Fellow Since 1993
Independent Living Programme
This profile was prepared when Foluke Idowu was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
Foluke Idowu's Independent Living program enables disabled people first to discover and then to do what they can do for themselves. The first step in her carefully worked-out program engages a disabled person in a process of "self-advocacy" that helps the person to come to terms with his or her particular condition. Once the person learns some effective techniques, he or she is encouraged to practice them in the next step of "community advocacy."Community advocacy involves working with other disabled persons to participate actively in community life and politics, both as an end in itself (participation is self-affirming) and as a means to educate the larger community about the potential of disabled people to be vibrant and self-reliant members of society.Persons going through this progression of activities and mastering the techniques taught by Foluke invariably lead fuller and more productive lives–not only in the social-political sphere but also economically and even spiritually. The fact that these persons have become self-empowered is a critical part of Foluke's strategy to extend the benefits of her program. She recruits the graduates of her program to help other disabled people realize their potential. Graduates of her program become role models and counselors for those coming in to the program. This is, in Foluke's view, implicitly and explicitly superior to disability programs based on the authority of able-bodied "experts."The big next step for Foluke is to integrate her program for empowerment into community life. Toward this end, she reaches out to the families of disabled persons and existing groups that undertake projects for the disabled. She envisions the creation of "community-based independent living groups," which will demonstrate to communities what genuine integration of disabled people into family and community life could be. To form these "Independent Living Centers," as she calls them, Foluke has designed a model educational facility that will train disabled and non-disabled people, young and old, together.