Andrea Shettle's Talking Points, October GDRL Calls

October 24, 2010

What is the GDRL?

The eGranary technology that houses the Global Disability Rights Library (GDRL) and makes it available to NGOs and Universities in developing countries represents an exciting innovation in information dissemination.  But of course, the real heart of this project is the content and knowledge that the GDRL is meant to disseminate.  The most important purpose for this project is to circulate knowledge that advocates, policy makers, and organizations can use to improve the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries.  But what kind of knowledge will do that?  How do we know that we are gathering the right kind of materials and resources for the digital library?


Listen, Listen, Listen

USICD and the GDRL team believe in that old motto of disability advocates globally, “Nothing about us without us.”  We strive to listen as closely as possible to the people who we hope will benefit from the library. 

Our International Advisory Board, the IAB, is one important mechanism for gathering feedback on the kind of material that we need for the library.  The IAB has 10 full members from 10 different countries around the world. In addition to the 10 members, we also have nine ex-officio members who are drawn from the USICD Board of Directors and from the University of Iowa faculty.  A majority of these 19 people are people with disabilities, plus one mother of a child with a disability.  They have expertise in topics ranging from independent living to women with disabilities to policy and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  They share with us not only their own expertise but also feedback from their strong network of contacts in the field.  You can learn more about the International Advisory Board on USICD’s IAB page.

We also use more informal approaches to gathering feedback.  For example, in August, I was in Oregon to participate in a program organized by Mobility International USA.  Their program, called the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability, brought together women with disabilities from dozens of developing countries.  These amazing, powerful, passionate leaders are all doing incredible work in their home countries promoting the human rights of women with disabilities.  During the week I was in Oregon, I had a great opportunity to talk with some of these leaders.  I asked them what kind of information they will want to see in the Global Disability Rights Library.  What kind of information will help them with the work they are doing? 

From time to time, we also have visitors at the USICD headquarters office in Washington, DC who also have been able to help us gain insights into the disability-related information needs in developing countries.  For example, one woman came to us from a university in Tanzania where they already have an eGranary unit, though not the Global Disability Rights Library.  They have a special education program, so she shared some feedback with me about the need they had for literature in that field.  I also had an opportunity to meet with a disability rights leader from Uganda who asked for a wide range of content such books on disability for young children and information about the Americans with Disabilities Act. 


Desired Content for the Library

Though we have a strong network of contacts and advisors, and a devoted team of librarians and researchers working on developing the Global Disability Rights Library, experts like you who are working in the field of disability rights are utterly indispensible to our effort.  We know that many of the disability organizations that you represent have a website.  Even individual people might have a blog site or a collection of on-line videos in which you write, speak, or sign eloquently and thoughtfully about issues related to human rights or poverty issues among people with disabilities.   And some of you have also produced electronic publications, reports, training manuals, toolkits, videos, and audio clips that are relevant for disability rights library.  If we are aware of your content, then someone on the GDRL team may have already asked for permission to include your content in the library or may be contacting you soon.  We hope you will respond positively. 

We also know that many of you are experts who are familiar with many more electronic resources that might be helpful for people with disabilities in developing countries.  We would love to hear from you any suggestions or recommendations you might have for content that we should include in the library. 

The Global Disability Rights Library will cover a wide range of topics related to human rights for people with disabilities and to fighting poverty among people with disabilities.  Chances are, if your content is related in some way to disability rights, we will be interested. 


Some high priority areas include:

  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, of course, is a key priority.  People in developing countries want to learn how to ratify the CRPD, how to implement the CRPD, how to use the CRPD, how to monitor the CRPD, and how to teach other people about the CRPD.
  • Accessibility is also important.  People want to learn about how to make public buildings accessible, how to make information accessible, how to make transportation accessible, how to make their school or their work place accessible, how to make water and sanitation facilities accessible.
  • People with disabilities in developing countries tell us that they are struggling with severe poverty that makes it very difficult for many of them to become involved in a large advocacy movement.  We want materials that can help people with disabilities and policy makers and organizations learn how to fight poverty among people with disabilities.
  • Many disability organizations are also interested in capacity building.  How do they raise money for their organization?  How can they train new leaders to take over from the old leaders?  How do they learn how to manage a budget or design a wonderful project?
  • We need materials relevant to the needs of all marginalized populations within the disability community.  This means, as just a few examples, women with disabilities, children and youth with disabilities, aging and elderly populations with disabilities, indigenous populations with disabilities, gay lesbian bisexual and transgender people with disabilities, ethnic and racial and linguistic minority groups with disabilities.
  • Some other important topics that people also bring up include independent living, formal employment and self employment, policy and legislation, education for children and adults of all ages at all levels for people with all types of disabilities.  Also: Community Based Rehabilitation from a human rights perspective, access to basic health care and health education, preventing HIV/AIDS among people with disabilities, violence against people with disabilities, emergency preparedness, participation in political and public life, participation in cultural life recreation and sports, technology including assistive technology, and more.
  • People with disabilities in developing countries say they are very interested in practical materials that can help them learn how to promote disability rights or how to fight poverty.
  • They want toolkits, training manuals, “best practice” stories, and other materials that they can translate into real action in the field.  They want to read a toolkit today and then immediately, right now, go out there and use what they learn to make a difference in the real lives of real people.


What you can do

If any of you are aware of content in these topic areas or in other areas related to disability rights, please let us know.  We are looking for materials in all written, spoken, and signed languages. 

We also would be interested in working with you if you or your organization might be able to offer volunteer support in building the library or if you might be able to help raise awareness about the project in the disability community, the human rights community, and the poverty reduction and international development community.


If you have any questions, you can reach us at

Remember that you can learn more about the GDRL project by visiting the USICD website and clicking on GDRL under Initiatives or by visiting