Autonomy for all

Launched earlier this year, ACT’s Autonomy for Adults with Disabilities Project is now in full swing. So what exactly have they been up to? And – excitingly – what are they hoping to achieve with the first phase of the project?

Autonomy is reflective of human dignity and equality. It is the independence and the freedom to make one’s own choices.

Through this project, ACT want to see transformation come to several areas where it is so desperately needed.

  • In attitudes towards people with disabilities from their families and communities as well as professional staff and, at times, from themselves.
  • In feelings that families are ill-equipped to care for a person with disabilities.
  • In feelings of hopelessness for life opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • In a lack of healthy cooperation and partnership between families and associations.

In the south of Tunisia, ACT has been running trainings on various elements of autonomy, as well as looking to promote a better understanding of disability and human rights.

Practically, those who’ve attended the trainings have expressed an improved outlook about their role, and people with disabilities have been given opportunities to lead some of the trainings.

An exciting change to be a part of!

Building autonomy

[In some of our trainings with people with disabilities, their families and partner centre staff] we have been talking about autonomy like building a house – it takes time. It takes partnerships.


First, you need to clear the land of bad attitudes.


Second, you need to lay foundations of listening to, confidence in and partnership with people with disabilities – and their families.


Next we build the walls – the walls of self-expression, self-direction, self-reliance and freedom of choice.

Next we put the furniture in, which is how people with disabilities contribute to society – work skills, volunteering skills, social relationships.


Lastly, if we don’t have a roof, all of our furniture and walls will be ruined when bad weather comes. In the same way, if we only do trainings, we will just forget them and we won’t reach our goal of transformation for all.

This is why, in the next phase of the project, we will start family support groups, as well as self-advocacy groups and livelihood projects. The trainings give us the context to network people with disabilities and their families – we plan to leverage this network into ongoing activities with sustainable outcome


– ACT Project Manager Phil, who has been using props to help explain and engage listeners on the topic of autonomy.

Community owned

The subject of the various topics to be covered have come from within the communities, families and from people with disabilities themselves. There were requests for trainings in a variety of areas, such as autonomy, advocacy, clinical skills and human rights, as well as employment opportunities.

“We hope to train people who in turn train people from their communities, who we otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” says ACT Project Manager Phil. “We’re hoping that the few we have access to will share their knowledge with a further few.”

Who will share with a further few. Who, in turn, will share even further.

Everyone’s getting in on it. “Centres are excited to be a part of this,” says ACT Project Staff Massika. “They’re not used to having trainings for families as well as staff.”

Mohammed Chaaben (pictured above) is the co-trainer in this project. Sadly, he recently passed away. ACT mourns his loss, and is thankful for his friendship and support.

Grateful for partnerships

ACT has a long history of working with the UTAIMs in both Gabès and Medenine, as well as some experience working with AGIM Medenine.

Previously, it has been through establishing vocational training programmes, educational curriculum, training personnel, as well as assiting to run livelihood projects, and supporting a vocational training programme.

It’s an honour to be able to partner with them once again under this project.

For long lasting, deep rooted transformation to take place, ACT longs to see the establishing of support groups for families. Spaces where experiences can be exchanged and people can be strengthened. For self-advocacy groups and livelihood projects to be established, in order to put autonomy into practice.

To continue to discuss, learn and grow together, reaching and teaching those who in turn will be able to reach and teach others.