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Water Sanitation and Hygiene

Local Experiences for Global Learnings on Disability Inclusive WASH


Access to safe and clean water and sanitation facilities is a basic right of all people, including people with disabilities, the denial of which can have serious implications on their well-being. For example, inaccessible toilet and water facilities are major contributing factors for school dropout among children with disabilities, especially girls. 

The access to clean water and basic sanitation is a right also guaranteed under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 

Article 28 in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities focuses on the right of persons with disabilities “to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families; this includes State Parties duty to ensure equal access to clean water services”.

UNICEF aims to meet the basic needs, increase self-reliance of individuals, and provide opportunities for persons with disabilities to contribute to the family and community. This can be done by:

  • Having a clear understanding of the disabilities within the target population;

  • Inclusion of the specific needs of people with disabilities in access and use of WASH facilities and services;

  • Advocacy and support to policy development and capacity building of WASH professionals in recognizing and responding to the specific needs of people with disabilities;

  • Pay specific attention to disability in WASH in school s programmes: Effective WASH in Schools programmes seek to remove barriers by promoting inclusive design. Toilets and washstands, for example, need to be customised to meet the wide range of needs of children with disabilities;

  • Appropriate consultation with people with disabilities in developing/designing WASH interventions at household level, for institutions/schools/hospitals, camps of internally displaced people (IDP);

  • Addressing issues of self-reliance and dignity of people with disabilities in access to suitable WASH facilities and services;

  • Monitoring, evaluating and reporting of WASH programs with a specific attention to people with disabilities so that appropriate steps can be taken to fulfil the rights of people with disabilities in WASH programmes.

UNICEF Image: Nigeria, 2008: Hafisa Salisu washes her hands at a latrine block in Zamfara State. New latrines and hand-washing stations were built to accommodate disabled children.
© UNICEF/Nigeria/Nesbitt
Hafisa Salisu washes her hands at a new latrine built to accommodate disabled children at Bungudu Primary School.

UNICEF Resources

Good Practices in the provision of Accessible and Inclusive WASH services - UNICEF Country Offices 

- Guidance Note: Disability Inclusive WASH Practicies [PDF]; [e-Pub]; [HTML-zip file]; [Daisy-zip file]; [Arabic version ]; [ French version ]; [ Spanish version ]
- UNICEF Accessible Inclusive WASH Mapping - 2015  [PDF]; [e-Pub]; [HTML-zip file]; [Daisy-zip file]  
- UNICEF Accessible Inclusive WASH Matrix [PDF]; [e-Pub]; [HTML-zip file]; [Daisy-zip file];
- WASH and Disability -Mapping Good Practices Brochure [PDF]; [e-Pub]; [HTML-zip file]; [Daisy-zip file];
- Mapping of disability inclusive and accessible WASH in UNICEF country programmes. The report highlights key programmes and activities that show innovation and best practice in reaching and empowering children and adults with disabilities in relation to WASH.

The Case for Investment in Accessible and Inclusive WASH

Using current evidence and testimony from more than 60 WASH experts in 30 countries, this technical paper highlights evidence to argue that accessible and inclusive WASH is achievable at low cost, by using universal design, community-driven change, and existing knowledge, expertise and methods. The paper provides starting points to understand the impact of and case for accessible and inclusive WASH.

[PDF]; [e-Pub]; [HTML-zip file]; [Daisy-zip file]; [Arabic version]; [French version]; [Spanish version]

Advocating for Investment in Accessible and Inclusive WASH

Factsheet summarizing the evidence for accessible and inclusive WASH based on the Case for Investment in Accessible and Inclusive WASH. A quick reference for WASH and Disability actors when advocating for investment in WASH that is accessible and inclusive of children and adults with disabilities.  

[PDF]; [e-Pub]; [HTML-zip file]; [Daisy-zip file]; [Arabic version]; [French version]; [Spanish version]

External Resources

  • Water and Sanitation for Disabled People and other Vulnerable Groups: designing services to improve accessibility - Document - Presentation,  Jones, H.E. and Reed, R.A. WEDC, Loughborough University: UK, 2005.
  • WaterAid - Accessibilité des infrastructures communautairesd’adduction d’eau potable, d’assainissement et d’hygiène. Technical Briefing Paper. Contact Wateraid for a copy. WaterAid Madagascar, 2010.
  • How to build an accessible environment in developing countries: Manual 1, Manual 2 - Overview of key issues involved in building an accessible environment. Manual 2 is specifically on access to WASH issues. A technical manual that is very well illustrated and clearly written so that it can be followed even without a high degree of technical knowledge or advanced building skills, Handicap International France, Cambodia Program, 2008.
  • Equity and inclusion: Rights based Framework 2010 - PDF from Wateraid - A review of water, sanitation and hygiene from a rights based approach, with emphasis on how to consider and address accessibility throughout the lifespan. Disability is given particular emphasis. Gosling L. London, WaterAid, 2010. 
  • Water and sanitation issues for persons with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries - A literature review links between WASH and children and adults with disabilities, with emphasis on evidence based literature review, and identification of current gaps in theory and practice. Groce N, Bailey N, Lang R, Trani JF, Kett M.  Journal of Water and Health, 2011.
  • The Economic and Social Benefits and the Barriers of Providing People with Disabilities Accessible Clean Water and Sanitation - Resolution A/HRC/RES/16/2 adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 8 April 2011 declared access to safe drinking water and sanitation a human right. However many people around the globe including people with disabilities do not have access to safe drinking water, hygiene or sanitation facilities. Inaccessibility of clean water sources, hygiene and sanitation facilities negatively impacts among others health, education, the ability to work, and the ability to partake in social activities. This paper looks at the benefits of, and access barriers to, clean water and sanitation for people with disabilities. Sustainability 2012, 4(11), 3023-3041.
  • Water and sanitation for disabled people and other vulnerable groups: designing services to improve accessibility - A key reference that summarizes much of the current technical knowledge available on how to design and implement water and sanitation sources for persons with disabilities.  Should be reviewed by anyone involved in planning for and implementing an accessible WASH programme, Jones H. Reed B. Loughborough, Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC), 2005. Link to WEDC
  • Water, sanitation, hygiene and inclusive education, Enabling Education Network - A summary of important concerns relating to how accessible water and sanitation facilities are a critical component of ensuring that disabled children are able to attend school. While information is geared to educational settings, much of the information is also applicable to other public spaces, 2010. 

Photo Caption: Nigeria 2008, Hafisa Salisu washes her hands at a latrine block in Zamfara State. New latrines and hand-washing stations were built to accommodate disabled children.



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