Advocacy Campaign for the Rights of People with Disabilities: A Participatory Action Research within a Community-based Rehabilitation Project in Vangani, Maharashtra

Atul Jaiswal, Shikha Gupta


Purpose: This paper aimed to demonstrate how participatory action research (PAR) within a Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR) project facilitated community participation to advocate for the rights of people with visual impairment. An advocacy campaign, led by the local people with and without disabilities, was launched for the construction of an accessible foot over- bridge (FOB) at Vangani railway station in Maharashtra, India.

Methods: The PAR approach was used to explore the issues faced by the local people with visual impairment. It ensured maximum community consultation, engagement and, consequently, meaningful outcomes for the community. Advocacy tools such as video documentary, online petition, media advocacy, and signature campaign were employed to publicise the issue on a larger platform. Sources for this paper included quantitative data from the survey of Vangani community and documents such as CBR project reports, media coverage articles, minutes of the meeting and correspondence with the Central Railways during the advocacy campaign that was conducted from 2012 -  2015.

Results: After 12 months of consistent advocacy, the Ministry of Railways sanctioned INR 15 million for the construction of the foot over-bridge. The construction work on the foot overbridge was completed in December 2016 and now it is open for public use..

Conclusion and Implications: This study illustrates how PAR within a CBR project successfully used an advocacy campaign as a tool for community participation, action and change. Although geographically limited to rural pockets of Maharashtra state, the learning experiences brought out some of the elements crucial for the success of an advocacy intervention within CBR programmes for the rights of people with disability in India.


Visual impairment; blindness; community participation; safety; online advocacy

Full Text:



Balcazar FE, Seekins T, Fawcett SB, Hopkins BL (1990). Empowering people with physical disabilities through advocacy skills training. American Journal of Community Psychology; 18(2): 281–296. PMid:2143052

Balcazar FE, Mathews RM, Francisco VT, Fawcett SB, Hopkins BL (1994). The empowerment process in four advocacy organisations of people with disabilities. Rehabilitation Psychology; 39(3): 189–203.

Balcazar FE, Keys CB (1998). Participatory action research and people with disabilities: Principles and challenges. Canadian Journal of Rehabilitation; 12(2): 105–112.

Baum F, MacDougall C, Smith D (2006). GLOSSARY : Participatory action research. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health; 60(10): 854–857. PMid:16973531 PMCid:PMC2566051

Boyce W, Lysack C (2000). Community participation: Uncovering its meanings in CBR. Selected Readings in Community Based Rehabilitation Series; 1: 39–54. (2017). USA website. Available online

Census of India (2011). Data on disability. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India. Available at:

Deepak S, Kumar J, Ramasamy P, Griffo G (2013). An emancipatory research on CBR and the barriers faced by persons with disabilities. Disability Rehabilitation; 36(18): 1-6.

Dilnaz B (2013). NGO for the disabled urges Central Railway to have a heart, sanction Vangani FOB proposal. DNA India, 15 April. Available from:

DRDF (n.d.). Disability research design foundation website. Available online

Fawcett SB, White GB (1994). A contextual-behavioural model of empowerment: Case studies involving people with physical disabilities. American Journal of Community Psychology; 22(4): 471–496. PMid:7754999

Flicker S, Savan B, McGrath M, Kolenda B, Mildenberger M (2007). 'If you could change one thing…': What community based researchers wish they could have done differently. Community Development Journal; 43(2): 239–253.

Gardas BB, Shimpi NR, Mahajan SB (2013). Value analysis for a Mumbai local train : A case study. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications; 3(6): 1–3.

Jaiswal A (2012). Inclusive community based rehabilitation for persons with disabilities in rural India. National Journal of Professional Social Work; 13 (1-2): 16-27.

Jaiswal A (2012). Disabled friendly foot overbridge for 350 blind in Vangani (Meeting minutes). Meeting presented at Additional General Manager's office, 12 December, Central Railways of Mumbai. Mumbai: Maharashtra.

Jaiswal A (2013). Consolidated report: Inclusive community based rehabilitation project (Unpublished project report). Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Jaiswal A (2013). Disabled friendly foot over bridge for 350 blind in Vangani (Meeting minutes). Meeting presented at Additional General Manager office on 12 March 2013, Central Railways of Mumbai. Mumbai: Maharashtra.

Lalzare A (2011). Indian Railways Blind to Disability, online video. [Accessed on 9 March 2011]. Available from:

Loksatta (2013). Vangani railway station constructed with handicapped accessible facility. Loksatta, 26 February. [Accessed on 27 February 2013]. Available from:

Mehta S (2015). Out of sight: How the visually impaired in Vangani got caught up in a political rivalry. Indian Express, 29 November. [Accessed on 30 November 2015] Available from:

Mid-Day (2013). Hope floats for the blind. Mid-day, 14 April. [Accessed on 15 April 2013]. Available from:

Pawar Y(2013). When crossing tracks is compulsion, not choice. DNA India, 24 February. [Accessed on 25 February 2013]. Available from:

Rabarison K (2014). Mumbai's blind train hawkers use only sound, smell and touch to get around one of the world's busiest cities - Following the Tracks. Makeshift. [Accessed on 26 December 2014] Available from:

Rajadhyaksha M (2013). Disabled groups hope that the railway budget will incorporate their concerns. Times of India, 22 February. [Accessed on 23 February 2013]. Available from: budget/Disabled-groups-hope-that-the-railway-budget-will-incorporate-their concerns/articleshow/18623527.cms.

Selener D (1997). Participatory action research and social change (No. Ed. 2). The Cornell Participatory Action Research Network, Cornell University.

Thomas M (2011). Reflections on community based rehabilitation. Psychology and Developing Societies; 23 (2): 277-291.

TISS (n.d.). Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Available online

VideoVolunteers (n.d.). VideoVounteers, Goa. Website. Available online

World Health Organisation (2004). CBR: A strategy for rehabilitation, equalisation of opportunities, poverty reduction and, social inclusion of people with disabilities.

World Health Organisation (2010). Community based rehabilitation guidelines; 1–70.

Whyte WFE(1991). Participatory action research. Sage Publications, Inc.


Copyright (c) 2016 Atul Jaiswal, Shikha Gupta

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Supported by:


© Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development