Correlation Between Disability And Poverty
In many countries, disabled individuals are marginalized and given access to fewer resources when compared to their abled counterparts. When it comes to global poverty, it is crucial to understand the inequity placed upon disabled communities as they are one of the most discriminated against groups, especially in impoverished areas. Disabled communities are also more susceptible to the risks and dangers of the coronavirus and have limited access to safe care.

A Need for Accessibility

In countries such as China and Brazil, there is an 80% positive correlation between disability and global poverty. Currently, more than 85 million people are disabled in China yet are lacking medical resources, especially in rural areas. Poor infrastructure such as narrow sidewalks or overcrowded buildings hamper easy movement for people with disabilities. In China, over 300 disabled persons have co-signed a letter in allowing online maps to locate certain ramps or “barrier-free facilities” to create better mobility for these communities.

With such efforts, however, a few improvements have been made to provide equitable opportunities for the disabled. As of now, over 1,500 local governments in China have added barrier-free facilities—such as ramps, wider sidewalks, and lifts. This allowed more than 147,000 families, primarily from low-income households, to access certain facilities once inconvenient for disabled people. Consequently, more strides have been made on a digital platform, such as providing consultations for disabled communities that are limited in resources.

Human Rights Violation in Institutions

Similar to China, Brazil has previously overlooked the quality of life for its disabled population, especially in care homes with very poor conditions. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch made it a priority for Brazil to provide better care options for people with disabilities who are otherwise confined to poorly run institutions. Many of these institutions were barely even providing basic necessities to residents, such as food and hygiene care. There were no opportunities for social enrichment or personal advancement.

“Conditions are often inhumane, with dozens of people crammed into rooms filled with beds packed tightly together,” the Human Rights Watch report concluded. After interviewing over 171 disabled people living in these institutions, it was clear that improving conditions in these facilities was imperative to better quality of life for disabled residents.

However, the Brazilian government is taking multiple actions to protect their disabled population from inadequate care in these institutions. In 2015, Brazil passed a bill that has been in the works since 2003: the Inclusion of People With Disabilities Act. This bill provides clearer definitions for classifying people with disabilities, as well as allocating more resources for the disabled population. For example, at least three percent of public housing, 10 percent of taxi grants, and two percent of parking lots will be reserved for people with disabilities.

Raising Awareness and Providing Aid

Aside from China and Brazil’s strong correlations between disability and poverty, disabled communities are universally more disadvantaged and vulnerable to a lower-income status. However, many countries are dedicated to raising awareness about the intersectionality between disability and socioeconomic status. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified in at least 177 countries and has subsequently led these countries in allocating aid for people with disabilities. Along with the convention, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made a universal framework that provides guidelines for protecting disabled persons from discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and the workplace.

Smaller organizations have also taken on roles to improve the socioeconomic status of the disabled community. For example, the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) International is an NGO organization that provides job opportunities, healthcare, and education for people with a range of disabilities. Since 1908, this organization has supported at least 672 projects across 68 countries and eventually provided resources to over 10.1 million people. Another example is the Emergency Ong Onlus, an Italian foundation that has reached over 16 million people across 16 countries with free medical care. Primarily specializing in humanitarian relief, the foundation focuses on four intervention areas: surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and social reintegration.

Issues regarding disabled victims of poverty are often neglected and met with discrimination in many countries, including the United States. However, numbers of organizations and local projects are strenuously putting effort into resolving this ongoing humanitarian problem. With the current mass mobilization, there is definite hope in the future of providing equitable opportunities to one of the most vulnerable communities.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

 

office of international disability rightsOne billion people, or over 15% of the world’s population, have some form of disability, according to The World Bank. Despite the widespread prevalence of disability, many people with disabilities across the world struggle to access basic services, public spaces and employment. This traps many people with disabilities in poverty and impairs their health. To address this issue, Representative Dina Titus (D-NV-1) introduced The Office of International Disability Rights Act in order to create the Office of International Disability Rights within the Department of State’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

What Challenges Do People With Disabilities Face?

Disability intersects with a range of other issues, including education, poverty and health. Though 140 countries signed the Convention On The Rights Of The Child officially recognize the “the right of the child to education,” in practice this right often does not apply to children with disabilities.

Children with disabilities are less likely to have access to education than children without disabilities. This is because access needs for children with disabilities to understand educational materials, or even be able to navigate a school building, are not guaranteed in many nations. For example, unless children with physical disabilities have access to wheelchairs, ramps and accessible school rooms, they will be unable to fully participate in school. Without sufficient access to education, people with disabilities are disproportionately poor, are often unemployed and lack financial access to healthcare. According to the United Nations, 80% to 90% of working-age people with disabilities are unemployed.

Disability rights are particularly essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United Nations, “barriers such as physical accessibility, barriers to implementing basic hygiene measures, affordability of healthcare, limitations on health insurance, and discriminatory laws and stigma, can be life-threatening in the midst of a pandemic.” Ensuring equal access to healthcare resources can help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people, many of whom live in poverty. This is where The Office of International Disability Rights Act comes in.

