Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 9: Living with Disabilities
About 1 out of every 6 people has a disability that affects daily living, including difficulties with walking, lifting, seeing, hearing, or using the mind. Yet many women with disabilities are never seen or heard. They are often hidden away and do not take part in community activities because they are thought of as less useful and of less value than women without disabilities.
What causes disability?
Local customs and beliefs often give people false ideas about disability. For example, people may think a woman has a disability because she did something bad in a former life and is now being punished. Or they may think her disability is “catching” (contagious), so they are afraid to be around her.
Many disabilities are caused by poverty, accidents, and by violence. For example:
- If someone does not get enough to eat during pregnancy, their child may be born with a disability.
- If a baby or young child does not get enough good food to eat, they may develop vision problems or cognitive delay.
- Poor sanitation and crowded living conditions, together with poor food and a lack of basic health services and vaccinations, can lead to many disabilities.
- Wars, police and gang violence, and drug-related conflict lead to disability and death. They also make disability worse by destroying healthcare systems, increasing poverty, and creating refugees.
But even if these reasons for disability are eliminated, there will always be persons with disabilities—disability is a natural part of life.