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Sustainability 2012, 4, 3023-3041; doi:10.3390/su4113023
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sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050
www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Commentary

The Economic and Social Benefits and the Barriers of Providing People with Disabilities Accessible Clean Water and Sanitation Jacqueline Noga 1 and Gregor Wolbring 2,*
1

2

Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada; E-Mail: jmnoga@ucalgary.ca
Faculty of Medicine, Department Community Health Sciences, Stream of Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: gwolbrin@ucalgary.ca; Tel.:+1-403-210-7083; Fax: +1-403-220-6494.
Received: 11 September 2012; in revised form: 23 October 2012 / Accepted: 6 November 2012 / Published: 12 November 2012

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: accessibility; accessible infrastructure; clean water; benefit; disability; economic; sanitation

1. Introduction
Approximately 884 million people lack access to safe water sources and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to sanitation (a system for the collection, transport, treatment and disposal or re-use of human excreta and associated hygiene [1]) [2]. Access to clean water and sanitation is also a major challenge faced by disabled people around the world [3] although concrete numbers do not exist.

Sustainability 2012, 4

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According to the Statement of the Committee on the Right to Sanitation (45th session, E/C.12/2010/1) of the United Nations Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Right, “over a billion people still have no option but to practice open defecation”; no numbers have been generated for disabled people so far. The statement highlights further that “girls do not go to school in many parts of the world for lack of toilets, or lack of separate toilets for them” [1]. Access to toilets is also essential to disabled girls and boys [4,5] however no numbers exist as to extend of this problem. According to the 2004 United National General Assembly resolution 58/217, “water is critical for sustainable development, including environmental integrity and the eradication of poverty and hunger, and is indispensable for human health and well-being” [6]. Sustainable management of water resources is seen as vital for economic growth, public health, food security and stable societies [7]. Access, availability and affordability to water and sanitation, is seen as essential for sustainable development and poverty eradication [8]. According to the World Health Organization World Report on Disability and Rehabilitation, “Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship including food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to health care” [9]. Furthermore, “people with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities” [9]. Cramped urban settings are often linked to decrease in water and sanitation access with over proportional negative impact on disabled people [10]. Access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is a human right [11–13]. Various international instruments have...
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