What would The Office of International Disability Rights Act Do?

The office would serve multiple purposes, including acting as the State Department’s advisor on disability issues, representing the U.S. within international governance bodies on the topic of disability rights and making sure that the State Department itself is inclusive of disabled people. The Office of International Disability Rights would coordinate with civil society organizations as well as the U.S. government at large and other governments to advance disability rights around the world.

To make sure that State Department practices follow disability rights guidelines, the State Department will create disability inclusion training for personnel and develop a formal disability inclusion policy. The Office of International Disability Rights would also collaborate with other offices of the State Department to ensure that disability rights violations are properly recorded in annual reports on human rights.

If Congress passes The Office of International Disability Rights Act, the Secretary of State will brief the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate on progress made on the above efforts, as well as any recommendations for legislative actions to advance disability rights.

Why Should International Disability Rights Be A U.S. Priority?

This bill has both domestic and foreign policy precedents. In 2010, the U.S. first appointed the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the Department of State. The advisor helped incorporate awareness of disability rights as part of Department policies and annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and Trafficking in Persons report. Thirty years ago, the U.S. passed the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect the rights of disabled people within the U.S. to access basic services, education, healthcare, workplaces and other public spaces.

While neither of these past initiatives has solved every disability rights issue, each helped build institutional capacity and an important framework for disability rights at home and abroad. The Office of International Disability Rights Act would help build on these initiatives, in a time when the unmet needs of people with disabilities are a quickly growing international concern.

Tamara Kamis
Photo: Flickr

disabilities in Africa
The World Bank reported in 2020 that some form of disability affects 1 billion people, which represents 15% of the global population. An estimated 60–80 million people in Africa live with disabilities. Disabled people face many stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination. Unfortunately, this discrimination and prejudice come from the general public, friends and even family members. The following five organizations provide a variety of resources to people with disabilities in Africa.

5 Organizations Helping People With Disabilities in Africa

  1. Able Child Africa: Able Child Africa works with local partners to help children with disabilities in four East African countries — Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The organization notes that the majority of people with disabilities in Africa are children. Moreover, 80% of these children will not reach the age of five. Additionally, those who do survive are four times more likely to be abused and 10 times more likely not to attend school. Able Child Africa focuses on protecting, empowering and educating children with disabilities.
  2. Inclusion International-Africa: Inclusion International has been in Africa for more than 10 years and has offices across the entire continent. Inclusion Africa (IA) is a regional federation of family-based organizations and is one of the largest organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The organization’s main objective is to advocate for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. IA provides opportunities and resources to people with disabilities so they can stand up for their inclusion in leadership and employment spaces. These resources include family consultations and self-advocacy teaching.
  3. Disability Africa: Disability Africa focuses on children and youth with disabilities and their families. The organization engages the children through “playschemes;” activities that engage children with disabilities to play and exercise. The organization focuses on play because it is the major field where children with disabilities are normally abused and feel isolated. Playing ends isolation and challenges negative attitudes. Furthermore, it physically and mentally benefits the children involved. These activities are inexpensive but they exemplify how local leaders can and should develop social services. Partnering with local healthcare providers, Disability Africa has provided and promoted medical support and inclusive education to children with disabilities in The Gambia, Zambia, Kenya and Sierra Leone.
  4. Africa Disability Alliance: Africa Disability Alliance (ADA) is an African knowledge-based agency that works through networks to advocate for the human rights of people with disabilities. ADA also created the Network of African Women with Disabilities (NAWWD), which focuses on advocating for women with disabilities with governments and the U.N. NAWWD also encourages policymakers to establish inclusive laws, have an inclusion representative in the government and provide better reproductive and sexual health services to disabled women in Africa.
  5. The International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairments: The International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairments (ICEVI) helps people with visual impairments access quality education. They advocate for inclusive education and special needs schools. Additionally, they encourage policymakers to invest in inclusive education, increase the enrollment numbers of people with visual impairments and provide accessible infrastructure for people with disabilities.

Supporting Those in Need

The above organizations are only a few among many that encourage inclusive education and opportunities to help people with disabilities in Africa. Some of these organizations themselves are led by people with disabilities. Examples being certain networks in Inclusion Africa and the Africa Disability Alliance. These initiatives have encouraged people with disabilities to fight for their rights, giving them the support that may have been otherwise lacking in their lives.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Pixabay

deaf people in sub-saharan africaThe World Health Organization (WHO) reports that currently, 466 million people live with a hearing disability. This number is predicted to increase substantially in the coming years. WHO forecasts that by 2050, around 900 million people will be diagnosed with a hearing disability. Hearing loss can come as a result of many medical issues, such as overexposure to loud noise, ear infections, ototoxicity from medications and other general infections to the body. However, experts believe that the rise in hearing-impaired disabilities results from aging populations instead of infections. Deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa are no exception to this trend.

