Video Editing; Craft; Photography Workshop; Videography Workshop; Social Media Workshop- How to promote your Business through social media; English language and Digital Inclusion Workshop; Blogging Workshop; Career Counselling; and Mask Making. Under virtual learning, a total of 35 students into two batches were trained in digital, life and soft skills from Nuh location. This online learning was conducted through Academy LMS platforms.
Post Covid, the Equally Able Academy of Digital Empowerment is committed to engage adolescent boys and girls, youths and young women in creative skills, life skills for self-development and for continuous problem solving locally with innovative ideas and solutions through the academy learning centres and online platform.
A bold beginning has been made that heralds a new path to the many in India and in other parts of the world.
EquallyAble was founded in 2001, since then it has been empowering people with disabilities globally through access to education, equipment, employment and inclusion. Over the years, we have transformed the lives of thousands of individuals with disabilities around the world. Details at https://equallyable.org/
Digital Empowerment Foundation
DEF is registered as a not-for-profit organisation under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, to carry out this mission of empowering people digitally. DEF constantly acts in the creation of information empowerment, equitable communities by providing digital access to information, knowledge and contextual capacity. Details at https://defindia.org/