Our story.

30 years in the making.

30 Years of Making Change

ADD was founded in Frome, Somerset, in 1985, nearly 30 years ago. Read more about our mission.

Building Movements

Since then we've been supporting people with disabilities to come together and campaign for equal rights.

In Africa and Asia

We work in Africa and Asia because poverty and disability fuel each other and disabled people are often the poorest.

30 years of supporting disability activists.

The journey so far.

For 30 years ADD International has been working alongside disabled people living in extreme poverty fighting for independence, equality and opportunity.

ADD International was founded as ‘Action on Disability and Development’ in 1985 by Chris Underhill, following a trip to Zimbabwe. Chris was blown away by the disabled people he met who were successfully changing attitudes and policies. 

A new approach.

At that time other charities working with disabled people in Africa based their work on the medical model which frames disability as a medical problem requiring ‘treatment’. Chris saw a clear need for a new approach, and wanted to create a development agency for disabled people.

And so ADD’s locally led way of working evolved, taking on a social or human rights perspective that states it is not the individual who is disabled, but the way society treats them that creates disability.

The birth of self-help groups.

In many countries, ADD International was the first organisation introducing the idea of “self-help groups of people with disabilities” (SHGs). These were initiated to service the need of people with disabilities to gain self-motivation, capacity building and the ability to advocate for their rights.

Still today, people with disabilities use self-help group as forum for to share concerns and experiences and to develop together.

Building movements. Leaving no one behind. 

Throughout the years, ADD International helped self-help groups to form their own organisations at district and provincial level to ensure sustainability. Since then, we turned our focus on developing the capacity of these organisation and to become disabled people’s organisations (DPOs), empowering them to support the development and running self-help groups at village level.

And as our work has grown we have become more aware of the complexity within the disability debate and the myriad needs and issues faced by disabled people, including the necessity to tackle marginalisation within the disability movement itself, which can exclude people who are poorer, uneducated, women, younger people, and people with certain impairments.

The future. A learning organisation.

We believe the strength of an organisation lies partly in its ability to learn from its experience and to feed that learning into improved practice, and as we work with our partners for independence, equality and opportunity for disabled people, we are committed to embedding learning into every facet of our work.

It’s our ambition to become the expert agency on disability and development. 

Margaret, laughing
Kid with mirror
Cambodian women at a workshop

Discover more.

We support disability activists in Africa and Asia challenge disability discrimination and negative attitudes in their countries. Find out more about our unique approach.

Members of Cambodian disabled people's organisation

About ADD International

For the world's forgotten minority. Our aim is to achieve positive and lasting change in the lives of disabled people, especially those living in poverty.

Our approachHow we support disability activists

Working locally. Changing lives globally. Read more.

The global disability crisis

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Leave a legacy

Writing a will can be one of the most empowering things you ever do. And it is really simple. Learn more about leaving a legacy to ADD.

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