primary microcephalyCouples and women commonly come to pray for fertility at the shrine of Shah Daula in Gujarat, Pakistan. According to certain beliefs, women who conceive after praying at the shrine donate their firstborn child to the shrine to prevent disabilities from appearing in the rest of their children. These children, dubbed the “rat children of Shah Daula,” largely suffer from primary microcephaly, a medical condition where the head’s circumference is smaller than average and the brain is smaller on average as well.

Many of these children beg around the shrine and surrounding cities. Theories in the past as to how these individuals came to be range from artificially-done microcephaly to genetics. Regardless, history and current issues of exploitation of the children and adults in the shrine of Shah Daula remain. Furthermore, addressing the cycle of poverty for these individuals stands as a critical priority.

Artificial or Genetic

One of the main conversations surrounding the “rat children” consists of the nature of primary microcephaly. The belief of artificially inflicting individuals with primary microcephaly has its roots in certain religious traditions connected to the Shah Daula shrine. The process involves putting an iron ring around a child’s head to restrict the growth of the head and brain, shaping their features to resemble rats. This typically forces these children to have to beg for a living.

Genetics also cause the deformities. Medline states that in Northern Pakistan, which has one of the highest rates recorded, primary microcephaly affects one in 10,000 newborns.  The high prevalence correlates to higher rates of intrafamilial marriages, which results in higher rates of genetic disorders.

However, despite debates on the causes, individuals born with primary microcephaly suffer a neurodevelopmental disorder. They bear the medical symptoms for the rest of their lives. Individuals with primary microcephaly typically experience the following in varying degrees: delayed speech and language skills along with delayed motor skills. It is these qualities that make the children and adults suffering from this neurological disorder vulnerable to exploitation. Many of the children and adults of the shrine of Shah Daula do not have anyone to depend upon and are largely left to beg on the streets for money.

Struggling with Exploitation

Origins of the condition aside, many people with primary microcephaly remain in poverty due to exploitation. In an academic study from the Quaid-e-Azam University of Pakistan, one interviewee describes how villagers in certain areas took advantage of disabled individuals for financial gain. “Villagers take these kids from their parents by giving them money and make them bareheaded.” The money the children receive from begging would then go into the villagers’ hands.

Many aspects of the mistreatment surrounding microcephalic children and adults remain illegal under the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 328 in the Pakistan Penal Code relates to the “[e]xposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years by a parent or person having care of it.” This means that mothers, fathers or guardians cannot leave a child anywhere with the intention to abandon the child.

Sections 332 and 335 make disfigurement, whether temporary or permanent, punishable by law. Section 374 separately states, “Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment [or fines or both].” Nearly every aspect surrounding the treatment of microcephalic individuals in Pakistan can be considered illegal.

Offering Solutions

While there has not been major change concerning the treatment of microcephalic children and adults in Pakistan, new laws supporting the exploited and abandoned are a step in the right direction. In 2016, the parliament of Pakistan passed the Unattended Orphans (Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act, with the aim of “protecting the rights of unattended orphan and abandoned children” as well as “ensuring provision of facilities to them, including housing, education and healthcare.”

The Act also necessitates that the government “take other measures as may be necessary for their rehabilitation and welfare.” Importantly, the Act declares that anyone “who forces any unattended orphan to beg and commit petty crime or pick rags or any act which is injurious to health and dignity of an orphan will be punished with imprisonment of not less than four years, which may be extended to seven years and a fine of up to Rs200,000.”

Medical care for these individuals and providing for their basic needs so that they are not left vulnerable could improve fundamental conditions. The Technology Times suggests an increase in genetic counseling to address the role that genetics and “consanguineous” marriages play in the high rates of primary microcephaly in Pakistan.

An increased focus on helping those afflicted would benefit many in Pakistan. To lead to a point of positive change, the Pakistani government can evaluate from joint medical and policy standpoints to better help some of those most in need.

