Disability and Poverty in Argentina
Argentina has taken steps to address employment discrimination, access to transportation and access to quality education for people with disabilities, factors that have historically contributed to a correlation between disability and poverty in Argentina.

According to estimates based on census data from 2010, around 5 million Argentines have a disability and the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Argentina stood at 91% in 2004. Additionally, the United Nations has reported that youth with disabilities are far more likely to fall at or below the poverty line in comparison to those who do not have disabilities. However, recent action from the government is beginning to address the link between disability and poverty in Argentina.

Addressing Employment Discrimination 

In Argentina, people have often seen those with disabilities as “objects of charity” rather than productive members of society entitled to the same opportunities and responsibilities as anyone else. These views have inhibited disabled people’s ability to acquire employment and earn living wages for their work. A shift away from this perception of people with disabilities began during the 1970s and in 1981, the Argentine government agreed to approve an employment quota requiring that disabled people hold 4% of federal government jobs. Additionally, in 1988, the legislature passed an anti-discrimination law to help protect disabled Argentines from discriminatory practices. However, due to a lack of enforcement and regulation of such laws, the correlation between disability and poverty in Argentina has persisted for decades.

A significant step toward helping disabled Argentines obtain equal employment has come with Argentina’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008. The convention has since received constitutional status in the country.

This treaty makes Argentina accountable for upholding its commitment to fully including people with disabilities in all areas of society. As such, in 2011, a National Disability Observatory emerged to supervise the implementation of the convention. It involves various working groups consisting of people with disabilities and public officials to monitor different areas of public policy including access to employment.

Since the adoption of the CRPD, Argentina has allocated over 724 million Argentine pesos toward helping promote the employment of people with disabilities. These programs have ranged from vocational training to the implementation of supported employment programs across government agencies to help reach the 4% job quota in public employment in 2017.

Addressing Access to Transportation

Although access to public transportation remains a significant barrier to employment for many disabled Argentines, some have taken measures to make public transportation physically and economically accessible to those with disabilities. Reports have determined that almost all buses in the capital city of Buenos Aires have a manual ramp at the rear door.

The subway station that people know as the subte has automated ramps and street elevators that often lead directly to the boarding platform. Additionally, plans have emerged to increase the number of stations with braille signage and tactile markers. These features have enabled many Argentines to travel freely and independently from their homes to workplaces.

As disability and poverty in Argentina so often interweave, the government has allowed disabled Argentines to ride all public transportation free of charge with the use of disability certificates. In some cases travel may even be free for a traveling companion depending on the disability. These certificates are available following a certification process that is voluntary and of no cost to the disabled person or their family.

Addressing Access to Education 

The United Nations has stated that as countries work to reduce poverty, they must ensure that all youth receive the same opportunities to contribute to society, and that increasing access to inclusive education is instrumental in bridging this gap as inequities in education negatively impact employment options for individuals with disabilities. While Argentina guarantees access to education for children with disabilities, these children often meet with discriminatory practices in schools and are subject to a lower quality of education, further compounding the effects of disability and poverty in the country.

As of 2016, the Ministry of Education in Argentina organized 35 events and workshops focused on drafting inclusive education guidelines and providing training to teachers. These programs have reached an estimated 45,250 people consisting of teaching staff and the general public. The Ministry has also prepared materials to increase awareness of inclusive education practices, including guidelines for providing accommodations and support to students.

The Argentine government has begun overseeing the implementation of inclusive education policies in all the nation’s provinces with a toll-free national hotline to record and track instances of discrimination in educational settings. Furthermore, with the support of the World Bank, planning and development are underway for inclusive education projects for schools in rural areas of the country where a lack of basic resources and services exacerbates disability and poverty in Argentina.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in El Salvador
In El Salvador, poverty is the main impediment to child education. With a population of 6.4 million, the poverty rate decreased from 39% to 29% in 2017. However, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely negatively affect poverty reduction and economic growth in 2020, according to The World Bank. Disability and poverty in El Salvador are an obstacle for many children living in rural areas.

The fight against poverty and the current economic crisis accentuated the already existing lack of education for the deaf population. For this reason, Fatima Project swims against the current with the hope of instructing disabled children one by one. The project intends to create an educational system that teaches deaf children primary and secondary education so that they can access university and participate in it in the same way as their classmates.

The Situation

In El Salvador, there are four public schools for deaf people, but only one of them offers education from kindergarten to high school. On the other hand, few private schools provide the option for a deaf person to attend classes with an interpreter, who translates Spanish into a gestural language. In this case, the student’s parents fund the interpreter’s work. Moreover, only the University of El Salvador can offer education for the deaf and fully pay for the interpreter’s expenses. Still, the statistics are discouraging: Between 2010 and 2018, only eight deaf people have graduated from college. In a deaf population of 88,000 people, what is the main obstacle and –most important- the ultimate solution?

