RESOURCES: Making Sanitation and Water Accessible for Disabled People

Posted on 11 June 2008. Filed under: Mobility Impariments, Reports, Resources, Water and Sanitation | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The World Bank tells us that 2.6 billion of the world’s population do not have access to basic sanitation and hygiene. In rural areas, that means people may defecate in open fields. In cities, they may defecate into plastic bags and throw them into street. The result? Disease and sometimes death. But access to sanitation isn’t only a health issue. It is also an education issue. When girls don’t have a sanitary, private place to take care of their needs during menustration they skip school.

The World Bank also tells us that a billion of the world’s population lack access to a clean source of water. This is again both a health issue and an education issue. Dirty water makes people sick. And children who must spend upwards of two hours a day simply fetching water from the nearest water source may have no time left to attend school or study.

Data on sanitation and water access for people with disabilities is hard to find. But the little literature I have seen on the topic suggests that their needs are often left out when projects strive to bring either to a new village or neighborhood. This means they are left more vulnerable to disease than their neighbors. This situation also unequally deprives disabled people of their right to dignity.

So what can be done?

No single answer will suit all cases. First of all, the facilities themselves vary widely: a toilet, for example, might be a Western-style seat in some countries but an Asian-style porcelain bowl in the ground in other countries. Second of all, a person who walks on crutches due to the after-effects of polio may have different needs than a person who walks without aid but who cannot bend easily. Both of these individuals may have different needs still from the person who uses a wheelchair due to spinal cord injury, whose needs will also differ from those of another wheelchair rider who has cerebral palsy. Creativity and resourcefulness will always need to be key components of any plan to make water and sanitation services accessible for all.

The Water, Engingeering, and Development Center at Loughborough University has gathered a list of links to articles and resources related to water and sanitation access for disabled people. Here, you can find a briefing note on why the East African water and sanitation sector needs to consider the needs of disabled people. Or scroll further down their web page to find links to reports about water and sanitation projects for people with disabilities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Uganda, and elsewhere.

Start exploring at:

Author Mahesh Chandrasekar in India has also written an article based on his own experience in making sanitation more accessible for himself, entitled “Water and Sanitation for All,” available at

People interested in on-going discussion about the topics of disability, water, and sanitation may be interested in joining the Disability, Water, and Sanitation listserv. More information is available on the listserv at You will note from a quick glance at the archives that discussion on this list seems to be somewhat slow and sporadic. But many lists do revive once new members join them, so it may be worth a try.

Another We Can Do post related to water and sanitation includes one about a handbook on how to make water ans sanitation accessible to disabled people, also from the Water, Engineering, and Development Centre of Loughborough University.

I learned about the literature at the Water, Engineering, and Development Centre of Loughborough University after browsing some links from the World Bank web page on rural development and disability. I learned about Mahesh Chandrasekar’s article through email correspondence with the author. We Can Do readers might be interested in browsing some of Mahesh Candrasekar’s other articles on disability and human rights; disability and discrimination; universal access/barrier free environment; disability and development; and access to education.

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NEWS: Disabled to Vote in Karnataka, India

Posted on 22 April 2008. Filed under: Blind, Democratic Participation, Human Rights, Mobility Impariments, News, South Asian Region, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

People with disabilities in Karnataka, India, have now won the right to accessible polling locations in the upcoming May 10, 2008, assembly elections, Action Aid India has reported.  All officials involved with the upcoming election have been alerted to the requirement to install ramps and Braille voting booths so that people with mobility and vision impairments will be able to vote.

Delegates, including people who use wheelchairs or have vision impairments, visited political party officies to raise demands for access to voting polls.  However, the offices themselves were not accessible to the delegates because they had no ramps. 

Read the full story on the successful fight to achieve voting rights for disabled people in Karnataka, India, at:

Are you working to achieve voting rights for disabled people in your own country?  If so, you might wish to review a letter written to Chief Electoral Officers in India  (PDF format, 2.29 Mb) last fall as part of the campaign to advocate for more accessible voting locations; unfortunately, the second part of the PDF file seems to be an image, which may be inaccessible to people using screen readers:

While you are at the Action Aid India web site, you may wish to also browse among some of the other resources linked there related to disability rights.

We Can Do first learned about this news from Ghulam Nabi Nizamani.

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REPORT: State of Disabled People’s Rights in Kenya (2007)

Posted on 17 January 2008. Filed under: Academic Papers and Research, Blind, Cognitive Impairments, Cross-Disability, Deaf, Human Rights, Mobility Impariments, Reports, Sub-Saharan Africa Region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Originally published at (We Can Do) at]

A recent publication, entitled “State of Disabled People’s Rights in Kenya (2007) Report,” analyzes national and regional Kenyan legislation on disability; government programs and policies on disability, and case law in disability. The report also presents the results of interviews with disabled people in three selected regions within Kenya about their human rights situation, in respect to dignity, autonomy, equality, and inclusion. Deaf people, blind people, and people with mobility impairments, and intellectual disabilities were interviewed. An overview of the disability rights movement in Kenya is given.