WHO reports that sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions most affected by hearing-impaired disabilities, with four times more cases than high-income countries. In the past, Deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa have lacked equal opportunity to participate in society, particularly in education and employment. Thankfully, multiple countries are taking steps to improve the lives of Deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Uganda

Uganda’s 1995 constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability. Uganda is also one of only a few countries to recognize Sign Language in its constitution. To further support citizens with a disability, the country passed The Persons with Disabilities Act. This law protects those with disabilities and provides a 15% tax reduction for private employers who have 10 or more persons with a disability on their full-time payroll.

Gallaudet University, the leading private university to educate Deaf and hard of hearing students, reports multiple Deaf organizations in Uganda. These include Deaf Link Uganda, an organization that financially supports Deaf entrepreneurs and business owners who struggle with socio-economic equality. Additionally, SignHealth Uganda is an NGO that works to provide equitable and necessary social services for Deaf men, women and children.

Following Uganda’s lead, other countries have begun to adopt anti-discrimination laws to protect Deaf people. For example, shortly after the passing of the Ugandan legislation, Togo drafted government regulations that prevent disability discrimination and promise to provide training, rehabilitation, counseling and employment to all who qualify. Togo now also recognizes Sign Language as the official language of Deaf people and has created a governmental committee that will consider Deaf and hearing-impaired disability aid during policy development.

South Africa

In South Africa, the population of Deaf and hard of hearing citizens reaches around 4 million. Like Uganda, South Africa also has anti-discrimination policies in place to protect those with a disability. South Africa mandates that a Sign Language interpreter be available for major events to ensure that communication accommodations are provided to all. Deaf culture is rather established in this country due to its prioritization of awareness and equity. Established as a National Language Unit in 2001, South African Sign Language (SASL) is the household language chosen by Deaf people in the region.

Naming September the National Month of Deaf People, South Africa has made it a priority that Deaf people be given the same opportunities and advantages as any other person, especially in education. The South African sector of the National Institute for the Deaf offers students the ability to gain workforce experience and interact with people of their culture in a new environment through student internships and practical work. Additionally, the Carel du Toit Center, a school in Cape Town, offers the Children Hear and Talk (CHAT) program, which acts as an early intervention method. The school offers weekly sessions for parents to discuss language exposure in everyday life, as well as sessions for younger children to get a head start on their education. Carel du Toit employs more than 60 professionals to work with students on speech training and communication in a natural setting.

South Africa has also made progress in technological advancements aimed at helping Deaf and hard-of-hearing people. In 2019, South African medical specialist Mashudu Tshifularo completed the first-ever successful middle-ear transplant using a 3-D printer. This breakthrough could prove to be a long-term solution for damage-caused deafness. Tshifularo’s procedure will be safe for people of all ages, including newborns. The minister of South Africa’s Department of Health stated that Tshifularo will “get all the help he needs” moving forward in this positive development for Deaf people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria

Nigeria has focused on educational improvements in supporting its Deaf citizens. The Total Communication method, implemented by the Hands and Voices organization in Nigeria, is a Deaf and hard of hearing instructional approach that provides each student with a range of nonverbal communication tools. The Total Communication program works to offer communication options to allow language development for every child’s specific needs. Paralinguistics presented through the Total Communication method include formal sign language as well as finger-spelling, body language, natural gestures and facial expressions that can then be paired with spoken language comprehension if the child or parent so chooses. This program has become the primary mode of instruction for Deaf students in Nigeria.

Like South Africa, Nigeria offers Deaf students real-world learning opportunities and internships in preparation for life after school. Ibadan University in Nigeria was the first to create a Department of Special Education, while Jos University offers high-quality training for educators of the Deaf. Both universities recognize two languages for Deaf people in Nigeria, Hausa and Yoruba, both of which are the established sign languages in their respective regions.

Kenya

Of the 10% of Kenyans who have a disability, 3 million struggle with unemployment. Thankfully, workplace equality for the Deaf people of Kenya has grown substantially in the past decade. Kenya’s Disability Act of 2003 requires 5% of jobs to be given to citizens with a disability. Recognizing the stigma against hiring a Deaf person, the Pallet Cafe in Nairobi exclusively hires Deaf wait staff. Each server wears a shirt with #IamDeaf on the back and works with customers through sign language or other methods of nonverbal communication. The Pallet Cafe allows its Deaf waiters to be comfortably integrated into society by interacting with non-disabled people and helping them find empowerment in their employment.

To promote accessibility for its Deaf citizens, Kenya’s National Council for People with Disabilities has created a four-year education plan for public sector workers to learn and understand sign language. Kenya’s National Association of the Deaf aids Deaf Kenyans through rehabilitation, accessibility, training and employment. Unlike some other countries, however, Kenya has also taken physical action to address the needs of citizens with a disability by leveling pavements and ensuring accessibility to elevators and restrooms. In this way, Kenya supports the lives of Deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Part of further efforts to diminish the stigma around Deaf and hard of hearing people, the documentary “Deaf Role Models in Africa” was created in 2014. The documentary highlights Deaf Kenyans’ accomplishments to prove that children with disabilities have the same intellect and potential as children without a disability. The short film discusses the need for a proper and well-funded education so that Deaf and hard of hearing children can succeed in their adult lives and continue to contribute to their country in new and inspiring ways.

