Blog Post 4 - Banadzem Goodness - "Visual Impairment in Times of COVID-19"‚Äč

ūüďĆ Downloadable PDF version: Blog Post 4 – Banadzem Goodness – Visual Impairment in Times of COVID-19

May 2020

I am a young woman with a visual impairment, and I would like to tell you about my experiences in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon.  

The coronavirus is the main problem, but I am doing what I can to wear my mask and wash my hands when at home with running water and soap. 

I also have a hand sanitizer that I use when I am not at home. 

I practice distance and avoid greetings with the hand. 

I cough or sneeze with my elbow.

However, with my visual impairment, it is really difficult for me. 

It is very hard to read any of the information about the COVID-19 virus and to keep up with the current events. I sometimes have to rely on friends to tell me what is happening in the news.  

I am used to going out by myself. But that is more difficult now. If I go by myself, and reach somewhere, people will not want to help me because they do not want to come close to me like they used to. They will not want to give me assistance or directions.  

If I reach a place that is really rough, I can find myself tumbling, falling down.  

When I go somewhere now I need a personal guide, and that makes it very hard to have physical distancing. The person has to be very close to me. 

Then, there are buckets with water and savon around the town, where we are supposed to go and wash our hands. It is difficult to assess the places and understand how to use them. It is really difficult for me to use it. They have not placed things well, the bucket can be up and the savon in a different place. A sighted person would just see where they are. There is no explanation.  It would be difficult for someone to guide me about how to use it without touching me.  

So, now I just feel like always going with a guide, so my independence has gone down. 

Then, if I go out and have to take a taxi, the opening of doors of vehicles, well, I really have to touch a lot of places on the car to find the door handle. It is really difficult for me.  

I try to avoid touching my eyes and mouth. Then there is also the extra time and cost of just trying to manage all of these things.  

I just pray to get through this. 

ūüďė Prepared and written by Ms. Banadzem Goodness:¬†

Ms. Banadzem Goodness is a member of the North West Association of Women with Disabilities, and a recent graduate of the University of Bamenda in the Higher Teacher Training school, ENS Bambili, reading History. She is now working in a school in Magba, Cameroon. She comes from Nso, which has given her an understanding of the situation of rural people, and especially women with disabilities living in rural areas. As a woman with a visual impairment herself, who has overcome many obstacles, she is passionate about improving the situation for women and girls with disabilities in Africa. She has been an active member of the North West Women’s Association group working on improving access to smartphones for people with visual impairments.

Blog 3 - Louis Mbibeh - "On Knowledge Sharing and Communities of Practice for Inclusive Development"

ūüďĆ Downloadable PDF version: Blog 3 – Louis Mbibeh – On Knowledge Sharing and Communities of Practice for Inclusive Development

February 2020 

For over 6 years now I have been working with different groups of professionals in both low-income countries and in Europe and America in a variety of spheres. One of the key lessons I have learned so far is that working together is more fruitful than not working together.  

Growing up and working in a context where knowledge is sacred and knowledge sharing is not the norm, globalization has drastically turned the tides and broken the barriers. People are beginning to feel more comfortable sharing knowledge, sharing practices, and learning from each other, shaping their ideas, and growing together.   

This might sound so much like a myth in a context where nongovernmental organizations are in quest of funding and ready to protect their ideas as much as possible. In this context, knowledge sharing will meet with obstacles such as the protection of organizational interests, visions, and policies.  

I¬†was once told by a participant in a knowledge-sharing workshop ‚ÄúLouis,¬†you do not expect that we share our visions here, what if tomorrow we find out that people are already implementing our idea?‚Ä̬†There has always been this tendency of fear of the unknown¬†and that people will steal their ideas.¬†¬†

Some people think they are the ones that started the idea, so no other person should take it up or can be better up than they are.¬†¬†For instance, you could hear statements like ‚Äėwe started disability inclusion‚Äô.¬†Such thinkers fail to see that their vision is spreading if it is being implemented by other groups.¬†¬†

A useless idea will obviously die a natural death. Meanwhile, if your idea is going forward, then you should give credit to yourself and feel fulfilled. If the ideas propounded by great scientists were not propagated and further developed, the world will not be where it is today. The need for knowledge sharing and for working together collaboratively is so indispensable nowadays that it cannot be over-emphasized.  

However, we do not think it is completely wrong to protect ideas and conceptions. There is the need for intellectual property rights to be respected and people have to be recognized for the ideas and concepts they have developed.  

