Social Issues December 3, 2011
International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Today is the International Day of Persons With Disabilities, a worldwide recognition of the challenges faced by disabled persons that has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992. The day is being commemorated in a variety of ways around the globe, from a flash mob performance in Vienna and Amsterdam to wheelchair square dancing in Vancouver.

Each year, the UN designates a theme to the day, and this year it's "Including Persons with Disabilities in Development." In many developing countries, access to sanitation is a difficult challenge for disabled people. WaterAid is an international NGO that works to improve the situation by developing accessible toilets in areas where they do not exist. In those places where disabled people are still stigmatized, the simple addition of handrails or ramps can make a significant difference and restore a sense of dignity to those who need it.

WaterAid cites the story of one beneficiary in Nepal:

"Hari Bahadur Sapkota in Nepal has been married three times but his wives left him because they felt he was unclean as he had to crawl to and touch the toilet. Now, with his accessible toilet, Mr. Sapkota does not need to touch the toilet and can sit more comfortably. People no longer think he is dirty and his family entrusts him to cook meals so they have more time to earn an income."

Disabled-friendly infrastructure remains scarce in many parts of the world, and today is a good opportunity to recognize the disparity of access between the wealthy world and the rest.

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