Grace Ingles
Photo: Unsplash

 

Solutions for BlindnessThere is a strong correlation between blindness and global poverty and people living with both have faced even more challenges than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why one Harvard graduate chose to research eye diseases, their causes and how they intersect with global poverty. Lawson Ung focused on solutions for blindness that can also alleviate poverty, such as cataract surgery and spreading awareness of treatment options. In the same vein, the United Nations (U.N.) recently created an initiative that will help people living with blindness and other vision-related challenges.

Harvard Graduate Conducts Research on Blindness and Poverty

After developing an interest in studying ophthalmology, Lawson Ung, a recent Harvard graduate, became inspired to do research on eye disease. While working in a lab, Ung decided to research how eye diseases impact different parts of the world. He learned that 80% of people living with blindness live in low- or middle-income countries and most have limited access to eye doctors. Blindness also increases the likelihood of poverty since eye-related issues can impact people’s abilities to complete daily tasks.

Possible Solutions for Blindness

One solution for blindness that would benefit about half of the people in low-income countries is cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is inexpensive and boosts productivity significantly. Another solution for blindness is spreading awareness that vision loss is not inevitable while informing people about treatment options. This involves reaching out to patients who lack access to eye care services and providing them with the resources they need. However, cultural issues such as acceptance must be a priority in order to make improvements. One study found that only about 22% of blind people living in poverty were willing to receive free cataract surgery.

The UN Creates “Vision for Everyone”

The U.N. recently created “Vision for Everyone,” an initiative that plans to expand access to eye care services in low-income countries. The reason behind this initiative is the high likelihood of more people suffering from vision-related issues in upcoming years. The initiative’s priorities include encouraging governments to improve eye care availability and highlighting the socioeconomic impact of vision loss. The initiative believes that eye care is an important component of poverty alleviation.

In his research, Ung found that many people living with eye disease also face poverty and other environmental barriers. However, cataract surgery and informing people about treatment options are possible solutions for blindness. The U.N.’s “Vision for Everyone” will work to alleviate global poverty by reaching out to millions of people who suffer from blindness and other vision-related issues.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

disability and poverty in Israel
While the national rate of poverty in Israel sits at roughly 19%, the relative poverty rate of Israelis with disabilities is 24%. Disability and poverty in Israel are not dichotomous.

Cyclical Poverty and Disability

Poverty can cause disability because it frequently leads to polluted environments, unsafe working conditions and lack of access to medical care, proper nutrition, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and education. Disability also causes poverty. According to the United Nations, discrimination causes many disabled people to experience “limited access to education and employment,” causing disabled people to disproportionately live in poverty.

According to the United Nations, “For every child killed in warfare, three are wounded and acquire a permanent disability.” These children have a 1.7 times greater risk than children without disabilities of becoming victims of violent crime. Furthermore, without proper education and employment opportunities, it is unlikely that disabled children living in poverty will escape it as they grow older.

How Israeli Innovations are Revolutionizing Accessibility

Accessibility is not only a human right, it is also the means by which disabled people achieve equal opportunity. Lack of accessibility often means inequitable treatment for people with disabilities and assistive technologies are a major component of accessibility. Today, several Israeli companies are at the forefront of assistive technology development. A few innovations that have come out of Israel in recent times are:

  • The Sesame Phone: The Sesame Phone is a smartphone that people can operate solely by “hands-free, head-controlled access.” It is ideal for people living with a variety of conditions that cause paralysis.
  • ReWalk: ReWalk is a wearable robotic skeleton that provides “powered hip and knee movement to those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).”
  • EyeMusic: EyeMusic is a Sensory Substitution Device (SSD) that emerged to provide auditory sensory substitution in order to simulate visual stimuli for the blind.
  • Lola: Lola is a multilingual, fully voice-controlled SMS application that voice commands control, catering to a wide variety of people with disabilities.
  • Playwork: Playwork is common physical therapy equipment that received rebranding as various games in order to ease the transition to rehabilitation.

