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PSRD: Dedicated to Fighting Poverty Among the Specially Abled
Anyone, at any time and anywhere, can fall victim to poverty. However, some factors exist that put some individuals more at risk than others, and disabilities increase the likelihood of families living in poverty. In 2019, 25.9% of disabled people in the United States lived in poverty, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. The specially-abled face higher barriers when trying to find success in their lives and become financially stable. The connection between unemployment and disability remains serious: “half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability.” In Pakistan, a country where the poverty rate is 5.4%, poverty amongst the specially-abled is significantly higher.

Physical Barriers and Poverty

  1. Health care: One reason for the physically challenged to fall into a state of poverty in Pakistan is the lack of adequate health care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to need extra resources and different types of treatment that are not easily accessible. Health care disparities arise due to societal stigma and a lack of policy changes to provide care that appropriately meets the needs of the specially-abled. There are relatively few advocates in Pakistan who are actively trying to open up more health care options for persons with disabilities. Such environments make it more difficult for poverty-stricken and physically challenged individuals in Pakistan to seek health care.
  2. Employment: The most significant cause of poverty among people with disabilities is the lack of employment opportunities they have. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Pakistani law mandates 2% of hired employees in Pakistani institutions need to be specially-abled individuals, but this law is not always put into practice. For example, a study shows that government departments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, are not meeting the 2% requirement.
  3. Education: Finally, a lack of education is a risk factor for poverty as it prohibits individuals from reaching a level of financial stability. It was found that, while education is accessible for many specially-abled children, rates of actual literacy remain low. More specifically, literacy rates for children with disabilities were much lower than those of their non-disabled peers. Regardless of socioeconomic status and family background, physically challenged students are not receiving the level of education necessary to reach the same standards of comprehension.

PSRD’s Solution

Evidently, many factors lead to the presence of poverty amongst the specially abled. The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Differently Abled (PSRD) is a nonprofit organization working to bring specially-abled people out of poverty by focusing on health care, employment and education. Based in Lahore, Pakistan, the organization has worked with the population through the following programs:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation Center: PSRD allows poverty-stricken and differently-abled individuals to maximize vocational skills. With an aim to eradicate the employment difficulties its students face, the center provides loans to jumpstart businesses. Those who receive help are better able to provide for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and selling their own, handmade products. With their businesses, beneficiaries of the center are more capable of acquiring their own income and successfully support themselves.
  2. PSRD Hospital: In an effort to make health care more accessible for the specially abled, PSRD’s 100-bed orthopedic hospital is one of the largest in Pakistan. It provides specialized services for the needs of those facing physical barriers. The hospital does not refuse any patients and patients receive services at low or no cost depending on their situation.
  3. Orthotic and Prosthetic Center: With limited access to affordable resources, many physically challenged individuals are unable to obtain prosthetics and artificial limbs that ease their day-to-day lives and open up more employment options. PSRD creates customized prosthetics and approximately 3,900 patients have benefited from the center.
  4. PSRD High School: Education plays a large part in the road to employment and a successful future. By focusing on youth who are specially-abled, PSRD hopes to ignite the talent of all students so that they can lead better lives. The school also serves the needs of each of its students by providing therapy programs and making classes accessible for the most underprivileged children. The high school’s ultimate goal is to release the potential in each student and better “integrate” students into society.

People with physical disabilities are far more likely to face poverty than their non-physically disabled counterparts. With health care disabilities, limited employment options and lower high education rates, poverty may be inevitable for many specially-abled individuals. Organizations such as PSRD in Pakistan are working to empower differently-abled persons and provide them with the resources needed to persevere through their challenges and reach their goals. PSRD works to dismantle poverty amongst the specially-abled in Pakistan.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

Disability and Poverty in Argentina. Little girl with long brown hair and wearing an orange sweater.
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