Erika Foureaux

Ashoka Fellow
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Erika Foureaux was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
After giving birth to a daughter with cerebral palsy, Erika quickly became aware of the pressing need to promote the integration of children with different abilities in Brazilian society. She founded the Noisinho da Silva Institute, whose target audiences are children between the ages of one and six as well as their families, to “normalize” interactions between children of all abilities in schools and in their homes. In order to do so, she is developing a series of products and methodologies that adhere to the concept of universal design. Universal design refers to a broad-spectrum solution that brings about products and environments usable and effective for everyone, not just people with disabilities.

One of Erika’s flagship products is the Ciranda, a new type of chair that allows children with “diffabilities” to sit on the floor on their own. The Ciranda makes it possible for them to play with their siblings and peers in ways never before possible, and without constant supervision or support from adults. This innovative technology has the merit of responding to two different market needs. On the one hand, Erika has developed an upscale model of the Ciranda to respond to the demand of middle-class parents who seek inclusive solutions for their children. On the other hand, Erika also developed a Ciranda that can be built and assembled by low-income families at no cost to them through Ciranda-making workshops. The workshops are at once therapeutic and educational, and are financed through corporate sponsorships, as well as government and citizen organization (CO) funding. Since 2007, a total of 2,400 people have benefitted from the Ciranda: 600 children and their families now have access to a technology that enables the greater inclusion of diffabled children in Brazilian society.

Through the institute, Erika is also developing other lines of products such as the Socially Inclusive Desk used in classrooms. This product has already benefitted more than 100 children in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais thanks to a partnership with the Ministry of Finance. Both the Ciranda and the Desk are beginning to be sold to the government and to high-income populations in order to contribute to the financial sustainability of the organization and to enable it to serve an increasing number of low-income families. As a result of her work, Erika is also diligently raising awareness about the rights of people with physical disabilities, tackling prejudice and exclusion, intervening in public policy debates, and establishing partnerships with various companies and government entities to expand the reach and range of her products and services in the Brazilian market. She also aims to replicate the Ciranda-making workshops throughout Brazil by developing a distance education course.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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