Moving Forward

Progress in opportunities and education for Deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa may have been slow-moving in the past, but these countries are working hard to make sure their citizens with disabilities are represented and supported. These positive developments for Deaf people in Sub-Saharan Africa go beyond just accessibility in the workforce by promoting integration into a stigma-free society.

– Alexa Tironi
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Madagascar
In 2014, Madagascar partnered with the World Health Organization to implement the Disability Action Plan. While there are no specifics on the number of disabled persons in Madagascar, an article in the Journal of Rehabilitation Methods estimates that about 2.8 million persons with disabilities exist in the country. The goals of the Action Plan are to increase access for persons with disabilities to healthcare services and programs, extend support services and rehabilitation, and strengthen data collection on disability so it can be compared internationally. Organizations such as Humanity and Inclusion have also been working to improve the correlation between disability and poverty in Madagascar.

Access to Rehabilitation

The regions around Madagascar have about 1.6 physicians for every 10,000 people, whereas Madagascar has about 1. Eight rehabilitation specialists were trained by “A Rehabilitation Training Partnership in Madagascar” in 2015, contributing to the now 10 total specialists in the country. This means limited access to medical professionals trained in rehabilitation for persons with disabilities

Rehabilitation for people with disabilities can span from fitting them with orthopedic limbs and hearing aids to providing people with mental disabilities education on how their disability affects them as well as how to work with it in their daily lives. Sufficient rehabilitation for persons with disabilities was low in 2011, with The World Health Organization reporting that about 3% of people received it globally. People often view disability and poverty in Madagascar, and globally, as a cycle. A 2017 study called “Poverty and disability in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review” reported that poverty and disability appear to exist in a cycle in lower and middle-income areas, where poverty can lead to disability and disability can lead to poverty.

How Disability Impacts Poverty

According to “A Survey of World Bank poverty Assessments” by Jeanine Braithwaite and Daniel Mont, when receiving the same income as persons without disabilities, persons with disabilities will have a lower standard of living. This is due to the different needs of persons with disabilities. Braithwaite and Mont’s studies into disability in developing countries revealed that households with persons with disabilities were slightly more likely to be in poverty.

How Poverty Impacts Disability

Poverty has been shown to limit access to healthcare in Madagascar. About 75% of Madagascar’s population lives below the international poverty line, according to The World Bank. The cost of healthcare, and transportation to healthcare centers, can be barriers for people in poverty to accessing treatment. USAID reported that less than 40% of Madagascar’s population lives within an hour’s walk, or 5 kilometers, from a healthcare center, meaning many people face additional transportation costs when they need to access healthcare.

A study about the barriers to implementing the Disability Action Plan in Madagascar stated that of “disability-adjusted life” in 2004, 29% was caused by non-communicable diseases. The report concluded that the data correlates with limited access to treatment, revealing a link between disability and poverty in Madagascar through the way that poverty impacts healthcare access.

Solutions

Madagascar has previously passed the Law on Disability, which promoted the freedoms and equal rights of persons with disabilities. The National Decade of Disabled Persons, a time frame in which the government would work to improve conditions for those with disabilities, was ratified in Madagascar in 2002 and ran from 2003-2013. Since passing those pieces of legislation, Madagascar has been working to implement The World Health Organization’s global Disability Action Plan since 2014. Expectations have determined that it will wrap up in 2021.

The country has already made some strides toward completing the program and impacting disability and poverty in Madagascar. In 2015, Madagascar ran a workshop and training program in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which the Rehabilitation Medicine in Madagascar and a counterpart in the United Kingdom then delivered. This workshop trained and licensed eight new doctors. The doctors have now created the Association of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine of Madagascar (AMPRMada), which has created a database for Madagascar rehabilitation centers to use. Today, according to an AMPRMada report, its database greatly helps rehabilitation planning nationally because it provides a single place to access all the rehabilitation centers’ data.

Humanity and Inclusion have also been working to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in Madagascar. The organization has been in Madagascar for 30 years. One of its ongoing projects focuses on ensuring persons with disabilities have access to adequate rehabilitation by:

  • Examining barriers to accessing rehabilitation services
  • Assessing the related economic areas
  • Setting up and improving rehabilitation services and “orthopedic fitting,” which means ensuring things like prosthetic limbs and metal braces fit patients correctly
  • Looking into increasing “education, training, and networking” in order to increase the number of rehabilitation workers
  • Improving funding for rehabilitation services
  • Keeping track of how the “National Rehabilitation Plan” progresses
  • Raising awareness

A report that details the progress of ongoing Humanity and Inclusion projects estimated that, when it is completed, its rehabilitation project will benefit 5,000 people, 47% of whom are children with disabilities.