For instance, recognizing Wenger‚Äôs contributions in developing the community of practice idea¬†(Lave & Wenger, 1991,¬†Wenger,¬†1996)¬†does not stop you from innovating and going further with the idea, neither does it reduce¬†Lave and¬†Wenger’s point. Rather¬†using the concept of a community of practice¬†builds on¬†their¬†ideas;¬†the concept is propagated¬†and developed¬†further¬†to be even more beneficial¬†(Cockburn, Mbibeh & Awa, 2020;¬†Okwen, Signe,¬†Macpella, Mbibeh., & Cockburn, 2018; Pacholek et al, 2021).¬†¬†¬†

There are people who conceive ideas, others can turn those ideas into measurable activities and goals,¬†and others¬†who¬†will implement them in varying contexts. All these people do have different competencies and there is a need to recognize them.¬†They are all important.¬†Once you do not want to express your conceptions in the most professional way possible,¬†you¬†might¬†sit and say people have¬†‚Äústolen your ideas‚ÄĚ.¬†

Over time, learning and sharing knowledge in communities of practice has helped to break this myth of the shortage of ideas. We have experienced how people share their conceptions and how others help shape them into greater ideas permitting them to move ahead.  

Others have been inspired by ideas developed or presented by their peers, and in so doing the ultimate goal is met: improving the wellbeing of persons with disabilities and building a more inclusive society. I am thinking that there is no knowledge existing if it is not shared. There is no knowledge if others have not used it in varying ways and above all if it has not had any impact in the community and on humanity.  

It is thus imperative for professionals to work together and to share knowledge and practices. It is imperative that we not just shape the idea but learn even more from others. Along with studying in schools, experiential and practical knowledge is very important. It is easier to find this experiential knowledge within a context of a community of practice.  

We¬†each¬†have important contributions to make to creating and using what is called ‚Äúresearch‚ÄĚ.¬†¬†No serious professional lives alone in a vacuum. There is a need for networking, sharing,¬†and self-building.¬†¬†

The PIRL Network provides a platform for those interested in knowledge and research about disability-inclusive development to learn from each other and to grow in their profession.  

Citations:

  • Cockburn, L., Mbibeh, L., & Awa, J. C. (2019). The GRID Network: A Community of Practice for Disability Inclusive Development. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 30(2), 84‚Äď94.¬†https://doi.org/10.5463/dcid.v30i2.838¬†
  • Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Learning in doing: Social, cognitive, and computational¬†perspectives.Situated¬†learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815355¬†¬†
  • Okwen, M., Signe, J.,¬†Macpella, S., Mbibeh, L., & Cockburn, L. (2018). Professional collaboration for vision and healthcare in Cameroon. African Vision and Eye Health, 77(1), 10 pages.¬†doi:https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v77i1.434¬†
  • Pacholek, K., Prostean, M., Burris, S., Cockburn, L., Nganji, J.,¬†Nad√®ge, A. N., & Mbibeh, L. (2021). A WhatsApp community forum for improving critical thinking and practice skills of mental health providers in a conflict zone. Interactive Learning Environments.¬†https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10494820.2021.1890622¬†
  • Wenger,¬†E..¬†(1996). Communities of practice: The social fabric of a learning organization. The Healthcare Forum Journal, 39(4), 20.¬†

ūüďó Prepared and written by Dr. Louis Mbibeh:

Louis Mbibeh, Ph.D. is an independent, international researcher and consultant with more than 10 years of experience implementing research, evaluations, and development projects for national and international governmental and non-governmental organizations. He is a skilled project manager with in-depth experience implementing high-quality mixed methods research and evaluation projects in the fields of disability-inclusive development, inclusive education, disability, rehabilitation, health service delivery, communication, professional development, language development, and related aphasias. He has been the Coordinator of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services Community of Practice Project known as the Groups for Rehabilitation and Inclusive Development (GRID) Network Project for the past four years. He was Lecturer with the Cameroon Christian University and is currently with the Bamenda University of Science and Technology. He is a consultant with the health promotion organization HEPRORG Cameroon. He has provided quality assurance in a wide range of research projects and participated in the development of many related projects for both national and international partners. He is an editor and reviewer in several academic journals and has a number of publications in peer-reviewed journals. He has attended and presented papers in a wide range of national and international conferences.

You can see some of our videos here ūüďļ: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR2n1RG_4sFU9F1-Eot2WFQ/videos¬†¬†

Feel free to ask any questions and contribute to this blog.¬†¬†ūüď© ūüíĽ

Blog 2 - Marc Stephan Nkouly - "The Need to Work Collaboratively on Assistive Devices"

ūüďĆ Downloadable PDF version: Blog 2 – Marc Stephan Nkouly – The Need to Work Collaboratively on Assistive Devices

May 2020

Writing a blog post can be scary, especially writing about research when I am not yet seeing myself as a full researcher. But I love learning, and I have an inquisitive mind, and I appreciate how research can impact our communities. So, here it goes… 

One of my roles with the PIRL Project is to enable learning by helping people to have access to communication ‚Äď whether that is online, by phone, or in person.¬†¬†

I have been involved in projects with the disability and rehabilitation community for many years, and I am still learning a lot. One of the things I love most about this work is that I can share my passion for technology, and how different kinds of technologies can really open new opportunities for people.  