While all these innovations are changing the landscape of accessibility, the innovations are not cheap. Not only do those hoping to acquire innovative accessibility options have to worry about affordability, but these technologies’ creators also have to worry about funding their production. Finding funding for a startup or development project is not an easy task.

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech” is a collaborative program between the Innovation Authority and the National Insurance Institute that seeks to encourage research and development of assistive technologies. Through Israel’s Innovation Authority, the program supplies grants to Israeli companies and nonprofits who are working to develop assistive technologies. A grant from the program can cover up to 75% of a project. The Innovation Authority also works to establish partnerships between startups and small businesses and international partners. Companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Amazon Web Services to name a few, have benefitted from the funding that the Innovation Authority provides.

The Future

Through grant programs like Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech,” Israeli developers, like those who created the Sesame Phone, ReWalk, EyeMusic, Lola and Playwork, can receive funding for research and development of assistive technologies. Providing assistive technologies to people with disabilities opens up many possibilities in the job market, which in turn, contributes to economic growth and lifts disabled individuals out of poverty.

Access to funding for developing assistive technologies would allow the brutal cycle of disability and poverty in Israel to cease and create ways to prioritize accessibility for citizens with disabilities. Through assistive technologies, many disabled people could achieve full integration into both society and the labor market, allowing a reduction in the correlation between disability and poverty in Israel.

Michelle Schwab
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Disability in Canada
Millions of Canadians live with disabilities. Around 16% of people 15 and older live with a disability, making up more than 4 million people. A correlation exists between poverty and disability in Canada. While about 10% of people without a disability live in poverty or around 3 million people, the poverty rate among those living with a disability is 14%, or around 600,000 people. Poverty rates also vary greatly among different types of disabilities.

What is a Disability?

The above statistics come from a 2006 study of the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). The survey describes disability as any type of difficulty regarding hearing, seeing, communicating, walking, leaning over, learning or other physical or mental work. Disabilities hinder productivity at work, at school and at home.

Types of Disabilities and Their Poverty Rates

The connection between disability and poverty in Canada runs deep. Furthermore, a person’s particular type of disability correlates directly to their likelihood of living in poverty. Among people with disabilities in general, the poverty rate is around 14%. For people with limited mobility, the rate is a little over 15%. For people with limited ability to communicate, the rate is 24%. People with hearing disabilities have the lowest poverty rate among disabled people at 10%.

The Majority of Canadians Support the Canadian Disability Benefit

The Canadian Disability Benefit, which the Canadian government created in 2021, set up a $12 million fund to benefit Canadians with disabilities over the course of the next three years by changing and reforming programs and benefits already in place. People recognize the link between disability and poverty in Canada. Nearly 90% of people polled either strongly or moderately support the Canadian Disability Benefit.

Disability Without Poverty Movement

Many programs aim to help eliminate poverty among people with disabilities in Canada. One is the Disability without Poverty movement, which is dedicated to ensuring people with disabilities are included in the design of the Canadian Disability Benefit. COVID-19 has greatly hurt people’s ability to seek help, including those with disabilities trying to acquire proper aid and benefits.

The connection between disability and poverty in Canada is a close one. Current aid programs in the works, like the Canadian Disability Benefit, have the design of helping people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 60% of Canadians are generally in favor of Canadians with disabilities receiving more aid and benefits, with even stronger support for the Canadian Disability Benefit in particular.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in GhanaA sign reading “Property of EEPD Africa” stands prominently in an otherwise empty plot not far from Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The land it sits on, covered in native shrubs and grasses, may one day be home to an innovative new school designed specifically with disabilities in mind. For now, it serves as a reminder of a dream that is yet to come to fruition — reducing the ties between disability and poverty in Ghana.

EEPD Africa

Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa (EEPD Africa), is one of many organizations in Ghana that advocates for and provides assistance to people with disabilities. Started in 2012 by Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie, a survivor of polio, EEPD Africa works to analyze and support legislation related to disability and accessibility.

