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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: How Sense International is supporting leadership

3 December 2019

International Day of Persons with Disabilities logo

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations awareness day, which promotes the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities. This year’s theme is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’. To mark the event, we are sharing highlights from our vocational training programmes over the last year.

Our vocational training programmes empower people with deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment, to work and become leaders. By finding jobs or starting their own businesses, they show that people with disabilities can contribute to their communities. 


In Lima, Cusco and Arequipa, we are supporting young people with deafblindness to build their confidence, communication and team-working skills, so they can train in Ruth, wearing a chef's hat and with one thumb up, smiling into the camera with her motherbusiness development. We currently support 49 young people who are training as bakers through our ‘Skills for Life’ project, which follows a three-stage process of soft, vocational and business skills training.

The participants also attend local fairs to develop experience in selling products and interacting with customers. Viable business plans are funded so that participants can get their initiatives off the ground. We work with local partners who provide premises for training and help identify suitable trainees.

Ruth is one of the young people supported by Sense International Peru. Ruth, who is blind and lives with her family, has been attending bakery and pastry workshops and her dream is to have a company of her own. She will receive financial support for her business plan in 2020.

She said: “Being part of Sense International has brought joy and happiness to my life, I feel that I am a productive person. I want to thank Sense International for your help that is changing my life.”

With support from Sense International Peru, the Peruvian Government has launched its first vocational training course for people with deafblindness, as part of the Ministry of Labour’s national IMPULSA PERU programme.


Sense International Romania has established vocational skills training courses in typography which involves the printing of materials such as leaflets, books, flyers and calendars. These courses have been adapted for students with deafblindness and are offered through our partner schools and technical training centres. This year was a milestone with the graduation of our first cohort of students: 17 students graduated and seven have already secured employment.

Madalina joined Sense International Romania’s vocational course in digital typography for young people with deafblindness and multisensory impairments as well as soft skills workshops. She said: “I am grateful for the experience that I have had throughout high school, and the experience I will continue to have at university, together with the Sense International family…the workshop has developed my creative skills…I have trained my abilities to communicate and work together.”

Sense International Romania also signed a Partnership Agreement with the Ministry of Labour to provide information and careers advice to young people with multi-sensory impairment.


In Uganda, we support young people with deafblindness to attend government-run vocational training institutions to learn skills such as carpentry, hairdressing, knitting and baking.

Hadija is one of the people supported by Sense International Uganda. She has deafblindness, is non-verbal and has limited movement in her neck and arms. Sense International has been supporting Hadija and her mother since 2012 in a number of ways, including with healthcare and education. To support her transition to adulthood and working life, Hadija was given a sewing machine which she uses to make clothing and other goods. She earns a living through sewing and, as well contributing to the household’s income, Hadija now has a greater sense of independence.


Sense International Tanzania provided vocational training to 17 young people with deafblindness, as well as funding to help them launch their businesses. One of these young people was Theopister. She and her mother worked together to set up their own café, where Theopister does jobs such as washing utensils, fetching water and providing service to customers. The café is successful, and so they have hired three local women to work in the café alongside them.

The profit Theopister has made has allowed her to invest in the business and her parents are supporting her to build a house. Theopister’s achievements have started to change attitudes towards people with deafblindness in her community.


After awareness raising with local election officials, young adults with deafblindness were supported to vote for the first time this year. This led to the Election Commission of Hadija being shown new skills by a Sense International workerIndia trialling model polling stations so that elections can be accessible to all.


More than 30 young adults with deafblindness and their families received support to set up income generating activities, including working in a motor garage, a grocery shop, sewing, printing, shoe repair and poultry rearing.

Find out more about Sense International’s work

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019