Disability Inclusive WASH and COVID-19


Fifteen percent of the global population has a disability – that’s one in seven people.


The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of leaving no one behind while at the same time exacerbated existing and entrenched inequalities. As much as we are striving to include all when it comes to Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) - including all, the reality is, people are still being left behind. 


In these challenging times, those most vulnerable in communities are even more at risk.


People with disability already face multiple barriers when it comes to accessing WASH. They are also at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and are more likely to be disproportionately affected by the health, economic and social impacts of the global health pandemic.

Water for Women (in collaboration with CBM Australia) and one of our partners (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have launched two new resources on disability inclusive WASH to assist the sector to design and adapt its COVID-19 responses to ensure that people with disability are not left behind.

Below, we share these new resources and a selection of others which are a must read to help the WASH sector embed disability inclusion in all COVID-19 responses.



Front cover of disability inclusion and WASH guidance note

Disability inclusion and COVID-19: Guidance for WASH delivery

Prepared by CBM Australia (Disability Inclusion Advisors to Water for Women) and Water for Women, this guidance note has been developed to address the lack of resources specific to disability inclusion and WASH in COVID-19 responses.

WASH is a first line of defence against COVID-19 and our partners have been busy adapting their programming to help communities reduce their risk of exposure. This note provides technical advice and considerations to ensure all activities are disability inclusive.

This guidance note covers:

  • Key challenges facing people with disability in COVID-19 and WASH
  • Key disability inclusion actions for all WASH and COVID-19 programming
  • Additional actions for specific WASH and COVID-19 interventions

It also includes a handy checklist on key actions for disability-inclusive WASH and COVID-19

Tip: see the reference list on page nine for further reading and resources

View now


Cover page for disability inclusion and WASH blog

Summary report on considering disability in COVID-19 hygiene programmes

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Jane Wilbur has developed this excellent technical brief on considering disability in COVID-19 hygiene programmes.

Applying the principles of human rights (equality and non-discrimination, participation, transparency, accountability and sustainability) within COVID-19 responses can reduce inequalities. Community-level hygiene and COVID-19 prevention programmes are also an opportunity for WASH actors to practice disability-inclusive WASH, something the sector has been prioritising in recent years.

This technical brief draws on formative research on disability inclusive WASH being undertaken by LSHTM as part of their Water for Women project and is full of useful information and considerations including barriers to handwashing and how to include people with disabilities in COVID-19 WASH responses as well as some handy DOs and DON'Ts.

This resource and many other useful resources for COVID-19 response live on the LSHTM's Hygiene Hub.

View now


WHO guidance brief cover for disability inclusion and COVID-19

Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak

In March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, to be a pandemic, due to the speed and scale of transmission. WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Certain populations, such as those with disability, may be impacted more significantly by COVID-19. This impact can be mitigated if simple actions and protective measures are taken by key stakeholders.

Actions need to be taken to ensure that people with disability can always access the health-care services, water and sanitation services and public health information they require, including during the COVID-19 outbreak.

View now


Disabled man sitting on bench handwashing with soap

Putting equality, inclusion and rights at the centre of a COVID-19 water, sanitation and hygiene response 

by WaterAid's Priya Nath and Louisa Gosling // Photo credit: WaterAid/ Anindito Mukherjee


The poorest and least powerful sections of all societies are likely to be worst affected in crises, but we can work to alleviate inequalities through our response. In this in depth blog, WaterAid's Priya Nath and Louisa Gosling highlight how our emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic can mitigate new and existing vulnerabilities among people affected.


Guidance for creating empowering and inclusive WASH and COVID-19 responses

Guideline: Empowering and Inclusive WASH and COVID-19 responses

The above blog should be read in conjunction with WaterAid's guidelines document which was designed to help provide practical guidance to WaterAid Country Programs (and wider WASH sector) on how to ensure our WASH and Covid-19 responses are inclusive, empowering and do no harm.


Handwashing compendium cover

Handwashing Compendium for Low Resource Settings: A Living Document

Frequent and proper handwashing with soap is vital to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In response, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has developed this Handwashing Compendium for Low Resource Settings.

Bringing existing information from different organisations into one place, the compendium provides guidance, local examples of and further resources on accessible low-cost handwashing facilities, environmental cues and physically distanced hygiene promotion.

The compendium is a living document which will be updated regularly as more examples and good practice emerge.

View now


Cover page of disability inclusion in systems strengthening

Disability Inclusive Systems Strengthening in WASH: How can we do it better?

The growing commitment to disability inclusive WASH within the sector has seen much progress in terms of accessible WASH infrastructure at all levels and support for people with disability to manage their WASH needs within their households and communities.

The WASH sector is also increasingly focused on the broader enabling environment for WASH policy and practice, or on strengthening ‘WASH systems’. The linkage of these two streams of work, however, remains an area for further learning and innovation.

This Learning Brief 'Disability Inclusive Systems Strengthening in WASH: How can we do it better?' aims to advance the collective learning on these issues by reflecting on the discussions throughout the Water for Women event Systems Strengthening for Inclusive WASH learning event held in December 2019 in Nepal.



Header photo by CBM Australia

Contact Us