Rodrigo Mendes

Ashoka Fellow
S?o Paulo, S?o Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 2004


This profile was prepared when Rodrigo Mendes was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Rodrigo has been a quadriplegic since he was 18, and his disability has exposed him to regular discrimination and exclusion. Though some groups and places in São Paulo are friendly to people with disabilities, there has been no systematic effort to implement the inclusion of disabled people that is required by law.
Using the art school he created in 1994 as a model, Rodrigo helps other organizations and institutions achieve inclusion for disabled people. Working primarily through his Inclusive Action Center, he partners with public and private schools, companies, citizen groups, and cultural institutions to dramatically expand the range of populations they can serve. He and his colleagues instruct their partner organizations on how to prepare their physical space to accommodate heterogeneous groups, and they offer advice to the teachers and co-workers of the disabled. By deepening awareness of and appreciation for disabled participants in these institutions, Rodrigo prepares the way for comprehensive reform. The overriding goal of all their work is the creation of an ethic of diversity in workplaces, schools and communities throughout Brazil.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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