International Day of People with Disabilities | 3rd December

Globally, one billion people have a disability and more than 80 per cent live in developing countries. International Day of People with Disabilities is an important day to raise awareness and promote action around the rights of people with disabilities and their full inclusion in society 

The future is accessible

This means that we must all, together, look towards a future where the barriers which stand in people’s way no longer exist.  We envisage a future where people can access a building without using stairs; where a person can access a ramp to the toilet; or can get a job without fear of discrimination; or can access a mainstream classroom. 

Working towards an accessible future is everyone’s responsibility. Call out barriers wherever you see them, and work to overcome them in all that we do. 

Our partners are making the future accessible for people with disabilities

Many Water for Women partners are working towards transforming the lives and situations of people with disabilities by ensuring their projects engage with people with disabilities in intentional, meaningful and non-tokenistic ways and to ensure that the future is truly accessible for all in Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) by reducing the physical, social and environmental barriers for people with disabilities, and making “Nothing about us without us!” a reality for them.

Woman helps a girl with a disability complete an activity indoors

Meet and greet session with provincial level Women's Union, Thrive Staff, DRD and members of Quy Nhon People with Disability Club in Quy Nhon, Vietnam (Thrive Networks) 

Raising awareness and understanding

In Vietnam, nearly 15 per cent of the population live with some form of disability according to the United Nations Development Programme, with 75 per cent of them living in rural areas.

Barriers for people with disabilities (PWD) do not come from their disabilities, but rather come from the surrounding environment including the lack of understanding by society, discrimination, segregation, physical barriers and non-existent policies that would provide protection and enforce their rights.

Our partner, Thrive Networks is working to address this through the Women-led Output Based Aid (WOBA) project which has a large focus on gender equity and social inclusion. Thrive has partnered with the Center for Disability and Development (DRD), a local disability people’s organisation in Vietnam to provide training for trainers and technical assistance to a group of selected WOBA Staff and government partners including Vietnam Health and Environmental Management Agency, and the Women’s Union.  

In addition to their regular tasks, this group participates in a GESI taskforce through a series of training, mentoring, exchanges and site visits. Members of the GESI Taskforce increased their capacity to support partners at the local level to build hygienic latrines for PWD and raise self and partner’s awareness on disability issues.

A key outcome for inclusive WASH, was the development of a set of implementation guidelines to be used by government to support modification of public facilities and encourage technical adaptations at household level. These guidebooks and the overall collaboration with DRD represent key steps towards making life more accessible and inclusive for all.

Woman with a disability sits on a mat outdoors participating in an activity

Women with disabilities participated in group discussions to provide feedback on their WASH needs in communities in Lao PDR (SNV)

"Nothing about us without us"

In Lao PDR, SNV are ensuring the voices of people with disabilites are heard in the planning process so that their needs can be addressed in delivery of WASH services and infrastructure through their project Beyond the Finish Line: Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All.

Mother with her child who has a disability in India

Anisha and Aman (CFAR)

People with disabilities and their families face multiple challenges 

In India, CFAR and RTI are working to reach the most vulnerable within India's urban slums with transformative WASH intervention programs. This means understanding the difficulties faced by Anisha and her son Aman, who has a disability.

The family have no toilet of their own and the community toilet is not friendly for people with a disability.

Water for Women is working in Jaipur to make the future accessible for people like Anisha and Aman.

Vision impaired PAR group in Indonesia

Ms. Seng Yum conducts a direct sales presentation. (Tyler Kozole, iDE Cambodia)

Empowering people transforms lives

Ms. Seng Yum started working with iDE at the beginning of 2018 as a sanitation teacher. Living with a disability since 2015, Ms. Yum also faced many family, health and financial difficulties that were a heavy burden for her.

 “My life started changing after I joined iDE. I have been trained in sales, communication, problem solving, and other skills which improve my career as much as my personal life. I have become stronger, more confident, and I can pay back my loans and my relatives’ loans.”

Ms. Seng Yum, Sanitation Teacher with iDE Cambodia

Ms. Yum credits her work as a sanitation teacher for a renewed sense of security and purpose.  She continues to inspire her team and colleagues through her work, and contributes significantly to the success of iDE's sanitation marketing program, part of their innovative Cambodia water, sanitation, and hygiene scale-up program 2.0 (WASH-SUP2). 

Smiling woman outdoors in Vanuatu

Nesther, a World Vision Vanuatu Enumerator (Mike Kaun)

Seeing ability

For Nesther, World Vision’s Water, Women, and Disability research in Vanuatu was more than just a job opportunity, rather it was one of the first times her abilities had been highlighted rather than her disability.

"My rheumatic cardiac condition affected my relationships... my condition resulted in me missing out on sports and many other activities at home, in the community and at school and losing my self-confidence... I was so happy when the World Vision project employed me for the survey."