Living in Bamenda, Cameroon, I see the limitations we have but I also see so many opportunities. I love open-source approaches. I would love to see access in our African communities grow through the use of both complex technologies, like learning platforms, and what are now often seen as more simple technologies, like text messaging.  

I think the World Health Organization‚Äôs work on GATE is really important and is an initiative that all researchers, no matter what field, can benefit from knowing about. “GATE” stands for Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology. Whether you are living in the Global North or the Global South, you have a contribution to make in this area. We need to have more cooperation and collaboration on assistive technologies around the world so that everyone can get the support they need.¬†

Assistive technology is important, but it is just a tool. It is often a part that is forgotten or not prioritized in our contexts. Without good assistive technologies, people with disabilities and people living with other circumstances that put them in marginalized situations -like poverty or being part of an Indigenous community Рcannot be equal beneficiaries of the development occurring in their communities. More importantly, they can not fully contribute to the development process, even though they have much to offer.  

I am proudly a geek. I think that smartphones and computer access need to be seen as just as important as other assistive devices like eyeglasses, wheelchairs, prostheses, and hearing aids. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recognized access to assistive technology as a human right and has called for international cooperation to improve its access (read Article 32).  

The PIRL Project is just one step of many that are needed to make the world more inclusive and accessible. I am very happy to be able to be part of PIRL, and I look forward to discussing new innovations and strategies with you.

ūüďí Prepared and written by Mr. Marc Stephan Nkouly:

Mr. Marc Stephan Nkouly is an ICT Technical Support Specialist and CEO of STARC Enterprise, a company that provides related IT services to people and organizations of very different backgrounds. He has over 10 years of experience providing services to individual clients, and community-based and international organizations. His work includes designing websites, piloting online questionnaires, installing, configuring, and updating hardware and software, and troubleshooting for any related challenges. He understands local African realities and provides support to clients who have little or no knowledge about using ICT. Through his project CLICSpace, he has introduced IT to many beginners and is a very good coach in this domain. He places emphasis on teaching about the use of laptops, printers, telephone systems, routers, and modems as well as software like MS Office and the internet.

Blog 1 - Lynn Cockburn - "Introduction to the PIRL Project"

ūüďĆ Downloadable PDF version: ¬†Blog 5 – Sarah Lima – The Power of Connectivity

November 2020

For the Institute’s presentation on ‚ÄúNetwork Career Panel Q&A “How we got here,‚ÄĚ I had the pleasure of moderating an expert panel on inclusive disability research for the 2020 PIRL Institute. The experience was new to me as a first-time moderator of a panel discussion. The idea for this student session was to create a dialogue around conducting Disability Inclusive Development (DID) research, especially for students.¬†¬†

Before the presentation, I asked myself: How will all the panelists provide us with new insights? As we began the panel discussion, it became very clear to me that everyone’s unique career story, despite differences due to their varying positionalities, heavily touched on the theme of connectivity. Their past decisions connected with a number of important milestones, and despite all the challenges they embarked on, they all experienced certain hurdles. The discussion’s ending brought us to reflect on critical disability studies, particularly drawing on work in Cameroon.  

For Goli Hashemi’s work, she mentioned how she went from different academic trajectories and landed on the nuanced intersection of migration and disability studies. Drawing on her experiences with DID in Colombia, this often-overlooked intersection became a focal point for her study on the Hispanic community in Los Angeles, which led her to recognize the DID needs of diasporic communities. This new and unique connection was only made possible because of her time spent in Latin America and her previous work on disability legislation in Cameroon, along with her family’s earlier aspiration of her working in the medical field. Goli’s past experiences informed and complimented her research. This is thematically similar to Dr. Pedro Almeida’s discussion around cultivating community involvement in the diaspora, and how he was able to integrate his work in DID as an occupational therapist through his Latin roots as a Brazilian immigrant to Canada. Dr. Almeida used lived experience with his ethno-cultural community to establish a connection to his host country and to the diaspora. And through this conduit, he was able to navigate a new country, a new discipline, and create a new space in DID.  

The need to branch out in one’s research is also shown through Daniel Boyco’s discussion around starting off with an interest in DID, and exploring different countries to further this research and ending up with a thematic focus in climate action. Yet, he infuses his work on DID in this new research area as a means of informing others that disability inclusivity is important for social and economic wellbeing, as is a healthy climate.  