From a Garage to NGO

In May 2017, Fátima Abarca -a deaf-mute teacher- established a small kindergarten education school for deaf children with help of the Forja Foundation, an NGO that provided the facilities. She received one classroom in Forja’s facilities in San Salvador, but that was enough to help 10 children from 3 to 7 years old. Abarca told The Borgen Project that “Becoming a teacher was a moral imperative that nourished from a deep conviction about the need to educate and guide children who like me, face hearing impairment.” The project began a few years before Fátima received a classroom when a group of parents approached her to ask for her help and she agreed to teach them in the only space available to her: the garage.

In rural areas of El Salvador, low-income families, who cannot afford education or transportation to public schools, often withdraw their children from school. In addition, some of those families have deaf children and do not speak sign language. Therefore, their children live in isolation. The latter triggered Fátima and her collaborators into action, knowing that those parents could not pay for the teacher’s services. Fundraising has kept the project going.

The project obtains funding from sponsors. For example, a donor will take on the responsibility of paying for one child’s tuition. Fátima uses the money that she has received to finance the project and pay for the teachers. Moreover, the Forja Foundation takes care of utility expenses. In addition, the NGO Gloria de Kriete awarded the project with $5,000 for the category of community development on 2018. However, Fatima needs more funding to expand the project.

The Children

“The first years of age are crucial for a human being’s education. That is where we lay the foundations of knowledge for intellectual and moral development,” said Fátima. Fátima dreams of establishing a school that provides the education necessary for children to access a public high school and understand –just as she did- that the disability should not be a limitation.

Fabricio Hernández, 12, is one of her students. He has a cleft lip and congenital disorders that affect his hearing. He lives with his mother and his maternal grandparents. His mother works at a bakery to support their living. “Fabricio is an intelligent, outgoing child with an extraordinary thirst to learn,” argued his teacher.

Like Fabricio, 5-year-old Angélica Martínez struggles to learn due to the added difficulty of Asperger’s syndrome. For this reason, Fátima provides her with specialized lessons. Angelica’s parents are deaf too, so she is under the care of her mother and grandmother.

Meanwhile, Alison Diaz, 12, struggles with deafness and autism. Her parents’ divorce affected her. “Despite the difficulties that surround my star student, she has made progress in her behavior and has learned a lot,” Fátima reaffirmed.

The Effects of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Project

The school closed during the pandemic. In addition, the funds decreased because no parents were able to pay for the education the school provided. Thus, the pandemic has significantly affected children experiencing disability and poverty in El Salvador. Many of them, confined at home, do not have access to the internet. However, Fatima has found other proactive strategies to reach them: she sends schedules to parents through their mobile devices and uploads the lessons to her YouTube channel, proving that she has not given up on her fight against disability and poverty in El Salvador.

The project is a young dream. Freshly settled three years ago, Fatima has made progress in educating children who are struggling with disability in the face of poverty. Fatima has given them the opportunity to educate themselves and expand their threshold of opportunities.

– Paola Arriaza Avilés
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Bolivia
A disability can take many forms such as ones that impair the senses, inhibit daily routines or completely change one’s quality of life. Although many can be born with a disability, people in impoverished countries may face the issue of developing disabilities later in life due to disease and sickness that goes untreated because treatment is unaffordable. Whether the disability is physical or mental, having a disability can often correlate with future poverty due to difficulty in schooling and an inability to gain employment. Here is some information about disability and poverty in Bolivia.

The Correlation Between Disability and Poverty in Bolivia

In 2018, 10.6% of Bolivia’s population lived on $3.20 USD a day or less. With a population of over 11 million, a significant number of Bolivians live in poverty. Meanwhile, an estimated 15% have some type of disability.

The term disability is broad due to its application to either physical or mental problems; the 15% of the population covers both since mental and physical disabilities can affect labor force and schooling participation. Over 75% of those with a disability do not participate in schooling in Bolivia. Employers are hesitant to hire given the extensive training and exceptions necessary; a lack of schooling hurts hiring opportunities further. Those with disabilities face lacking or rejected health care and unforgiving employers, and others often misunderstand them in classrooms. Nonetheless, if they cannot find a job, a life in poverty is almost a guarantee. While impairments are quite a struggle individually, those who aim to care for their loved ones struggle too.

