Finding a decent toilet to use, or safe water to drink and wash with, is a daily struggle for millions of people. But for those who have a disability, the challenge is often even greater.
There are many reasons for this.
- Lack of consultation. Toilets and water points are often built without taking into account the needs of people with disabilities. For example, there may be steps or not enough space for wheelchair users to turn around.
- Stigma and discrimination. The stigma associated with disability in some communities means that people with certain impairments may be prevented from using the same toilets and water points as everyone else. In addition, some people are ashamed of their family members with disabilities and keep them hidden. This means they are not involved in any of the decisions made by their communities about water and sanitation.
- Financial constraints. People with disabilities and their families may not have enough money to build suitable toilets or adapt water points to make them more accessible.
If these problems are not overcome, children and adults might:
- find it difficult to go to school, training and community events because there are no suitable toilets
- become vulnerable to abuse and neglect because of isolation and reliance on others
- have to defecate in containers in their homes, or in the open, increasing the risk of disease
- struggle to keep themselves and their clothes clean, damaging their health, lowering their self-esteem and affecting how others treat them
- lose confidence and become unwilling to talk about their needs
- find that with no education or independence, hopes for a career and a decent livelihood are lost, trapping them in poverty.
It can be very humiliating for people to have to rely on others to help them with their most basic and private needs. It also creates a high workload for the family. Children, particularly girls, are frequently removed from school to support family members with disabilities.