Dr. Ruheena Sangrar mentions that intersecting areas of interest to advance future opportunities is only possible if we acknowledge failure as a positive companion and teacher. In Dr. Sangar’s touchpoint, she discusses how her work in institutional care homes/ long-term care facilities, disability, and COVID-19 also created an opportunity to explore a new field of interest. This interest found her through a time where she had to acknowledge that opportunities did not have to be exactly what she studied or knew, but rather represented a chance to pivot into a direction that could incorporate other elements of her academic experience. She chose to take up something completely new because it was an opportunity that emerged from a place of difficulty and managed to endure honest conversations with herself about conquering unexplored terrains. This is similar to Dr. Louis Mbibeh’s story, which also mentions how his initial journey had him on the path to becoming a medical doctor. However, he soon realized that being a professor and a disability expert had inherent value, allowing him to instruct medical professionals on incorporating disability theory into medical practice.  

People with different lived experiences partook in our panel discussion, and yet they all witnessed a long path of self-discovery, reimagining their goals and abilities, and new unnoticed potentials for research. These connections are not capsuled inside their past; rather, they are constantly informing their ongoing research. The power of seeing oneself as connected with their lived experiences and present conditions is important for informing one’s decisions, be it academic research or professional ambitions.   

ūüďô Prepared and written by Sarah Lima, Graduate Research Assistant:¬†

Sarah Lima is currently a Masters of Global Affairs Candidate at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. She earned an Honours B.A. with Distinction at the University of Toronto and worked for the Centre of Global Social Policy (CGSP) in their Gender, Migration, and the Work of Care Project (GMC) as a research associate, and then at the faculty’s Migrant Mothers Project (MMP). Now, she is working with the PIRL Project alongside Dr. Lynn Cockburn and Professor Jane Davis by providing support for the PIRL’s research initiatives. 

ūüďĆ Downloadable PDF version: Blog 1 – Lynn Cockburn – Introduction to the PIRL Project

September 2019 

Welcome to the PIRL project and the PIRL Team and to the growing PIRL Network.  

We are so excited about this project! I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with this amazing group of people from around the world.  

We hope that you will explore our website, share suggestions, projects, and resources to learn more about what we are doing together and to grow our community of practice.  

We are thinking a lot these days about what research in disability-inclusive development is all about, and why it is important. Here are some ideas about what it is: 

  • Participatory ‚Äď The people who are impacted most by the research are included at all stages of the research process ‚Äď from conceptualizing and designing a project to collecting and analyzing data and information, to sharing and using the results. It means looking for ways to make participation possible.¬†¬†
  • Inclusive ‚Äď Strives to find ways to include people who learn and work in a variety of ways. DID research provides opportunities for people in different stages of their career and with diverse reasons for engaging in research to be part of the research¬†
  • Relevant and Action-oriented ‚ÄďFocused on issues and topics that matter in everyday life in our communities. This is research that aims to improve situations, especially for those who have been marginalized.¬†
  • Equity seeking ‚Äď These research processes and teams think about how to collaborate across huge differences in access to resources and situations where research is highly valued or less valued, in addition to the topic being researched.¬†
  • ‚ÄúSlow research‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Just as there is a ‚ÄėSlow movement‚Äô, we are increasingly thinking about this kind of approach to research as being ‚Äėslow research‚Äô ‚Äď not that it goes as slowly as possible but that research is better when we appreciate that our work is better when we do it at the right pace. It means not just doing things as quickly as possible. It means asking: What is a reasonable timeline for this project? DID research is not research that can be quickly done. Inclusive research takes time: to build relationships, to get enough funding, and to work out the best possible strategies. We are not saying we always get it right, but we are trying.¬†

How can the PIRL Project and Network help you? 

I really hope that you will learn from and contribute to this project. What kinds of learning opportunities and resources are you and your team looking for?  

Where eve you are in the world (our goal is to get people on all continents involved in the PIRL Network), or whatever stage of learning about DID research you are at (just starting or well experienced or somewhere in between), we would love to hear from you.  

We welcome your ideas and suggestions.¬†Write to pirl@utoronto.ca or contact any of the PIRL team members.¬†¬†ūüď¨ūüď®

ūüďē Prepared and written by Dr. Lynn Cockburn:

Lynn Cockburn, Ph.D., is an occupational therapist, educator, and researcher in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto. Her research interests focus on public health, community development, diversity, and interprofessional education in occupational therapy, rehabilitation, disability in Canada and Cameroon. In addition to her work at the University of Toronto, Lynn is Chair of ICDR-Cameroon of the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation. She has been involved in social inclusion, education, and research in the North West Region of Cameroon for over 15 years, collaborating with a number of organizations in the region.