WE CELEBRATE DIVERSITY
Disability: a larger context
Disability is a part of diverse human conditions. Far too long it has remained at the periphery of social consciousness.
The recognition of the challenges as well as Rights of people with disability as citizens is a recent awakening all over the world.
The notions of disability have undergone significant change in the past few decades. A distinction was made between impairment and disability. While impairment may reside in the body, it becomes disability due to physical structures, social attitudes and availability of limited access to communication. Medical perspective viewed disability as deficiency located in the person and all deprivations in his life were seen as a consequence of his/her condition. Significant change in this notion has occurred as a result of the rise of voices of persons with disability and families who demanded their rights as citizens of their country. A shift has taken place from medical to social model in viewing disability. This viewpoint is summed up in the preamble of UNCRPD which says
Our centre in VasantKunj, New Delhi, runs various programmes. The most important is
training and employment, which helps people with intellectual disability learn vocational
and life skills, enabling them to live a fuller life with dignity.
A visitor to our centre will witness the sheer delight, with which our work associates
produce over 200 beautiful products, which are then retailed at various outlets.
We also provide family support services, because family members are often unaware of the
needs of their special child. By building the confidence and optimism of the family we try
and make the home environment robust and happy for our associates.
For us, Muskaan is a learning. Our work associates, whose human rights are still not
recognised by our society, teach us how to live in the present and keep the faith. From them
we learn innocence and the art of living an ego-free life.
As pioneers in the field of working with adults with intellectual disability, we are happy to
collaborate and share our learnings, so that the wheel is not reinvented.
Our Vision is to have a society which recognizes human diversity and respects the rights of
all people irrespective of levels of abilities. MUSKaaN has been working to create
opportunities for capacity development of Persons with Intellectual Disability and their
families, advocate for their rights, collaborating, facilitating and promoting the creation of
an enabling environment and an inclusive society.
Empowerment through capacity building has been the guiding philosophy of Muskaan. It
requires not only supporting learning but also raising bar to challenge and motivate our
students and work associates with ID to learn and perform more and more. They are
partners in taking decisions that directly or indirectly affects their lives. Their humanness is
often overlooked by the society impoverishing their life in many important ways.
Registration of society as “Welfare association for Down Syndrome”. It was started due to
the absence of services for their children
Counselling & guidance of the parents at AIIMS Genetics OPD clinic every Monday to raise
awareness of what parents can do for their children.
Lectures & workshops were organized for parents 3-4 times in a year; multiservice camp
once a year for parents and their intellectually challenged children & adults.
Efforts to enrol parents to become members of the society was driven aggressively as we
were aiming to make it an advocacy group as well.
Early intervention program was started to help parents understand the growth needs of
their children. Sports activities were initiated for children to have fun.
Name of the society was changed to “Parents Association for the Welfare of Children with
Established vocational training centre named “Muskaan” in a garage at Kalkaji. Began with
masala cleaning, grinding and packing as vocational activities. But within 3 years many more
vocational activities were added e.g. variety of gift stationary items, block printing, diya
decoration, candles etc.
Started greeting cardsâ?? project to raise funds and create awareness about intellectual
Shifted from Kalkaji to a barsati in Safdarjung enclave and then to a basement in Hauz Khas.
Hauz khas basement was given by a parent Mrs. Savitri Dasgupta who did not charge us any
Our products were of high quality as MET Department started placing order for candles to
Delhi Development Authority allotted an acre of land to Muskaan in VasantKunj for running
a training centre for people with intellectual disability.
It was started for the trained students of Muskaan giving them a monthly stipend.
The number of students increased from 15 to 40 & number of vocational units increased
from 4 to 6 & staff increased from 3 to 11 office staff.
Volunteer base increased to include parents, friends from the community, college and
Ministry of Social Justice & empowerment, Govt. of India started giving annual grant for
vocational training centre.
Muskaan was registered as a charity in New Orleans, USA in 1999 & got registered under
FCRA. 10th anniversary of Muskaan Vocational Training Centre was celebrated at AIIMS
Tenders for building construction were floated and awarded to Ahluwalia Contracts.
MrVikramAhluwalia and many other engineers gave maximum possible concessions to
Muskaan with excellant construction of Muskaan building without any charge.
Japan Embassy gave 35 lakhs. MSJE, Govt. of India gave 9 lakhs. Relatives and friends from
USA collected $ 80,000. Friends from the community helped in a big way to raise 2 crores
for the construction of Muskaan building. Many people gave old office furniture for use in
new Muskaan building.
Got completion certificate from DDA and its formal inauguration of the building was done in
April 2004 by Ambassador of Japan and Chairperson national Trust.
Many new programs were added to training e.g. regular yoga & sports, computer training,
cognitive enrichment program supported by American Embassy. We started the training
centre for severely challenged adults. Students increased from 40 to 76 and staff strength
increased to 11 to 17.
Counselling and guidance clinic ( Buti Health & Research Centre) was started in 2004 that
operated every Thursday and attended by parents from different parts of Delhi and other
cities. It continues to function till now.
Major efforts at streamlining all the training programs in terms of formal curriculum
development, assessment, teaching strategies, improved structures.
Introduction of physical fitness, sports & Life skills as part of the daily program; initiation of
Art & Therapy Centre especially for high support needs persons.
Muskaan got two awards in 2006 for its pioneering work in the field of intellectual disability.
National award from MSJE Govt. of India, state and national award from Godfrey Phillips for
its exceptional work in the field.
A major project of Residential facility for people with disability was taken up for which an
MOU was signed with National Trust, a statutory body under MSJE, Govt. of India. It aimed
at creating a model residential facility taking care of long term need for safe and assisted
living of people with intellectual disability, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and multiple disabilities.
Muskaan came in the forefront of advocacy for the Rights of people with disability. It
developed strong network with other similar organizations, Govt. bodies, NIMH, National
Regular awareness program are conducted for school and college students by organizing
their visits to Muskaan and making presentations in their schools and colleges.
Muskaan completed 25 yrs and silver jubilee was celebrated in February 2006. The highlight
of the celebration was a play by Muskaan students and teachers as well as a solo dance by
famous Bharatnatyam dancer Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali.
Dera residential facility of Muskaan started Existing MPCC building was renovated for
residential purpose. In a unique initiative, Muskaan, in partnership with National Trust,
started running this facility on principles of familial love, community living and mutual
respect. This model of residential facility adopts an approach which moves away from the
care model to an empowering model of assisted living.
An extensive review of programs and its implementation resulted in major boost to work
centre. Our challenged adults are showing enhanced sense of work ethics and
accountability. Entrusting more responsibility through work structure has allowed them to
reach new heights of work performance.
Strategic plan along with an action plan for next 5 years was developed. It was anyear long
process contributed by Muskaan staff, executive members and our dedicated volunteers.
Art & Craft centre developed more and introduced pottery, paper mache, jewellery making,
flower plucking, painting and many other decorative craft activity. 46 challenged students
are attending this program.
Extensive awareness advocacy drive to highlight the capabilities of person’s with intellectual disability and for their rightful place in society.