The examination of legislation and policies found that the Constitution of Kenya guarantees the human rights and liberties of all citizens. However, although the constitution outlaws discrimination on grounds such as race, tribe, or color, it does not specifically outlaw discrimination on the basis of disability. Further, anti-discrimination laws have not been enforced in cases where disability-related discrimination has occurred.

Interviews with individual disabled people in Kenya found that nearly three-quarters had been denied the right to make decisions affecting their own lives. Also, 80% report experiencing segregation, isolation, and lack of support for their needs. More than one-third reported that their own families had committed abuse or violence on them, and more than 45 percent said their families did not allow them to participate in family activities on the same basis as other family members.

The report recommends strengthening the capacity of Disabled People’s Organizations to address human rights issues; mainstreaming disability rights issues into government bodies and the national development strategy; involving disabled people and their organization in improving anti-discrimination legislation; and making the court process more accessible to disabled people so they can more effectively challenge disability-based discrimination.

The “State of Disabled People’s Rights in Kenya (2007) Report” was commissioned by the African Union of the Blind in collaboration with the Kenyan Union of the Blind, the World Blind Union, and the Centre for Disability Rights Education and Advocacy (CREAD), with support from the Swedish International Development Agency, the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired, and Disability Rights Promotion International (DRPI).

The report can be read on-line at

The report also can be downloaded in PDF format (1.2 Mb) at

This article has been reposted at the web site with permission of author. RatifyNow is an organization working to maximize the number of countries signing, ratifying, and implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

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Helping Make We Can Do Accessible

Posted on 7 January 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Inclusion, Introduction to "We Can Do" | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Do you have an interest in ensuring that We Can Do is accessible to as many people as possible? Do you have advice, ideas, feedback, concerns, or other comments to share related to accessibility at We Can Do? If so, please consult the new page on “Accessibility“. I can use YOUR help. This can be as simple as two minutes of your time to comment on accessibility barriers you have encountered at We Can Do. Or it could mean 10 or 20 minutes to help advise me on how to create a table and make it accessible to blind people. Or it could mean a more extensive, on-going commitment to translate We Can Do materials into other languages.

“Accessibility” in part refers to making We Can Do accessible to people with disabilities. The disability group that tends to face the most barriers on the Web are people with vision impairments. Of particular concern are people who use screen readers, whether due to vision impairments or for other reasons such as dyslexia. So far, the people I know who use screen readers have not told me about any problems in navigating We Can Do. But each screen reader is different. And sometimes different people differ in how well they know how to use the equipment they have. So if you use a screen reader, I still want to hear your feedback on accessibility at We Can Do. I also would welcome advice and assistance in specific areas such as making pictures or tables accessible to blind people. If you think you might be able to help, please consult the Accessibility page for more details about what questions I have.

People who are blind are not the only people who face accessibility barriers. People who are deaf or hard of hearing, or have mobility impairments, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, or cognitive disabilities all face challenges in navigating the web. If you might have feedback you want to share in these areas, please consult the Accessibility page and share your comments.

At We Can Do, I am concerned with not only accessibility for people with disabilities fortunate enough to have Internet access and literacy skills. I also want to ensure that We Can Do is as accessible as possible for people in developing countries who may be using very old, slow equipment and dial-up connections. Or for people who cannot access the Internet at all. Or who do not read well in English. If you have thoughts you want to share, or if you have the time and interest to help, please consult the Accessibility page and contact me.

I realize I have been posting many “administrivia” items at We Can Do lately and somewhat fewer fresh materials. I do have a couple more pages in mind that I want to add to the top navigation bar. But I will also be posting more news, resources, and papers in the coming few weeks. Please do keep coming back to We Can Do.

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NEWS: Christian Blind Mission Now for All Disabilities

Posted on 6 January 2008. Filed under: Blind, Cross-Disability, Deaf, Education, Mobility Impariments, News, Psychiatric Disabilities, Rehabilitation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The Christian Blind Mission has announced that they will now serve people with all disabilities, not only people with vision impairments. Until now, the century-old organization also known as Christoffel Blinden Mission and now officially named cbm, has focused its efforts on preventing and treating blindness and on providing education and rehabilitation services for people with vision impairment.

“The organization has decided that its purpose and work is to improve the quality of life of all persons with disability, which includes those with hearing or physical impairment and mental ill health as well as those with visual loss,” says CBM president, Prof. Allen Foster.

CBM has also issued a new motto: “Together we can do more.” The word “together” is meant to emphasize the importance of partnership, particularly with organizations in low-income countries and with mainstream development organizations. The phrase “we can” is meant to emphasize ability over disability. And “do more” is meant to challenge the fact that the majority of people with disabilities in developing nations do not receive the medical, educational, and rehabilitation services they need.

CBM works with more than 700 partners in more than 100 countries to serve more than 18 million people with disabilities.

More detail can be found at:

Thank you to Ghulam Nabi Nazimani for helping alert me to this news.

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