Alongside this work, Komabu-Pomeyie has included another project into the EEPD, one that lies close to her heart. The dream of building an accessible school comes from her own experience as a child with a disability. For her, education is crucial. “If I had not been able to be in school, I don’t think you would even know me,” Komabu-Pomeyie states in an interview with The Borgen Project. “I would have been on the streets begging.”

Disability and Poverty in Ghana

Around the world, people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in their communities. More than 700,000 individuals in Ghana have a disability and households that include a person with a disability experience poverty at more than 10% the rate of other households.

People with disabilities face barriers to education, employment and healthcare. This lack of accessibility means that many are unable to take part in formal society and often have to resort to begging for money and food. “There are a lot of people with disabilities on the street right now,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “You will see them lined up in traffic, they go from car to car begging.” Poverty is especially hard on children with disabilities, who may not have equal access to schooling. People with disabilities may also be unable to afford the medications needed to manage their conditions, which can have tragic consequences.

Another part of disability and poverty in Ghana is the stigma that is often attached to having a disability. Many families in Ghana keep relatives with disabilities inside their homes, hidden from their communities. This limits access to society for people with disabilities in Ghana. Komabu-Pomeyie recalls how her father saw her disability as a source of shame. This eventually led him to abandon her and her mother. “One day he just woke up and wrote on a paper and put it on the table for my mom: “I can’t live with this thing,” Komabu-Pomeyie reiterates her father’s words.

Disability Advocacy in Ghana

Disability advocacy groups are battling stigma in Ghana, often helmed by people with disabilities. One of the earliest advocacy groups, the Ghana Society for the Blind, was founded in 1951. Other organizations soon followed.

In 1987, the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations was created to facilitate collaboration between different disabled communities. This overarching group currently has seven primary organizations as members, including associations for the blind, deaf, physically disabled and those who have neurological and immunological conditions. These organizations raise awareness about disabilities and create opportunities for people to access medical care, education and employment. These efforts provide a vital lifeline for people experiencing disability and poverty in Ghana.

One of the biggest achievements advocates have seen is the passing of the Disabled Persons Act in 2006, which makes it illegal to discriminate against or exploit a person based on disability. The act also puts government supports in place to improve the accessibility of infrastructure, education and employment.

The enforcement of these protections is now a primary goal for advocacy groups. In spite of the law, in many places, children are still turned away from schools because of a disability. Advocacy organizations still have to step up to ensure the child’s right to an education. “The bigger challenge we have in Ghana is implementation or enforcement,” Komabu-Pomeyie says.

Inclusive Education

Komabu-Pomeyie’s belief in the importance of education in addressing disability and poverty in Ghana comes from her own experience. Her mother, a school librarian, would carry her to school every day where she would learn underneath her table. This devotion to her education inspired Komabu-Pomeyie, who eventually earned her doctorate despite the painful and dehumanizing challenges she faced. “When you see me, beautiful, sitting here today, I went through a whole lot of pain,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “That pain is what I don’t want any child with disabilities to go through.”

The experience fuels her motivation to build an inclusive and accessible school for children with disabilities. Having worked with the Ghana Education Service, Komabu-Pomeyie has the knowledge and connections necessary. She completed the plans for the school and purchased the land with community support. Funding, however, remains an obstacle. The project is estimated to cost $200,000, but less than $500 has been raised. Despite having land and community support, a lack of finances presents a significant barrier.

Komabu-Pomeyie remains determined to complete the school and help children with disabilities access inclusive education with the accommodations that they require. Disability and poverty in Ghana is a complex issue, but it is one that organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to address.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

poverty in the Philippines
In the Philippines, mental health problems for those who are disabled have recently skyrocketed. As COVID-19 spread, disabled citizens living in the Philippines suffered from a lack of treatment and heightened health concerns. Furthermore, inequality rose, as there was a lack of healthcare data to help inform and protect the disabled. Disability and poverty in the Philippines are connected. Fortunately, the government is taking steps to help the disabled communities of the Philippines, with the hopes of decreasing poverty and increasing protection.