The Progress

The Bolivian education system introduced a project called Fe y Alegría Bolivia in 2012 geared towards helping special needs students by creating a more inclusive environment to influence greater school participation in the disabled community. The main issue with this project is funding. While the issue of funding can apply to almost any project, what is missing in the structure of the program is the socialization and conditioning to function not only in the classroom but in society as well.

For instance, as a social experiment, a program referred to as the Accelerated Benefits Demonstration and Evaluation Project emerged in the U.S. for disabled individuals from 2007 to 2009. It offered Medicare as well as counseling to create a smooth transition for disabled individuals into a working society. During its time, the project had notable successes by granting those with disabilities the ability to pay for necessities, a greater inclination to work and increased preparation to work. This project is an excellent model for countries like Bolivia.

Although the project occurred for only a short amount of time, the Accelerated Benefits Demonstration and Evaluation Project demonstrated positives that could apply to foreign countries like Bolivia. A program like this has the potential to significantly reduce the gap in labor participation and increase school attendance in a similar way. Preparing these individuals for daily work would greatly improve their ability to obtain employment, hopefully reducing the correlation between disability and poverty in Bolivia.

– Angela Munoz
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in India Through SewingOver the last decade, empowering women in poor communities has become a focal point in India. That is because about 50.7 million people live in extreme poverty in India, yet, as of 2019, only 20.7% of women in India are part of the labor force. Moreover, the country has recently seen a drop in its GDP from 6.1% to 5% and is attempting to recover from its uncertain economy. As a result, one solution that many nonprofit organizations and the government have recognized is investing in the population that is living under the poverty line. Specifically, many groups are empowering women in India through sewing.

Today, being able to sew can be an acclaimed vocational skill. Over the past decade or so, embroidery has become an empowering tool for women in India, and a traditional craft. With this understanding, nonprofits have implemented many initiatives in India to empower women and help their families out of poverty.

Sewing the Seeds & Samugam Trust

Sewing the Seeds is a nonprofit organization that partnered with the NGO Samugam Trust to begin a women’s sewing initiative. The plan supports women in impoverished communities by creating economic stability using creativity and the traditional craft of stitching. Bruno Savio and Gayle created Sewing the Seeds to use sewing to empower women in India living in poverty.

Savio’s father opened the Samugam Trust in 1991 to support the educational training of the underprivileged, the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and those who are physically challenged. Bruno Savio has continued his father’s legacy as director of Samugam and partner of Sewing the Seeds. Gayle backpacked across India about 40 years ago. During her journey, she saw an opportunity to empower women in the country through vocational training.

Savio and Gayle recognized that more than 50% of women in India are illiterate, and only 29% of women in India are actively employed. Additionally, those who are employed are paid 46% less than men holding the same positions. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust realize that investing in women is smart economics and essential to reducing poverty. With this in mind, the initiative provides the training, financial assistance, materials and communal space to empower women while preserving local craft traditions.

Samugam Trust has supported the initiative since 2011, with the first collection of products introduced online in 2018. Sewing the Seeds and Samugam Trust have supplied training and machines for 130 women. The importance of this initiative is to empower women in India in a way that is holistic and long term in its support.

Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism also supported empowering women in India through sewing by launching a sustainable livelihood project. The starting goal is to reach out to 10 tribal and disabled Indian women to provide vocational training. To successfully supply these resources Shakti.ism is partnering with Samugam Trust and Sewing the Seeds to empower impoverished women. Recently, they chose 10 women from diverse backgrounds including disabled mothers.

Shakti.ism continuously raises money to cover instruction fees, supplies, daily stipends for trainees and administrative costs such as quality control. Most products are crafted from repurposed saris (a traditional Indian woman’s dress) and are to be sold online. Shakti.ism is empowering women in India as a way to support families living in underprivileged rural areas of India, as well as decrease the wage disparity while increasing the trainees’ self-confidence and skills.

Usha Silai School

Included in the community-based initiative is Usha Silai (sewing) School. This initiative has reportedly set up over 15,000 sewing schools across India with the support of the Digital Empowerment Foundation NGO and Sikana. To further their reach and enhance their programs, Usha and Sikana co-created a video program to train illiterate women. The enhanced program has increased the initiative’s outreach while providing skills to gain a livelihood to women in rural India.

The Digital Empowerment Foundation supplies technological information for rural citizens to use to their advantage. For example, they supply internet-dependent tools that can provide access to training and create socioeconomic equality. Specifically, they provide internet and digital tools in rural community centers that partner with Usha Silai School.

Community-based initiatives that provide sewing empowerment for women in poverty have been essential for the growth of rural India. Sewing has become a highly desired vocational skill and is a powerful tool for those living in poverty. Recognizing the long term impact of vocational training, NGOs provide this solution-based approach across India to bring self-confidence and skills to women.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

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