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…)
In my first post, I talked about Sita Maya’s difficulty in going to the toilet, which was at a distance from her house in Baglung. But a lack of access to toilet is something urbanites with disabilities such as me face too – all the time.
I am a wheelchair user in Kathmandu. I try to travel around Kathmandu as much as I can. But it is difficult for me to find a wheelchair accessible toilet in the city. Most cinema halls, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, banks, private organisations, NGOs, INGOs and even government offices do not have toilets that provide access to a wheelchair user.
The blogger - Sagar Prasai
Sita Maya, 46, of Devisthan in Baglung district in central Nepal is a physically- challenged single woman.
Her legs are shrunken due to polio. She cannot walk. Because of the hilly nature of her village, she cannot use a wheelchair to move around her neighborhood. Polio affected her right hand too. She crawls with the help of her left hand.
In Nepal, in rural areas, a toilet that’s built inside or adjacent to a house is considered, for cultural and religious reasons, to have polluting effects. In Sita’s case, her family built a toilet, but at a distance from the house.
Sita Maya at her house