It can sometimes be hard to calculate the effects of disability in Madagascar due to a lack of data. Research studies have, however, been able to estimate the number of disabled persons and the link between disability and poverty in Madagascar. Through the country’s legislation and partnerships with outside organizations, such as The World Health Organization, Madagascar is continuing to address and attempt to improve access to healthcare and rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. Organizations like Humanity and Inclusion have been contributing to those changes with ongoing projects that address access to rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities.

– Melody Kazel

Photo: Flickr

Secret Village of JamaicaJamaica remains one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. However, many recognize it for more than its vibrant culture. The island has incurred great debt over the years and is constantly subject to mother nature’s unpredictability. Jamaica has a constant threat of hurricanes, high debt and an overall poorly structured economy. Therefore, many Jamaicans find themselves living under the international poverty line. Any person living below this line will face a number of obstacles. However, a disabled person living in poverty faces unique challenges. People with disabilities have a greater job opportunity in the U.S. In many other parts of the world, society has isolated them.

In Jamaica, there are laws that affect the daily lives of disabled islanders, especially those who are deaf. The deaf community in Jamaica cannot drive or work due to their lack of hearing ability. As a result, they spend their lives separated from the rest of their island nation. The Jamaican Deaf Village (JDV) is a small village in Mandeville, Jamaica where the deaf can easily live, work and communicate with each other. Mandeville is a small town in the mountains near the center of Jamaica. In this village, deaf people find a way to work and participate in the diminutive economy.

How the Village Began

This secret village in Jamaica established in 1958. Reverend Willis Etheridge and his wife visited the island and saw the unique struggles faced by the deaf community. The couple founded the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf (CCCD). In 1984, the organization took 100 acres of land and began the physical construction of the JDV. During the village’s early years, there was a church, factory and some small houses for the residents. The island of Jamaica is proud of its religious culture (mainly Christian). So, this church for the deaf was an important step for them. The factory was meant to provide employment specifically for deaf islanders so they could support their own families while also participating in the Jamaican economy.

After several years of planning, development and outreach, the first deaf residents moved into the village on July 15, 2002. Only a short time after that, workers produced the factory’s first product. This was the first step to creating a self-sufficient village.

How JDV Operates Today

The Jamaican Deaf Village in Mandeville has grown exponentially since its conception. Today, the village has farms, houses, apartments, a recreational center and a kitchen house. The kitchen house is a large kitchen and dining area where the residents will all gather together for their meals.

Each resident in the village takes on a specific role in order to create this self-sufficient community. Many women work in the kitchen house where they cook, clean dishes and do laundry. Another part of the kitchen house is the art room. This small room contains a number of paintings, sculptures, jewelry and various other art pieces created by JDV members. These pieces are popular souvenirs for visitors and another way for deaf Jamaicans to participate in the local economy.

The farm in JDV is a critical aspect of the village. Those who take on farming roles tend to livestock and crops daily. Their livestock consists mostly of cattle, goats and sheep. The crops produced in the village are a range of tropical fruits such as plantains, bananas, mangos and more.

Products from the farm are mainly used to feed the local residents. However, they can also sell their crops to the markets. Since the village is in the middle of the mountains, it takes several hours for residents to get into town. This creates another obstacle for the impoverished deaf. However, their small agricultural production plays a huge role in keeping them fed.

How the JDV Receives Funding

The key source of funding for this secret village in Jamaica is the factory. Over the years, they have manufactured a variety of products, but they started with furniture. The first object ever produced from this small factory was a wooden chair. The deaf is able to earn a living and partake in the Jamaican economy by manufacturing furniture and other objects. They build them in their home village and sell them to outside buyers.

This secret village of Jamaica also loves hosting visitors. The CCCD created a special program where visitors can come stay in the village for a period of time. While there, visitors help perform basic tasks. Visitors immerse themselves in the deaf culture and learn how each of the various roles of the village work. These roles range from farming to laying down cement for new buildings. Visitors from around the world can get a firsthand look at how these islanders keep themselves above the poverty line.

How the JDV is Essential for the Poor and Deaf

The key role of the JDV is providing the deaf community of Jamaica a life they would otherwise not have. About 19% of the Jamaican population in 2017 fell under the poverty line. This number has gradually decreased over the last three years. However, there is still a large number of Jamaicans who find themselves lacking basic necessities. The most common issues found among the impoverished population is a lack of food and clean, piped water. Jamaicans who suffer from a severe disability tend to find it even harder to gain access to these necessities. Disabled islanders are typically not allowed to work or even drive in most cases. This is especially difficult for the deaf as they can perform basic tasks but do not get utilized.

Many deaf Jamaicans will come to the United States just to get a degree or driver’s license. The Jamaican Deaf Village allows those with hearing disabilities to use their skills and create a life for themselves. This is an opportunity that would, otherwise, be denied.

The Jamaican Deaf Village plays an important role in the deaf community of Jamaica. However, it also contributes to the island’s overall economy. Over the years, the village has become a popular tourist destination. Just as most islands around the Caribbean do, Jamaica’s economy highly benefits from tourism. The village has become a hot spot for international visitors. In addition, the unique products created in the village create extra income.

