Self-Help Organisations for the Disabled

The disabled are making their voices heard through dedicated self-help organisations like Procap and many others.The introduction of disability insurance initially represented their top concern, before shifting the priorities to equal rights of the disabled.

Associations dedicated to the disabled can be divided into welfare organisations and self-help organisations. The welfare organisations (Pro Infirmis and Pro Mente Sana) are of charitable nature, while in self-help organisations the disabled represent their own rights and claims. Their main demands concern the ability to lead a financially secure and self-determined life and extensive integration in society and the world of work. 

Procap (formerly the Swiss Association for the Disabled)

Procap is the most important self-help organization dedicated to the disabled. It was founded as the Swiss Association for the Disabled (SIV) in 1930. The leading figure behind the establishment of the SIV was Henri Pavid from Olten, who followed the example of the French National Federation of the Disabled. It was founded following the 1925 acceptance of the constitutional article that stipulated the creation of an old age, survivors’ and disability insurance. The first bill that would have executed this constitutional principle only took the AHV into consideration and ignored disability insurance (IV), which in consequence became the main priority of the SIV. However, this Lex Schulthess failed in 1931.

The SIV published the ‘Swiss Disability Journal‘ from 1931 to 1934, and again from 1944 onwards, and financed in part its activities by the sale of its disability calendar. Since 1954, the SIV opened second headquarter in La Chaux-de-Fonds, providing the western Swiss sections with greater autonomy.

The introduction of disability insurance continued to be a pressing objective. In 1948, the AHV entered into force, while the political demands of the disabled took the backseat. The SIV therefore invited representatives of national parties to Olten in 1951 and urged them to introduce disability insurance. Four years later, not one but two popular initiatives from the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party called for the creation of disability insurance. This push was ultimately successful; disability insurance was adopted by Parliament in 1960. The Swiss Association for the Disabled changed its name to ‘Procap’ in 2002. The self-help organization offers legal assistance and social insurance advice to its members. It runs workshops and homes for the disabled, as well as holiday camps. In addition, it acts as a contact partner for accessible construction and living, and for equal access to sports, leisure and culture.

AGILE.CH (formerly the Working Group of Swiss Self-Help Organisations for the Sick and Disabled, ASKIO)

Besides Procap, there are more than 40 other self-help organisations for the disabled that represent the interests of various disability groups. These organisations have been united under ASKIO (now AGILE.CH) since 1951. Once ASKIO admitted Pro Infirmis as a member in 1977, the Swiss Association for the Disabled left the ASKIO to set a clear distinction between assistance and self-help. The umbrella organization AGILE.CH coordinates activities between the associations and essentially stands for the same objectives as Procap.

Integration Handicap (formerly SAEB) and the Conference of the Umbrella Organisations for Disability Assistance (DOK)

Integration Handicap, previously known as the Swiss Working Group for the Integration of the Disabled (SAEB), was founded in 1951 on the initiative of Pro Infirmis. It acts as an umbrella organization for disability organisations and authorities committed to the professional integration of the disabled. Furthermore, the Conference of the Umbrella Organisations for Disability Assistance (DOK) considers itself to be a forum for all organisations related to private disability assistance and self-help.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Fracheboud Virginie (2014), L'introduction de l'assurance invalidité en Suisse (1944-1960): tensions au coeur de l'Etat social, Lausanne ; Froidevaux Bernard (1998), Chronique de l’ASI 1930-1997 et des sections romandes, La Chaux-de-Fonds.