Disability and Poverty in Lebanon
According to a U.K. study, 10-15% of Lebanese residents have a disability. In Lebanon, like many places around the world, a direct link between disability and poverty exists. Disabled individuals in Lebanon are less likely to complete elementary school and more likely to face unemployment and poverty than the abled population. As a result, disability is one of the leading causes of institutionalization in Lebanon. Here is some information about disability and poverty in Lebanon.

In the Context of COVID-19

The Lebanese government has recently come under fire for providing disabled individuals with little, conflicting or no information regarding the virus. Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that “This exclusion is robbing people with disabilities of potentially life-saving information and services that they need to weather this crisis.” Restricting access to this information limits the ability of those with disabilities to social distance and access resources, as they must rely on word-of-mouth to make important safety decisions. This puts Lebanon’s disabled population at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, simply due to the fact that they do not have the information necessary to protect themselves.

However, even if the Lebanese government decided to give the disabled population accurate information, there is no guarantee that they would have the technology necessary to receive it. Although international law dictates that governments must use technologies such as interactive voice response and TTY/TDD to provide information in accessible formats, not everyone may be able to afford the technology necessary to receive those messages.

UNICEF and other NGOs have produced accessible materials for people with disabilities to gain accurate information regarding COVID-19.

Medical Care

People with disabilities in Lebanon cannot always access medical care. In an American University of Beirut study of disabled Lebanese citizens and refugees living in Lebanon, 78.5% said that financial ability was a barrier to health care.

Arceniel, a Lebanese nonprofit founded in response to the high number of disabilities caused by the Lebanese Civil Wars, provides pay-what-you-can health care. Specializing in disability care, the organization provides mobility equipment, specialized therapies, clinician visits and other resources.

Education

By law, all government buildings, including public schools must be accessible. However, a study found that only five of all Lebanese public schools were accessible. As a result, 85% of individuals with disabilities did not complete the Lebanese equivalent of elementary school.

During this time of working and studying from home, children with cognitive disabilities who rely on in-person learning to grasp material have experienced a significant impact. Fista, a Lebanese organization that works with children and adults with cognitive disabilities, moved its entire program online. Children with cognitive disabilities can now access instructors and therapists to continue their education toward bright futures.

Workplace Inequity

Law 220, a hopeful measure from the year 2000, set a quota for the percentage of disabled employees in a company. However, the lack of physical accessibility to most Lebanese buildings makes meeting that quota improbable, if not impossible. Moreover, the government rarely enforces Law 220’s quota at all, leaving prospective disabled employees with few employment options. As a result, 74% of the disabled population does not have employment.

According to the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU)’s estimate, of disabled individuals who are capable of working, only 26% have employment. The union seeks to change that. LPHU offers on-the-job training, job placement, advocacy, business development services and counseling to those with physical disabilities.

Disability access is an issue in all countries around the world. Although the Lebanese government has taken legislative actions to improve the lives of the disabled population, enforcement of these laws for schools, workplaces and government outreach programs is lacking. The Lebanese government can and must do better to create accessible environments for its disabled population and reduce the link between disability and poverty in Lebanon.

– Monica McCown
Photo: Flickr