Review of Footsteps 108: Living with disability

Photo: Chiranjivi Sharma/The Leprosy Mission Nepal

When was the last time you saw someone with a disability on the cover of a magazine? Disability is all too often hidden away. Sadly, this is especially true in low-income countries. 

The striking picture on the cover of the latest edition of Footsteps magazine sets the tone for what you find inside. The edition is packed full of information that is helpful, revealing and sometimes shocking. There are encouraging stories too. 

The front section of the magazine sets the context for understanding disability. It is interesting to learn about the 'vicious cycle' between poverty and disability (see graphic below) and the different types of barriers facing people with disabilities.

The Bible study looks at breaking down these barriers. It is poignant to see that when Jesus is faced with a physically unwell man lowered down from the rooftop he responds with love. An excellent and thorough article on how churches can be more inclusive follows. It is full of sensitive and practical guidance for all of us to better embrace people living with disabilities. 

The extent to which people living with disability face stigma and discrimination is brought home by articles on disaster risk and toilets and water facilities. I confess that it hadn't really occurred to me just how vulnerable you would feel if you lived in an area prone to flooding or earthquakes and were dependent on others for your mobility. So it is great to read in-depth about the Gaibandha model for disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction.

How do you end the cycle of poverty and disability? Hear what different people from around the world have to say in this great video from CBM, an international Christian development organisation focused on people with disabilities.

The pages are easy to navigate and feature yellow lined boxes containing key bits of information and definitions. The sections showing low-cost solutions for toilets and water access for people living with disabilities are clear and accessible to the vast majority of people. Check out the simple bucket shower and the wonderfully named Tippy Tap. Likewise the illustrations showing a range of walking aids for children that can be made from tree branches are inspiring. 

My favourite stories are those where someone who was previously overlooked and neglected by their community is now participating more fully and playing a vital role in their society – like Kazol in the article on Understanding Disability. Then there is the short but powerful case study in the Listening to Understand feature about 400 wonderful grandmothers in Zimbabwe who voluntarily fill the gap left by the inadequate state provision for mental health. Friendship therapy, as it is known, has so much potential.

‘Footsteps 108 is full of sensitive and practical guidance for all of us to better embrace people living with disabilities.’

Children enjoying each other’s company in Ethiopia. Photo: Light for the World

There is more, including an interview with a church minister and theology professor in DRC who was left paralysed by polio as a child, a handy resources page with information about key organisations and websites, and articles about projects in Nepal, India and Malawi. 

There are some terrible misconceptions about people living with disabilities. Footsteps 108 sets out to address these. I have learnt so much from reading this issue – in particular about the human spirit (see that front page photo again), collaboration, compassion and remarkable community projects that transform people’s lives. 

 Let us know which stories and issues touched you in the comments box below. 

You can read more about disability issues around the world in Footsteps 108.

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Nick Wyke
Nick Wyke is the editor of the Tearfund Learn blog.