This secret village in Jamaica provides a positive lifestyle for the deaf community they otherwise would not have. It also allows them to do their part to improve the island’s economy.

– Brittany Carter
Photo: Good Free Photos

Sight Impairments in Poverty
Poverty can be a result of several contributing factors unique to the country in which a person lives, the family they were born into and/or having a disability. Whether the disability contributes to blindness, deafness or a physical ailment, people with disabilities in poverty can have a much more difficult life. Looking more closely at blindness, people in poverty with this particular disability have a higher mortality rate. Therefore, those living with sight impairments in poverty are at an elevated risk of death. Studies about the correlation between poverty and blindness in Africa found that people who are both blind and poor live 15 to 20 years less than those who are only poor. The correlation between blindness and poverty has also found that people who are blind can become unemployed, which in turn, leads to living below the poverty line.

The Scope of the Problem

Worldwide, 2.2 billion people experience blindness or vision impairment and only 1 billion of those cases are preventable with proper treatment. Without proper eye care and preventative treatments, people suffer not only with visual impairments but also in their socioeconomic status. Several visual impairments arise from cataract, glaucoma and corneal opacity. While some cases may require extensive care, others can be improved by providing glasses to correct visual impairments. The need to provide care for those visually impaired is vital to help keep people out of poverty. The organization, SEE International, provides care to those with sight impairments in poverty, through volunteers who help to correct handicaps.

SEE International

SEE International is a nonprofit organization that relies on teams of volunteers to provide their services to those in need. They consist of 650 professional optometrists who work in 80 countries and developed 200 programs. The programs allow the optometrists to use their expertise to help those with curable, eye impairments. Depending on the severity of the case, optometrists will work in their location for up to five days while giving lectures to pass on their knowledge. SEE International volunteers can help between 50–300 people during their program. The organization partners with other healthcare organizations to provide the necessary equipment for successful surgeries. SEE International can aid with several eye conditions and diseases, e.g.: cataracts, childhood and corneal blindness, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and strabismus. Through education and distribution of proper resources, SEE International aids the community in preventing several diseases.

Lasting Effects

Volunteers from SEE International work to aid those with visual impairments and also provide equipment that can stay within the country. This way, optometrists who are natives can perform procedures to support their community. Knowing there are ways to prevent visual impairments can lead to organizations like SEE International taking action. Unfortunately, disabilities go hand in hand with poverty and can prevent people from obtaining a better life. With preventive treatments, people who were once visually impaired can continue their education, begin working and provide for their families. By providing education and supplies to those in need, SEE International can give relief and aid to those on their journey towards a brighter future.

Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Cambodia
Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is a country with a troubled recent history. Just 50 years ago this small nation experienced a genocide estimated to have killed a quarter of its population. Neither the country nor its people emerged unscathed. Cambodia’s high poverty rate, poor healthcare infrastructure and landmine-laden countryside have spelled significant consequences for Cambodia’s disabled population. In order to better understand this issue, it’s essential to examine the intersection of disability and poverty in Cambodia.

Disability and Poverty in Cambodia

In general, individuals with disabilities are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. There are various reasons for this, the most significant a decreased earning capacity for this community. Another reason is the higher costs associated with achieving the same standard of living as non-disabled persons. In addition, the former problem is largely due to unequal access to education and discriminatory hiring practices. For example, practices like disability-specific expenses, medication and assistive devices.

In Cambodia, the rate of poverty among households with at least one disabled member is 18%. However, this number doesn’t account for the additional costs associated with disability. The incorporation of which experts say raises the rate to 34%. This is more than double the national rate of 13.5%. Furthermore, it’s estimated that only 44% of children with disabilities have completed primary school in Cambodia, compared to 73% of their non-disabled counterparts. This gap only widens as the level of education increases. Moreover, in 2010, the Cambodian government mandated that the workforce of public institutions should include 2% of disabled persons by 2013. However, even as late as 2016, this figure had only reached 1.3%.

Prevalence of Disability in Cambodia

Population surveys in Cambodia over the past decade have estimated the percent of disabled persons in the country to range from 2% to 9.5%. This can be compared with the rate of disability of the world at large, which the World Health Organization estimates to be 15%. Moreover, the variance in the percentages for Cambodia is largely due to differences in how disability is defined for census and data-gathering purposes. In general, it is difficult to acquire accurate population data in developing countries. Therefore, the figures that emerge are the best estimate. Data on disability rates among Cambodian children are somewhat more reliable. A study by UNICEF found that approximately 10% of children in the country have some form of disability, with speech and cognitive impairments being among the most common.