Poverty and Disability

Approximately 15% of the world’s population experiences a form of disability. In the Philippines, the 2016 National Disability Prevalence Survey (NDPS) revealed that 12% of Filipinos 15 and older suffer from severe disabilities. Furthermore, 47% of people have moderate conditions and 23% have mild disabilities. Compared to the global average, these rates are high. In part, this is due to the fact that developing countries are more likely to have a higher prevalence of disabilities.

COVID-19 had a major impact on the accessibility of healthcare for the disabled. The pandemic placed limits on those who needed sign language interpreters, braille translation and handicap services. Those with medical disabilities needed to be extra cautious as to not endanger themselves by contracting COVID-19. In many cases, poverty in the Philippines is related to disability. The disabled face a higher likelihood of poverty and lower rates of education, health and employment. Those with a secure job may also receive less pay than non-disabled persons despite the funds necessary for living with a disability.

Financial Support

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, financial support is being provided to people with disabilities in the Philippines. In Cebu City, the government provided financial aid in the form of income, supplies and resources in May 2021. Essentials such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and medicine were given to eligible people in need. Each household received P5,000 in monetary assistance, covering January to May of 2021, a period of time where no income was given.

Josh Maglasang is one example of the program’s success. As someone with a disability, he expressed his happiness and relief regarding the recent financial assistance. He acknowledged that monthly payments will help him cover medical costs. Moreover, he was specifically grateful to receive the overdue assistance. Recent exposure to poverty in the Philippines is helping initiatives such as this one pass.

Government Measures

Disability legislation has aided the disabled in the Philippines for many years. The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons Act was passed in 2007, allowing all disabled citizens to receive a minimum 20% discount from stores and services. Dental and medical care, hotels, theater and travel are all included in this coverage.

Furthermore, in regards to education, the disabled have the right to primary, secondary and all higher levels of schooling, with the proper financial assistance granted. This comes in the form of aid packages, scholarships, full coverage and book and supply financing. For those who are physically or mentally unable to work, rights to benefits from the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) are provided.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, disability aid is particularly relevant. Regarding disability and poverty in the Philippines, providing care and support for disabled citizens will make a major difference in the success of the country. Strengthening the Mental Health Act is necessary to improve the quality of life for those who are disabled. Recent improvements in medical support, therapy and pandemic relief mark the beginning of helping those in need.

Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and DisabilityMany factors can contribute to poverty in China, including disability. Due to socioeconomic barriers and discrimination, people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty. With a high population rate, China has one of the largest numbers of disabled people living in poverty. Unemployment, lack of education and discrimination are just some of the many challenges this population faces in China.

