Horticulture as a way to economic independence

The ‘Association of People’ with Disabilities trains individuals in skills such as gardening, hospitality and more

The ‘Annual Garden Fair’, on till November 24, is a way for people with disabilities to showcase their hardwork

The ‘Association of People with Disabilities’ (APD) was founded by N S Hema. Affected by polio, she used a wheelchair to get around.

At the age of 17 she created an association where people with disabilities could find avenues to become self-sufficient as opposed to relying on charity and sympathy. The horticulture programme was the first step towards this. Hema herself was an avid gardener and read extensively about the benefits of plant therapy. Since gardening was something she was familiar with, she thought that it would be an easy craft to pick up. She was right.

On November 15, the association’s 22nd annual garden fair took off. Metrolife caught up with Christy Abraham, the CEO of the association about the fair and the other activities of APD.

“The garden fair is more than just selling of plants. It’s also about meeting and connecting with people. It’s an opportunity for people with disabilities to socialise and celebrate the work they have been doing,” says Christy. Although they offer livelihood training in call centre work, retail, hospitality and more, horticulture remains the most popular option. “Today we train up to 150 students in a year. We have a six month course that includes a month of foundation courses. We can take up to 30 students at a time,” she says.
They train people with both mental and physical disabilities. The courses offered allows them to become garden supervisors or specialists. While supervisors are trained in basic gardening skills, specialists are also taught landscaping.

“The students we train get employment in corporates and apartments complexes and sometimes also houses,” she says.
They have an employment rate of 92 per cent but the retention rate is only 85 per cent. She says that this is mainly because they may not be able to adjust to the changes in the environment, food and commute. “Since the students reside within campus during the course, they find a comfort zone here. However, once they leave it might be difficult for them to hold on to a job,” says Christy.

To combat this, APD also provides training to the potential employers. They teach corporates sign language, and about the ways in which they can be more inclusive and accessible.

The horticulture centers are open all-year round, but the garden fair is a way for them to showcase their hard work. The event also sees stalls from other garden centres giving customers access to exotic plants. The plants are affordable, with marigolds priced as low as Rs 50.

The fair is on till November 24, from 9am to 6pm, at The Association of People with Disabilities Horticulture centre in Jeevan Bhima Nagar. For more information contact 25288672, 99454 29500.

Other programs

Early Intervention

“Research shows that if a disability is caught within 18 months of childbirth, then the child has a better chance of leading a comfortable life,” says Seema Joshi, APD’s marketing head. The early intervention program for children under the age of eight helps assess and identify such physical and mental disabilities. They go to ‘anganwadis’ and government hospitals or directly to the villages. Once they identify people, rehabilitation and therapy is conducted with their funds. For more severe cases they are referred to hospitals that will offer them subsidised treatment. They also train the parents in therapy and rehabilitation.

Inclusive education

“For acute disabilities you may need special schools, but for other children they can be integrated into regular schools. To help this cause, we run a school called Shradhanjali Integrated School. At present we have 206 children, 20 per cent of whom are children without disabilities,” says Seema.

They also provide support to government or small private schools who are ready to take in such children. They raise funds and make the infrastructure of these schools more disabled-friendly. They also train their faculty.

Their physiotherapist and special educator goes twice a week to all of these ‘model schools’ to monitor the activities. “In some places we’ve raised enough funds to build therapy rooms as well,” she says.

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