Bhubaneswar: Accessibility to water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) is a fundamental right for persons with disabilities (PWDs) to live with dignity, according to experts.
They were participating in a state-level programme on the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) here.
The IDPD is observed December 3 to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
This year’s theme is ‘fighting for rights in the post-Covid era’.
Three special elements for disability inclusion are safe water and sanitation, disaster preparedness and accessible sanitary toilets, according to Purna Chandra Mohanty, programme coordinator of Water Aid – an international NGO focused on Wash.
United Nations Development Programme state head Abha Mishra advised the state government for conducting mandatory audits in every school, office, hospital and public institution for Wash infrastructure.
There should be skilled engineers to design disability-inclusive infrastructure like toilets and the government should fast track implementation of welfare schemes with periodic assessment and enhanced outreach, the UNDP official said.
The consultation, focusing on ‘sanitation for all, free from discrimination and bias’, was jointly organised by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), Odisha Association for Blind and the Odisha Vikalang Manch.
CFAR state lead Samir Ranjan Dash said the major concern was to ensure proper estimation and counting of persons with disabilities, adding that otherwise “we cannot succeed in making Wash services truly inclusive”.
“When we went house by house to 62 households in two slums, we found 30 per cent struggling to access Wash because some could not see, some could not hear and some could not climb stairs and some could not follow instructions in public facilities,” CFAR disability lead Swagat Jhankar Mallick said.
In his keynote address, Housing and Urban Development additional secretary Kalyan Rath said the Odisha Association for the Blind should be renamed as Odisha Association for Visually-Challenged Persons.
“Water Sanitation and Hygiene is a fundamental right enabling persons with disabilities to live with dignity,” said Sanyaashi Kumar Behera, District Social Security Officer of the Social Security and Empowerment of PWDs Department.
Xavier University professor Santun Rath said behaviour change, increased awareness and empowerment of the PwDs needed an analysis of gaps in the existing policies and its mitigation jointly by the government, corporates and Wash experts.