Two disability-led organizations headed by alum of our Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), are changing the landscape and course of independent living in Armenia. Since 2021, Agate and EREO have been operating two Independent Living Resource Centers (ILRCs) in two regions; Gyumri, Shirak Region, and Vanadzor, Lori Region.
Leading up to the launch of each center, Agate and EREO undertook a series of consultations with MIUSA and U.S. independent living experts to immerse themselves in the Independent Living philosophy (disability-led!), sharpen their technical skills on IL core service delivery (consumer-driven!), and enhance their human resource management systems. Modeled from the U.S. IL philosophy that centers are run by and for people with disabilities, both organizations created ILRC staff positions that are now filled by people with disabilities, and developed internal personnel documents that strengthened their capacity to effectively run their ILRCs.
“We were able to develop these tools, especially the Employee Handbook with the support and guidance from the MIUSA Team and U.S. IL Experts. The Technical Assistance sessions and the resources shared were very valuable in helping us design these program and evaluation tools.” – EREO ILRC Staff
Weathering the impact of COVID-19 in additional to local and regional wars, our partners have carried out their work with incredible resilience and an unyielding commitment to respond to the demands and requests of their community members with and without disabilities. To date, the impact of the ILRC include:
- Over 260 people have utilized services of the ILRCs, of which 62% are people with disabilities and 78% are women
- Over 820 services have been provided, including information & referral, peer support sessions, and workshops on independent living skills for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
- 46 people with disabilities completed a 12-week virtual training on disability rights advocacy and implementing the independent living philosophy
- 30 people with disabilities obtained meaningful employment
- Over 25 government, private and non-profit organizations are active members of the ILRC Independent Living Community Resource Network (ILRCN), contributing:
- Legal services for women with disabilities
- Trainings on legislation and guarantees of social security for service people and their families
- Meeting space for ILRC activities, and the provision of mobility devices for ILRC consumers with disabilities
- Training and tools for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor market
- Job fair to engage consumers with disabilities as attendees and prospective employees
In 2022, the two ILRCs continue to deliver services, and will also be conducting meetings with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MLSA) to advocate and garner support for disability-led ILRCs, and will hold Regional and National Forums to convene key stakeholders to advance the independent living movement across the country.
The mission of the project is to empower people with disabilities in Armenia to live independently, advocate for their rights, and participate fully in their communities, and is implemented by three leading disability organizations: Mobility International USA (MIUSA), “Agate” Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities NGO and “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities” NGO (EREO).
This article is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of MIUSA, and/or “Agate” Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities NGO and/or “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities” NGO and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.