9 Facts About Disability and Poverty in China

  1. High Disability Population: The total population of people living with disabilities in China reached 85 million in 2018, which is 6.5% of the total Chinese population. In 2006, men accounted for 51% of the disabled population while 49% were women. Many of these individuals often do not receive adequate support due to discrimination or “ableism,” meaning social prejudice against people with disabilities. In an article titled “Gender and Disability in Chinese Higher Education,” China is categorized as an ableist society with a number of injustices facing the disability community. As such, people with disabilities are “often seen as persons presenting inconvenience and burdens to society.” Ableism in China has also led to many children with disabilities being abandoned. Some statistics estimate around 98% of abandoned children in China may have disabilities. Thus, societal prejudices contribute significantly to the lack of support that individuals with disabilities in China receive.
  2. Lack of Education: The lack of quality education offered to people with disabilities in China has disadvantaged these individuals academically and economically. In China, the gap in education quality for disabled individuals is growing. Poverty remains a crucial obstacle in the empowerment of those living with disabilities. Due to this lower quality education, individuals aged 15 and above with disabilities have an illiteracy rate greater than 40%. This difference is staggering compared to the 3.3% illiteracy rate for the same age group without disabilities. Similarly, the lack of education provided to people with disabilities in China causes these individuals to experience challenges during the employment process. Jobs often require proficiency in language skills, leaving disabled individuals at a disadvantage.
  3. Lack of Monetary Support: Often, Chinese employers do not provide sufficient support to individuals with disabilities. Employment services for disabled people in China are at the initial stages, and they have proven to be inadequate to help unemployed, disabled persons obtain jobs. The quality of employment, including wage levels and conditions of work, have room for improvement. Because of the lack of proper services to economically empower people with disabilities, these individuals often live in poverty.
  4. High Disability Rate in Rural Areas: The disabled population in urban areas accounted for 20.71 million, or 20.96%, of the population. Meanwhile, the disabled population in rural areas is 62.25 million, or 75.04%. There are significantly more disabled people living in rural areas compared to urban areas. The employment difference is mainly due to this gap in the urban and rural populations. Initially, China had a very agricultural-based economy. However, with recent economic reforms, the country has industrialized, and most of the population now lives in urban areas. Many rural residents face obstacles in moving to urban areas, mainly because most only receive short-term contracts that do not entitle them to urban residency status. The lack of residency status prevents them from accessing proper healthcare services and other benefits. This gap is an even more significant barrier for people with disabilities, as a lack of appropriate care can be detrimental to their health.
  5. Discrimination Against Disabled Employees: China’s anti-discriminatory laws, especially in employment, are often not followed. China has laws that ensure protection and equal rights for disabled people. However, employers frequently ignore these laws. While the Chinese government installed a quote system in 2008 with penalties for failing to abide, many employers preferred to pay the fine than hire a worker with a disability. These discriminatory actions put workers with disabilities at a greater disadvantage for finding employment and gaining support from their government.
  6. High Mortality Rate: According to the U.N., in countries where “under-five mortality,” meaning the probability (per 1,000) that a newborn will die before reaching the age of 5, has decreased below 20%, the mortality rate for children with disabilities may be as high as 80%. In China, the 2019 mortality rate for children under five is 7.9%, which is less than 20%. This means that there is a high death rate for children with disabilities. Additionally, there is a lack of medical services available for families without health insurance to support a disabled child.
  7. Adult Opposition: Parental opposition and the lack of trained teachers represent further obstacles to quality education. Students with disabilities do not receive adequate learning because there is a lack of trained teachers who know how to create an inclusive environment at school. Research has shown that although 77% of teachers have experience teaching students with special needs, 60% of teachers have not received the proper training nor know how to teach them in an inclusive environment. This ineffective education system for students with disabilities sets the foundation for future disempowerment in China’s economic and social spheres.
  8. Disability Cycle: Disability and poverty are creating a cycle in which one reinforces the other. Low-income individuals often lack access to quality healthcare, and this healthcare disparity further aggravates the burdens of these groups. These healthcare programs expose individuals to diseases that can lead to long-term disabilities. Disability can then lead to decreased productivity, preventing these individuals from working, and thus resulting in unemployment. Ultimately, higher unemployment rates lead to higher poverty rates, creating a cycle of poverty and disability.
  9. Lack of Employment: Discrimination and bias hold back disabled individuals from employment and lead to higher poverty rates. People with disabilities in China face prejudice and discrimination and are often marginalized and “largely invisible” to others. Research studies exploring the discrimination that individuals with disabilities face reveal that birthing or raising a person with a disability was believed to bring shame and guilt to the family. Because of this widespread stigma, there is a belief that people with disabilities are incapable of working, which causes many barriers for them in accessing employment opportunities. As a result of less employment, there is an increase in poverty.

Looking Ahead

While poverty in China affects a significant portion of its population, it has disproportionately affected individuals with disabilities due to the unique economic and social disadvantages they face. From lack of employment opportunities, lower-quality education and poor healthcare access to the persisting stigma associated with disabilities and rampant discrimination, challenges for people with disabilities are numerous in this country. China can continue to support its disabled community through education initiatives, economic opportunities and protective legislative actions.

