I attended National Conference on Sanitation (NeCoSan) on March 15. When I reached the venue, I could not see other persons with disability present there. I was the only one.
There were four different sessions going on. I went to one called- Reaching the Unreached. This session included the presentation of different experts from sanitation sector. They discussed how to include the marginalised community in the broader sanitation programmes. These were mostly technical. Some of the speakers also talked about problems faced by disabled people in sanitation. However, it all seemed very plain because neither the speaker nor the audiences were from disability community.
A volunteer helping Mr Bhoj Raj Shrestha to get into a government building. Mr Shrestha, disability rights activitst was invited to attend a talk programme by Department of Communications. However, the main entrance of this building had stairs making it hard for him to get in. Photo Source: Republica National Daily
People with disabilities often face barriers to accessing water, sanitation and hygiene services. A major reason for this is that they are typically not consulted during the planning and installation of facilities.
Disabled people are often the poorest people in a community. Disability and poverty are interlinked – both a cause and effect of one another. As a result, disabled people are often excluded from community decision-making and their voice is left unheard.
Sometimes this exclusion happens unknowlingly, even if a service provider has planned to engage with every member of the community. Meetings may be organised at places that aren’t accessible to people with disabilities – for example, on the second or third floor. Consideration may not be given to severely disabled people who can’t leave home to participate in community meetings. (more…)
The biggest problems for people with disabilities are typically not related to their particular impairment, but obstacles in their environment and society’s perception of their value. All those responsible for providing water, sanitation and hygiene services have a key role to play in combating discrimination and overcoming attitudinal, institutional and environmental barriers to access.
Using appropriate, context-specific words that respect the dignity of people with disabilities is an essential part of equity and inclusion. If we refer to a disabled person as if there is a problem with them, we are more likely to focus on the person as a problem. This is in line with the ‘individual model’ of disability. The remedy, this model suggests, is to segregate the disabled person from society or cure them. However, if this is the case, the barriers to access will go unnoticed and continue to be an issue. (more…)
Not too long ago, high steps, narrow doors and other physical obstacles were considered to be the only barriers for people with disabilities to access water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. Service providers set about creating accessible WASH facilities focused on removing these barriers. They began to build toilets and water taps that were easy to reach, installed ramps for wheelchair users and widened toilet doors. These actions have certainly helped to make facilities more accessible for people with disabilities, but alone they have not proved to be sustainable solutions for inclusion.
Many people with disabilities are denied their right to WASH due to a different kind of barrier – attitudes. Attitudinal barriers relate to people’s perspectives towards disability; for example, people with disabilities are often viewed as ‘sick’ or ‘needy’, and providing WASH facilities for them is seen as an act of charity rather than an essential part of every programme. These barriers are due to cultural and social beliefs or taboos that have been present in society for many years. (more…)
Recently, I got the opportunity to take part in a rally to put pressure on the Government to take the issues of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) more seriously. The rally was part of the South Asia Regional campaign on Sanitation. held on 19 March in Kathmandu.
The campaign was joined by school students, teachers, journalists, representatives from different non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Members of Parliament from countries in the South Asia region and high level government authorities from Nepal. The rally urged the South Asian governments to keep their promises on sanitation. Two members of the UK House of the Lords were also present and walked together with more than thousand other participants to show support for the cause.
I was amazed and encouraged to see a significant number of people with disabilities present at the campaign as people with disabilities are often not represented by issue-based organisations. But WaterAid in Nepal, who co-hosted the campaign, are committed to including people with disabilities in campaign activities. They invited the National Federation for the Disabled, Nepal (NFDN) and the umbrella organisation of all disability public organisations (DPOs) to the events.
Progress towards universal access to water and sanitation is being made. The Government of Nepal recently passed a directive to ensure that all public spaces – from schools and colleges to hotels and banks – must be accessible to disabled people.
Public bathrooms and toilets are included in the plans and the announcement means that all new facilities must be built with ramps and accessible paths. Inside, grab rails, accessible shelves and commodes should be available, ensuring that users will not have to strain or squat to use the facilities, which is painful or impossible for many people with disabilites.
Access to water has also been included in the directive, which states that public taps must be installed at heights that allow people who use a wheelchair to reach them. Water should also not be allowed to spill on the floor, which could be dangerous for people with physical disabilies. Ramps and rails must be installed to allow wheelchair users to access facilities and doors must open with space for people with physical disabilities to move safely and with dignity.
The changes will mean that facilities must be constructed with disabled people in mind and will encourage equal access to safe water and sanitation for everyone.
The post is written by Mr Sagar Prasai – sagarDOTprasain@gmailDOTcom