The Autism and Rare Diseases Awareness (ARDA) outreach program at the Centre for Health Ecologies and Technology (CHET), IIACD, Bangalore was launched in 2009. ARDA’s goal is to generate awareness of Autism and other rare/neglected diseases/disorders through its workshops, seminars, exhibitions, film screenings. ARDA team also work with other colleagues at CHET in empowering patient communities through health literacy programs to make informed choices and promote wellbeing.
ARDA’s advocacy team works closely with patient advocacy communities, doctors, public health workers, aganwadi workers, state agencies, village councils and other key stakeholders. Using innovative use of the arts, new media and technologies, ARDA team supports medical humanities researchers and creative team at CHET in documenting and self representation of personal experiences and narratives of people with rare disorders.
CHET’s ARDA outreach programme and the MHBI organized a Rare Diseases film festival in 2016 in partnership with ORDI (Organization of Rare Diseases of India).
IIACD’s ARDA team partnered with Autism Society of India (ASI) and parents of children with Autism in organizing the second World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD 02) events in Bangalore on April 2nd, 2009. ARDA curatorial team conceptualized and curated an Art 4 Autism exhibition at Alliance Francaise, Bangalore with paintings and poetry by children with Autism. Crafts and other creative output of people with Autism were exhibited and sold at this event by several organizations.
ARDA team collaborated with ASI in organizing expert panel discussions on Autism at Alliance Francaise and Chancery Hotel. The panelists included experts and parents. Awareness was also spread through the art and creative performances of talented children with Autism. At the suggestion of the ARDA team, Kirtana Kumar, a leading theatre artist was invited to read out excerpts of Tito Mukhopadhyay’s writings at this event.
ARDA team undertook the responsibility of organizing the venue, food and raised the funds for all the WAAD 02 events and approached government agencies, corporate and individual sponsors. Sponsors included Strand Life Sciences Pvt Ltd, Chancery Hotel, KC Das and several individuals. The art exhibition and the panel discussions at Alliance and Chancery helped promote positive perceptions about people with Autism and highlighted the multiple challenges they and their caregivers face.
ARDA initiated an Art 4 Autism fundraising drive via social media which also helped raise awareness.