Factors Contributing to Prevalence

The conditions created by poverty and accidental landmine explosions are some of the most significant factors contributing to Cambodia’s disability rate. Poverty can be as much a determining factor of disability as a repercussion of it. Studies by the World Health Organization shows a strong relationship between malnutrition – a common consequence of poverty – and both disability and developmental delays. Given that one in three children in Cambodia is malnourished, the country’s high rate of childhood disability is unfortunately unsurprising. Furthermore, Cambodia has made truly remarkable strides in clearing the landmines that once littered its countryside. However, accidental detonations of these buried explosives have resulted in over 45,000 injuries and amputations in the years following 1980. Consequently, Cambodia has the highest number of amputees per capita in the world.

Obstacles to Improvement

Many of these obstacles seem to fall under one of two categories: physical infrastructure and policy enforcement. Even in urban centers, there are few physical accommodations for disabled people. Cambodia doesn’t provide accessibility measures for its most vulnerable citizens, from wheelchair ramps to auditory crosswalk signals. In the capital city of Phnom Penh, for example, there are reportedly only 15 public restrooms that are disability-friendly. Additionally, public transportation is difficult to use – if not actively dangerous – for disabled Cambodians. This is due to limited adherence to traffic laws and the poor state of public roads.

Interestingly, a lack of legislation concerning the rights of disabled Cambodians isn’t among the country’s problems. The government of Cambodia has put out numerous mandates and decrees that help citizens with disabilities. This covers everything from the monthly pension that citizens with disabilities are due, to penalties for businesses that don’t hire enough disabled individuals. The problem is that these laws go largely unenforced. A study found that only 4% of disabled Cambodians received their government benefits. In addition, employees of the government agencies meant to enforce certain regulations don’t even know how to file a claim against violators.

Looking to the Future

Although there’s certainly much progress to be made, a number of NGOs and non-profits work to solve the issue of disability and poverty in Cambodia. The NGOs and non-profits are working to better the living standards and lives of Cambodians with disabilities. One, in particular, doing extraordinary work is the Phnom Penh Center for Independent Living (PPCIL).

In 2009, Cambodians with disabilities founded this NGO. This organization seeks to empower people with severe disabilities. In addition, PPCIL wants to empower people with disabilities to live independently by providing basic education and vocational training. It also assists in identifying housing units and employment opportunities with access for the disabled. The PPCIL promotes the rights of disabled Cambodians. In addition, the NGO works to provide them with the equipment, training and personal assistance they need to live independently and with dignity. The center’s most recent project is collecting donated masks and other protective-wear for members of its community in response to COVID-19.

The Cambodian government recently released a National Disability Strategic Plan for 2019-2023. This plan intends to further address such issues as those covered in this article. This plan will improve livelihoods for Cambodia’s disabled community.

Gennaveve Brizendine
Photo: Flickr

Children with Developmental Disabilities
Across all countries, 20.4 percent of children have at least one developmental disability. In developed countries like the U.S., many schools have resources for children with developmental disabilities, but in countries where a solid implementation of an education system is struggling to find a foothold, people with learning disabilities often face an additional, invisible hurdle.

Medical professionals conducted a study that screened populations for developmental disabilities throughout the world. A developmental disability is a type of disability that occurs before adulthood. Some of these are learning disabilities, but all of them impact a child during the prime educational years. The study first sorted countries based on HDI (Human Development Index) a score the U.N. gives to countries according to life expectancy, education and gross domestic product (GDP). In general, this means that countries with higher HDI are more developed, and those with lower HDI are less developed.

Out of a pool of 16 countries, this study included 101,250 children averaging 5 years of age. The countries with the highest number of children with developmental disabilities include Thailand, Bangladesh and Iraq.

Thailand has an HDI of 0.755, Bangladesh has one of 0.608 and Iraq has one of 0.685. For scale, Norway has the highest HDI at 0.953. Thailand ranks 83rd in the world for high human development (though still developing), whereas Bangladesh and Iraq lay in the “medium developed” range.

Thailand 

The study concluded that Thailand had 12,911 children with a developmental disability. In Thailand, communities, professional groups and other social institutions provide education and learning centers, which serve as Thailand’s primary agents of education. Thailand has separate schools available for children with developmental disabilities. Thailand gives other resources, like communicative devices, to children with disabilities to aid in education. Thailand has different classifications of disabilities, like intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, and different sorts of schooling options available to accommodate these different groups. The parents and the children can choose which system they would like to use, and it is available as a lifelong educational resource for them.

The Education for Development Foundation (EDF), founded in 1987, started a scholarship in 2003 with the intention of making education more accessible to children with developmental disabilities. This scholarship aims to support the physical, social and emotional development of Thai youth. To qualify, candidates must already demonstrate a certain level of communicative and learning ability.

Bangladesh 

The study also found that in Bangladesh, there were 36,987 children with developmental disabilities. It also determined that the rate of enrollment for a primary school in Bangladesh was 97 percent, but only 11 percent of disabled children received any sort of education.

Approaching education with respect to disabilities, methodical diagnosing and treating physical ailments is not possible. A child’s environment has a larger role in deciding how a disability might appear. As such, many early childhood education specialists recommend an approach that relies more on the stage of development the child is in to see what children with disabilities are capable of learning. Similar to how Thailand’s education system handles children with disabilities, Bangladesh has different types of schools to choose from. Unfortunately, that sort of data is not readily available or consistent.

