Nepal WASH Blog Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Development in Nepal

February 21, 2013

Ignorance of visually impaired in sanitation

Sushil Adhikari, 21, is a blind student. He lives at a college hostel in Kathmandu. The toilet at his hostel does not have appropriate facilities for him. There are no handrail for him to hold on to, nor footprints that he can feel to guide him on the way to the toilet.

As a result, he has to move his hand in and around the toilet to find where the pit hole is. This makes his hands dirty, not to mention that he has a hard time defecating in the right spot. Many times, he defecates outside the hole, and dirties the toilet. Other students and administrators at the hostel are irritated with him because of the extra cleaning that is required to look after Sushil.

Sushil Adhikari

Sushil cannot see. His lack of sight is natural. But the obstacles present in the society make him all the more disabled. We call these obstacles as barriers. There are two kinds of barriers: physical barriers and attitudinal barriers.

Physical barriers are man-made or are present in the environment. For Sushil, having a toilet at a distance is a barrier. Not having appropriate signposts to the toilet is an additional barrier. What’s more, not having information that he can use with regard to where the water source is or where the pit hole is inside the toilet on the wet and slippery floor add up to further barriers.

Attitudinal barrier is another type. Attitudinal barrier comes up due to perceptions of the society towards people with disabilities. These barriers are present because of innate negative attitude toward disability and/or due to lack of knowledge about disability on other people’s part.

In Sushil’s case, the hostel administrators’ taking his blindness as a problem, their not considering accessibility in toilet design, their not consulting Sushil for the toilet design, and their lack of knowledge about special needs that blind people face – all these are vivid examples of attitudinal barriers.

The solution to Sushil’s lack of access to user-friendly sanitation facilities starts from identifying and then reducing or removing these physical and attitudinal barriers.

The post is written by Mr Sagar Prasai – sagarDOTprasain@gmailDOTcom

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