Nesther is among 20 per cent of enumerators with a disability who were employed as part of World Vision's inclusive initiative in Vanuatu as part of the Water for Women Laetem Dak Kona project.

In partnership with London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Vanuatu National Statistics Office, the survey Nesther helped conduct formed part of research targeting a total population of 64,000 people in the two northern provinces of Sanma and Torba. This research will provide much-needed information about access to and experience of Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and continence management amongst persons with disabilities, alongside those without disabilities, women in particular.

“During the survey I was surprised by the number of children living with disabilities who were kept at home because schools were not inclusive and because parents would consider their other children over them,” said Nesther.

Preliminary research results support Nesther’s experience, finding that Children with disabilities were much less likely to be attending school than children without disabilities (46% of children with disabilities vs 87% children without disabilities). 61% of children with a disability had never attended school. 

Research analysis is ongoing and a full report will be released in the coming months. Nesther is optimistic about how this information gathered will greatly assist the government and organisations helping people with disabilities, and so are we!

Group of people holding hands sitting on a mat

Leading their own agenda for change, a visio impaired PAR group in action (Yayasan Plan International Indonesia / Edge Effect)

Leading the agenda for change

Not being able to access WASH services means that people with disabilities (PwD) are unable to realise their rights to water and sanitation and can be further excluded from living their lives. 

Within Yayasan Plan International Indonesia’s (YPII) ‘WASH and Beyond –Transforming Lives in Eastern Indonesia’ project, Edge Effect, YPII and Plan International Australia are working directly with PwD in Sumbawa and Manggarai districts through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) process to support marginalised individuals, including PWD, to explore and genuinely lead their own agenda for change.

Across the PAR groups there has been consensus on the ‘perfect’ toilet for PwD. It would include handrails, good signage, texture on the floor, clean water, a toilet seat, good lighting, a door with an easy-to-use lock, clean soap, and be wide, easily flushable, and easy to get to.

PAR group participants have commented on the value of coming together to meet, voice and share their experiences, and of leading their own WASH actions for change.

Man sitting outside his home in a village community in Fiji

Mr. Nabuka in front of his home (Habitat for Humanity Fiji)

Access for all 

In the village of Marou, a maritime community in the Ba province of Fiji, access to clean and safe water sources has not been a previously been a priority.

For Mr. Nabuka, who lives with a disability, this has made accessing water a daily struggle. Mr Nabuka must walk for 20 minutes to the village well and back, carrying his heavy water load. This becomes an impossible task when he falls sick, and he must rely on family and community members to assist him during these times. 

Marou is one of 50 communities in Ra and Ba that are being supported by Water for Women through Habitat for Humanity’s Strengthening Community Resilience and Inclusion Through Improved WASH Services in Fiji.

Habitat’s inclusive approach of the WASH trainings ensures that not only are the voices of people living with disabilities heard, their needs are also prioritised in the community WASH action plans. 

Mr. Nabuka has expressed his appreciation in attending the WASH training and is pleased that the needs of people living with disabilities will be addressed in the Marou community action plan.

Woman in red scarf sitting down surveying a group of women

Interview taking place to understand barriers to accessing WASH sevices, Nepal (SNV)

Research for better outcomes

Research is an important element of Water for Women.  We aim to raise the bar in terms of gender and socially inclusive research, analysis, design and program delivery in WASH.

In Nepal, SNV have undertaken research to better understand the challenges faced by people with a disability and understanding the impact of multiple forms of discrimination.

"Beyond toilet access, feelings of dependence and neglect were the hardest to bear. Many people with disability feel that their needs are ignored. Their invisibility is structurally compounded by lack of access to information and limited resources."  

Findings of a formative research study in Sarlahi, Nepal

Through their project, Beyond the Finish Line, SNV are working to support inclusive, sustainable, and resilient rural water supply and ensure that people with disabilities are heard, informed, and their specific WASH needs met.

Man with a disability sits in his home in Solomon Islands

Mr. Mato (Plan Solomon Islands / Live & learn)

Leaving no one behind

Recently, the community of Paila in west Guadalcanal Province, Solomon Islands celebrated ‘No Open Defecation’ status. The chief of the community, Mr. Maito Mato, is incredibly proud that his community was recognised as the first NOD community within west Guadalcanal.

Mr. Mato knows first-hand the challenges people with a disability face when it comes to accessible water and sanitation facilities, having acquired a disability later in life. A medical procedure left him unable to use his left leg and with his movements severely restricted, he had to rely on his son to carry him to the canoe to visit his community or to go to the capital, Honiara.

Until recently, he also lacked access to a toilet.

Thankfully, with the help of Plan International and Live and Learn, this has now changed.

With support from their project New Times, New Targets, Mr. Mato's son constructed a toilet for him within a short distance of his sleeping quarters that he is able to access using his crutches.

Mr. Mato said having a toilet nearby has made his life much easier, even when it rains and the weather is bad he is still able to access his toilet without any problems.

Contact Us