Many international efforts to improve educational and social infrastructure have aimed to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities in impoverished countries. As a result of the UNESCO Declaration on Education for All (1990), the Dakar Framework (2000) and the Salamanca Declaration on Inclusive Education (1994), Bangladesh is working to offer children with developmental disabilities an inclusive education alongside able-bodied children.

While this sentiment does bring the needs of children with developmental disabilities to light, it is not sufficient in clearing various obstacles that arise. One study surveyed educators on the barriers of educating children with disabilities. The results were that 11 out of 15 respondents answered ‘yes’ to a lack of the proper instruments and learning materials.

Iraq

The study showed that Iraq had 11,163 children with developmental disabilities. Malnutrition, an issue in many developing countries, can inhibit cognitive development, leading to learning disabilities and difficulties.

Further, one in three children suffers from an iodine deficiency in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas. This deficiency can result in a slew of health issues including goiter, learning difficulties and severe mental impairment in the worst cases. Statistics have shown that this environmental factor contributes to the rate of mentally disabled individuals. This adds pressure on Iraq to determine adequate educational accommodations for children with developmental disabilities.

Although, since the Iraqi society is advancing technologically, there are diverse ways to deliver education to children. This means that a wider range of people can receive education, including children with developmental disabilities. The United Nations Children’s Fund launched a series of e-projects in an attempt to standardize accessible, inclusive learning. These projects were available to all students – disabled or otherwise. About 4,000 schools had access to these e-projects, not only making education accessible to all but also providing equity to education.

Solutions

Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), established in 1981, works on behalf of all disabled individuals to give them a proper place in education, the workforce and society alongside able-bodied counterparts. DPI is active in 139 countries and seven regions, including Africa, Asia and the Middle East. DPI also develops educational materials, promotes the rights of disabled people and collects data on disability issues.

In working with MPhasiS F1 Foundation, the organization is creating a Global Youth with Disabilities Network. This network will advocate for the representation of children with developmental disabilities throughout all levels of decision-making. The organization plans to ensure these youths have access to public transportation, health care, education and employment opportunities.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Improvements for Deaf People in China
There have been many improvements for deaf people in China, especially in the areas of education, language and health care. Providing a sense of self-worth and pride, deaf individuals globally are seeing a shift in their impairment. While people once considered deafness a weakness, this disability has become a model of strength and purpose.

China’s population of 1.3 billion includes 27.8 million who suffer from hearing loss. This figure involves an estimated 11 percent of people older than 60 years of age and 20 million in the elderly segment, who suffer from moderate to severe hearing problems. The Ministry of Health has identified 115,000 children under the age of 7 with severe to profound hearing loss. Further, 30,000 babies are born with hearing impairment each year.

The Challenges

Improvements for deaf people in China are still an ongoing process. Deaf students face significant challenges such as education, language and acceptance. Parents of deaf children fought against their children learning Chinese Sign Language (CSL) for the stigma of not being normal. Parents preferred a more mainstream learning environment.

Moreover, deaf students were at a disadvantage when applying for colleges. These students fell behind their hearing peers, despite the schools expecting them to keep pace. Fortunately for deaf students, soon came the introduction of bilingual learning; students could still learn CSL, as well as spoken and written Chinese. Also, to their benefit, adapted materials included the availability of the National Higher Education Examination.

Still, China has made significant progress. In the past decade, there has been an increase in education accessibility for schools exclusively for deaf individuals, as well as schools for all other forms of disability.

Programs Launched and Progress

The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised China for the improvements of the programs for deaf people. The population of focus includes children with deafness, growing children with hearing loss/problems and the elderly community.

As of 1999, China has initiated the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) on the recommendation of the Central Government. The UNHS involves screenings offered in hospital-based programs. Newborns from low-income families receive pre-screenings for hearing-aids, as well as pre-screenings for cochlear implants. Additionally, China provides free hearing aids to deaf or hearing-impaired adults over 60 years of age. To date, over 400,000 individuals have benefited from these programs.

Hearing Screening Process

There are three categories in the hearing screening process. The first category includes large cities with extensive resources that provide UNHS hospital-based programs. This has lead to the screening of 95 percent of babies. The second category involves targeted screenings of high-risk newborns. Within one month of birth, newborns may visit early screening centers upon referral. The last category consists of the wide dissemination of questionnaires and simple tests. These tests, that community doctors provide, monitor each child’s hearing.

According to the UNHS, hearing loss in babies ranges from three to six per 1,000 births. The Otoacoustic emissions/Automated Auditory brainstem response methods perform screenings. These methods (OAE/AABR) offer a simple pass/fail result or a referral-based result, depending on the recommendation of extensive tests.

The Impact

The improvements of deaf people in China continue today, including in areas of educational and career opportunities. China is encouraging feedback from the deaf community in decision making. Further, these efforts ensure a more inclusive and informed environment, that does not highlight limitations and welcomes diversity.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr