In the world today, more than one billion people live with some form of disability. Eighty percent of those people live in developing countries. In one study, in 15 developing countries worldwide, households with at least one disabled member were worse off financially than those without. The intersection between poverty and disabilities highlights one of the most critical forms of inequality plaguing the world. Ahead are five facts about living in poverty with disabilities:
- The world’s poor are disproportionately disabled. According to the World Bank, approximately 20 percent of the poorest people in the world are disabled. Much of this relates specifically to the financial costs of disability. In fact, in Tamil Nadu, India, a study found that the average cost of living with a disability amounted to two to three times the financial losses suffered due to lowered productivity caused by poor nutrition.
- Just as disability can lead to poverty, poverty can lead to disability. With poverty comes the potential increase of disability due to disease, malnutrition, dangerous work environments, poor housing and healthcare, lack of clean water and violence. The stigma surrounding disabilities limits people’s access to education, employment, health services and community support. All of these induce further poverty.
- Organizations such as ADD International partner with disability activists in Africa and Asia to provide tools, resources and support for the disability rights movement. These organizations strive for improvements in employment, access to education and overall equality for individuals living in poverty with disabilities.
- In Cambodia, Caritas Australia’s Deaf Development Program (DDP) improves access to education and increases employment opportunities for those who are deaf or hearing impaired. Caritas Australia also partners with organizations in Laos, such as the Lao Disabled Persons Association. This organization helps parents and teachers understand the needs of children with mental disabilities. And in Vietnam, Caritas Australia’s Supporting Adults and Children with Disabilities program provides vocational training and social support.
- In 2006, the U.N. adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in order to transform the treatment of people with disabilities, turning them from “‘objects’ of charity” into autonomous “‘subjects’ with rights.” It was intended to clarify and qualify how all categories of rights apply to people with disabilities. It also adapts itself to become amenable to persons with disabilities and to ensure that they can exercise their rights fully.
Ultimately, it is incumbent upon the world’s community to put an end to both the stigmatization of disabilities and the overarching trend of poverty. Though this will take diligent work on both a social and economic level, it is necessary in order to create a society characterized by equality for all people.
– Emily Chazen