– Philip Tang
Photo: Unsplash

Addressing Autism in Hong Kong
Of every 100,000 children in Hong Kong, 372 suffer from autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder or autism affects an individual’s nervous system and causes developmental delays. This condition varies in severity in each case, and symptoms mostly consist of recurring body movements, odd fascination towards certain things and trouble speaking and interacting with others. Left unattended, autism in adulthood often results in loss of employment and difficulty focusing in school. The Aoi Pui School, Autism Partnership and Heep Hong Society are all addressing autism in Hong Kong and improving lives by helping children integrate into ordinary schools and teaching vital work skills.

Aoi Pui School

Researchers who wanted to provide quality education to children with autism in Hong Kong founded Aoi Pui School (APS) in 2007. More specifically, the institution teaches fundamental work skills to its students. Every student at APS enrolls in a program that educates the children about professional competence. In the program, students learn about the importance of maintaining a positive work ethic, approaching work with enthusiasm, comprehending the responsibilities and knowing the privileges.

Autism Partnership

The Autism Partnership (AP) came to Hong Kong in 1999 and strives to offer effective treatment to children with autism. AP works towards integrating autistic children into mainstream schools and society. It offers two programs called The Buddies and i-Club to encourage autistic children to develop their social skills. The Buddies program targets first, second and third graders and educates the students on how to maintain relationships with their peers. The i-Club program focuses on children heading to middle school and teaches the children how to calm down, control their feelings, consider the point of view of others, establish relationships, respectfully play with others and start dialogues.

AP also helps children successfully join mainstream schools. First, an AP employee sets up a specific plan with the institution. Then, AP educates counselors at the school about the child’s particular case. Next, the organization checks on the success of the student and changes the child’s plan when problems arise. Lastly, the student relies less on the counselors and navigates school individually.

Heep Hong Society

Since 1963, Heep Hong Society strives to improve the lives of minors with disabilities and different backgrounds. In particular, the organization assists older autistic children in obtaining and retaining jobs. First, the Heep Hong Society gives personal guidance to each adolescent. In the one-on-one discussions, the organization discovers the young adult’s passions, talents and attributes to help connect the students with dream jobs and assist them in issues regarding socialization, studying and employment. Also, the Heep Hong Society works with local companies to secure jobs and scholarships for its students.

Conclusion

All in all, Aoi Pui School, Autism Partnership and Heep Hong Society strive to help children with autism in Hong Kong enroll in mainstream schools and obtain employment. With the help of these organizations, autistic youth can retain independence and live above the poverty line.

– Samantha Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

households in South AfricaSouth Africa has prioritized passing laws to encourage greater inclusion and equality for people with disabilities, but today, disabled individuals continue to face economic insecurity and lack access to socio-economic rights. Every day, households in South Africa impacted by disability have economic vulnerabilities and disability-related costs to fulfill, which can negatively impact economic growth by lowering future productivity. In South Africa, low-income households with disabilities are more disadvantaged, resulting in lower education, employment and health outcomes.

Disability Barriers

In South Africa, families with disabilities are economically challenged due to the additional costs of living as disabled individuals. The negative economic consequences for society as a whole link to poverty because poverty and disability reinforce each other. Impoverished households in South Africa with a lack of access to education, healthcare and jobs are at higher “risk of impairment and disability.”

Daily barriers the disabled community faces include limited access to education and healthcare, accessibility issues and inadequate support and resources. Children with disabilities are often unable to attend school because they lack the appropriate resources and access to rehabilitation and assistive devices like wheelchairs or glasses. A central component and cause of poverty for people with disabilities is inadequate education.

Employment and Income Impacts

In South Africa, a lack of education for people with disabilities has a significant impact on the occupations and career opportunities available to them, resulting in unemployment or lower-paying jobs. Many disabled people who do find work are usually paid less than other people due to the limitations imposed by their impairment. Both of these variables have the potential to reduce household income.

