Before 1995, Jaipur had only one institute for the intellectually challenged, leaving children with multiple disabilities without proper care. A group of individuals established Disha – A Center for special education in response to this need, providing opportunities for children with physical and intellectual challenges to reach their potential, receive suitable education and vocation, and raise awareness towards disability. Disha began with 17 students, a special educator, and four volunteers in a small house with a basement. With financial support from the Khaitan family and the public of Jaipur, Disha grew rapidly.
In 1995, Disha - A Center for special education was established in response to the need for education and rehabilitation for children with physical and intellectual challenges. After a year, the foundation was registered, and by the year 2000, the number of students had grown to 100. As the techniques of rehabilitation advanced, the number of students continued to rise, and Disha had to relocate to a larger building in Nirman Nagar due to congestion. The East organization became a major financial donor, allowing Disha to focus more on rehabilitation and advocacy. Disha also formed a group called "The Friends of Disha" to support its cause. To train specialized special educators, a Diploma course was started in 2002 with recognition from Rehabilitation Council of India. In the same year, the NandoPeretti Foundation in Italy granted funds to Disha for building a barrier-free building after Late Rajamata Gayatri Devi contacted Ms. Elsa Peretti, the foundation's chairperson.
In 2002, Ms. Elsa Peretti, the chairperson of the NandoPeretti Foundation, visited Disha and committed full financial support to construct a state-of-the-art, barrier-free building. The same year, Disha was appointed as the State Nodal Agency Center (SNAC) for Rajasthan by the National Trust. Disha widened its approach to become a Resource Center to cater to the growing needs of people with disabilities, which led to the strengthening and broadening of its existing centers and the introduction of new centers such as Sensory Integration and Human Resource Development. Disha also started a B.Ed. course in Intellectual Disability recognized by and affiliated to the University of Rajasthan. Disha's presence was recognized nationally and internationally through professional networking, and it established collaborations with eminent universities like Boston University of USA, NMIMS Mumbai, and Symbiosis Pune.
In 2007, Disha established the Special Olympics Bharat program to extend its services to differently-abled children in Rajasthan. The program resulted in Nand Kishore, a student at Disha, showcasing his exceptional skills in skating, motivating Disha to train him further. Within three years, he emerged as a world-class athlete, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals in the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens. Anurag Rathi and Sumit Garg followed his example, winning medals at the 2013 Commonwealth Games in Australia. In 2015, Anurag Rathi and Charu Taneja also won bronze medals at the World Summer Games in Los Angeles. After 15 years of experience, Disha felt confident in its ability to achieve its vision of serving people with special needs. To facilitate early intervention, Disha started a pilot project in collaboration with the National Rural Health Mission at the Government Hospital in Sanganer, Jaipur, aimed at identifying children at risk and rehabilitating them quickly. Disha also initiated community-based rehabilitation programs at Bhankhrota, Jaisinghpura, and Mahapura, and a three-month mother and child training program that was open to all mothers and their children.
Additionally, Disha partnered with Rajasthan Mission of Livelihood to provide vocational training for children with disabilities, which earned them the FORHEX Award twice for their exceptional craft work.The seed sown “To love, To understand, To help” by a handful of committed and sensitive persons has bloomed. We need your support to grow further into a sprawling tree under whose shadow all people with special needs can take shelter.