CBR Empowerment Framework

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Empowerment is the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities. This enables them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. Empowerment as action refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognize and use their resources.


Empowerment is the final component of the community-based rehabilitation (CBR) matrix and is a cross-cutting theme. While the first four components of the matrix relate to key development sectors

  • Health
  • Education
  • Livelihood
  • Social Sectors

The empowerment component focuses on the importance of empowering people with disabilities, their family members and communities to facilitate the mainstreaming of disability across each sector and to ensure that everybody is able to access their rights and entitlements.


Self-advocacy is an important part of empowerment. Many people with disabilities spend much of their lives not being listened to and being told what to do. Decisions are usually made for them by others. By learning self-advocacy skills, people with disabilities can learn to assert their rights, take control of their lives, and make the best decisions for themselves. Self-advocacy can be as simple as people with disabilities making choices about what to eat and what to wear, or at another level, it may mean that they speak out publicly about issues which are important to them such as commenting about a service they have used.

OUR GOAL: People with disabilities are able to speak out for themselves.


CBR personnel will need to work closely with people with disabilities and their families to ensure that they are able to develop communication skills. Support will be based on individual needs and circumstances and may be provided directly by CBR personnel or by others. Again resources, such as Let’s communicate, will provide many helpful suggestions. Following the identification of people with communication impairments, CBR personnel may:

  • facilitate referrals to specialist services where they exist, e.g. speech and language therapy;
  • ensure families are aware that speech may not be possible for some people and provide information about other forms of communication, e.g. sign language, communication boards;
  • ensure access to assistive communication devices where required; this may involve showing families how to make devices (see Health component: Assistive devices);
  • ensure that people who require hearing aids are provided with appropriate information about availability, fitting, care and use;
  • teach sign language or provide information about where to access sign language instruction;
  • encourage inclusion of people with communication difficulties in everyday activities and experiences (e.g. visits to the market, cleaning, fetching water) and teach simple words, phrases and gestures that can be used in the community;
  • link people to groups/clubs which provide opportunities for social interactions, e.g. deaf clubs, stroke clubs, sports clubs for people with disabilities, inclusive playgroups.



OUR GOAL: People with disabilities participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others.


Power is the ability to make informed choices and the freedom to take action. Decisions are made by people with power, and in all societies there are some people who are more powerful than others because of factors, such as age, gender role, ethnicity, political affiliation, economic situation. Power is present at every level of society, from the family through to government level – understanding who has the power to make decisions and why they have this power is an important first step in political participation. Barriers to political participation The barriers to political participation that people may face are similar to the barriers mentioned in other components of our programs . In summary they include the following.

Poverty – poor people are mostly focused on survival activities; their basic needs often need to be met first before they can participate, so they may have limited time or interest.

  • Education – without information and knowledge, meaningful participation in politics can be difficult.
  • Social isolation – there is a limited network to support and encourage political participation.
  • Personal factors – people may have limited confidence or motivation to participate.
  • Stigma and discrimination – majority groups may have prejudices, fears and discomfort towards people with disabilities and therefore may not support their participation.
  • Lack of disability-friendly processes – access barriers can make it difficult for people with disabilities to participate, e.g. inaccessible voting booths.
  • Lack of role models – in many countries or communities there are few examples of people with disabilities in high profile political positions.
  • Legal barriers – in many countries people with disabilities are not permitted to vote, e.g. people with mental health problems.