Furthermore, increased time demands of providing care and assistance to an individual with a disability in the household impact the income of other household members. This is especially so for the primary caregiver. This may have pressing consequences, including difficulties finding work that can accommodate the high assistance demands in the household and allow for flexible or decreased work hours. Occupations with flexible working conditions are difficult to come by. Additionally, the birth of a disabled child or a disabling incident in the home may disrupt the education of other family members.

Progressive Laws Passed

The South African government has acknowledged the disability vulnerabilities of households in South Africa. South Africa has enacted a number of laws and policies to promote the inclusion and equality of people with disabilities. One of the earliest pieces of legislation is the Employment Equity Act of 1998. The White Paper on Inclusive Education was passed in 2001 to ensure disabled people have the same educational opportunities as others. The legislation upholds the rights of disabled people to ensure their education and employment, allowing them to rise out of poverty. Excluding marginalized populations is detrimental to a country’s advancement. Inclusive societies are able to progress at a faster rate because no person is left behind in growth and development.

Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Wheelchair DonationThere are 100 million people in the world who need a wheelchair. However, of this number, an estimated 75 million can not afford one. A low-cost standard wheelchair costs anywhere from $100 to $300. In countries where families live on less than a dollar a day, that cost is astronomical. Therefore, they rely on wheelchair donations.

From genetic disorders to infections that require amputation, people need a wheelchair for any number of reasons. In Sierra Leone, 1,600 people are amputees due to the devastating civil war that ended in 2002. Countries in Africa that have been hard-hit by Ebola, Malaria and other diseases are home to thousands of people that need wheelchairs but can’t afford them.

These people regain their sense of dignity and self-worth when they can move freely on their own. Without the assistance of a wheelchair, they have to rely on others to get from place to place. This makes school and work extremely difficult. With a wheelchair, people with physical disabilities can bring themselves to work and school, breaking themselves out of the vicious cycle of disability and poverty. Here are three organizations that are helping to make mobility a reality for people through wheelchair donations.

Walkabout Foundation

The brother and sister team Luis and Carolina Gonzalez-Bunster founded Walkabout Foundation in 2009. In 1994, Luis suffered damage to his spinal cord in a car accident. The injury paralyzed him and doctors told him he would never walk again.

Since its creation, Walkabout Foundation has donated 17,400 wheelchairs to people living in poverty in 25 countries. The foundation has also raised $1.642 million for research and founded two rehabilitation centers, one in India and the other in Kenya.

“Walkabout Foundation restores dignity, freedom and independence by providing wheelchairs and rehabilitation in the developing world and funding research to find a cure for paralysis,” the foundation’s homepage reads.

Free Wheelchair Mission

Free Wheelchair Mission is a faith-based organization that raises money for and donates wheelchairs to developing countries. It celebrates its official 20th anniversary this year.

The organization builds its own wheelchairs, which engineers have designed with cost efficiency and availability in mind. For example, the wheelchairs’ wheels are bicycle wheels because bicycles are a common mode of transportation almost anywhere in the world, making replacement parts for the wheelchairs easy to find and install.

In the 22 years since Founder and President Don Schoendorfer started producing and donating wheelchairs, Free Wheelchair Mission has donated more than 1.2 million wheelchairs in 94 countries.

Latter-day Saint Charities

Latter-day Saint (LDS) Charities is the humanitarian section of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among its many charitable outreaches, it provides not only wheelchairs but also education on how to maintain and build wheelchairs so that community members can build their own wheelchairs.

In 2018 alone, LDS Charities made 53,800 wheelchair donations in 40 different countries. Volunteers work together with local governments and non-governmental groups to distribute wheelchairs and provide training for those receiving wheelchairs, their loved ones and their communities. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, LDS Charities made 21,365 wheelchair donations in 2020.

Vulnerable groups receiving these wheelchair donations from the three organizations and others alike have their lives changed forever. The gift of mobility is irreplaceable and invaluable, improving the living conditions of those with physical disabilities.

– Holly Dorman
Photo: Flickr