RESOURCE: Handbook for Making Water and Sanitation Accessible to Disabled People
A book is available that can help water specialists, disabled advocates, and family members learn how to make water supply and sanitation services more accessible for people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.
According to the World Bank, more than one billion poor people lack access to clean drinking water, and more than two billion people lack access to clean sanitation facilities such as toilets. Dirty water and lack of a clean place to defecate can make poor people sick. And sick people may die more easily, or become even poorer than they were before.
People with disabilities, particularly mobility impairments, may face even more barriers in accessing clean water or sanitation. Water pumps might be poorly designed for people who have difficulty using one or both hands, or toilets may not be appropriately designed for people who have difficulty squatting. Many other individuals who are not ordinarly thought of as “disabled” may also face similar barriers, including frail elderly people; pregnant women; people carrying or taking care of babies and young children; and other individuals.
The book, Water and Sanitation for Disabled People and Other Vulnerable Groups, was written particularly for planners and service providers in the water supply and sanitation sector. Disabled people’s organizations, and service organizations targeted at disabled people and their familieis, may also find some of the information useful to their work. It provides practical information, ideas, and guidance about how to meet the needs of people in “real communities”–meaning, places where people “come with a wide range of shapes, sizes, abilities, and needs.”
This book is written so that users can skip over the chapters they don’t need and focus on the chapters they want. The first, introductory chapter may be useful for all readers. The second chapter answers the question, “Why should the water and sanitation sector consider disabled people”: it is written primarily for people who have little contact with disability issues but might also be helpful for some advocates. For example, the pictures on page 10 could be useful in educating others about the multiple types of barriers that disabled people face in society–not only in water and sanitation.
Chapter 3 helps explain the water and sanitation sector to disabled people, disability service providers, and advocates. Chapter 4 helps explain disability issues to water and sanitation professionals, engineers, public health workers, and community development workers.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 provide practical ideas for how to make physical facilities more inclusive: these can be useful both for professionals and also for disabled people and their families.
Chapter 8 offers ideas for planning and implementing services with disabled people in mind. Section 8.2 is particularly meant for water and sanitation service providers, while section 8.3 is mainly meant for the disability sector.
Chapter 9 presents case studies that illustrate how disabled people and their families have benefitted from improved access to water and sanitation facilities. Case studies are shared from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Uganda, and Tibet.
The appendices point readers to further resources that can help them learn more about either water and sanitation issues or disability issues.
A print version of the book can be purchased from the Water, Engingeering, and Development Centre (WEDC) of Loughborough University; or a PDF version can be downloaded for free. For more information about the book and how to obtain it, go to
People with visual impairments should note that, in order to download the PDF file, you would need to enter a visual image “captcha.” I did not see any clear instructions for alternate means for people with visual impairments to download the file. (If they exist and I missed them, please alert me in the comments area below.) You can contact WEDC by email to either share your concerns/feedback or to request assistance at: WEDC@lboro.ac.uk. I would be interested in knowing about the experiences of anyone with a visual impairment who tries to obtain this (or any other) book from WEDC.
When I downloaded my own copy, I left a comment encouraging WEDC to offer auditory captcha in addition to visual captcha and to also give people the means of contacting them to ask for assistance in downloading or receiving PDF files. I haven’t heard back from them yet. If I do, I’ll try to remember to come back here and share what they say.
We Can Do learned about this resource by browsing the Siyanda on-line database of gender and development materials. Try entering key words such as “disabilities” into the Siyanda search engine.
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