How are disability and poverty linked?

21 May 19

For many people, disability and poverty are intrinsically linked.

People living in poverty are at higher risk of having a physical, sensory, mental or intellectual impairment, due to a range of factors such as unsafe living conditions and inadequate access to health services.

At the same time, a disability can exacerbate issues associated with poverty. This is because people living with disabilities are more like to have a reduced access to education, employment and increased vulnerability to gender discrimination, economic and social exclusion, conflict and emergencies. The majority of people living with disabilities face some form of discrimination or exclusion, making it difficult to participate fully as equals in their communities.

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Photo credit: Caritas Australia

Photo credit: Caritas Australia

This was the case for Rattanak from Cambodia. As a child, he contracted polio and also became deaf. From then on, he was isolated, unable to receive an education and excluded from social activities.

"I felt rejected by others. I was poor, I had no money. I had a disability, I was dead"- Rattanak before he joined the Deaf Development Programme

Most of the people in Cambodia who live with hearing impairments have never been to school, have limited communication skills and are heavily reliant on their families. Despite this, there are limited opportunities for these people to over come their challenges.

The Deaf Development Programme (DDP) is making a difference. Run by Caritas Australia’s partner Maryknoll, it provides sign language, job training and interpreting services, assisting the deaf community to engage with the world around them.

Photo credit: Caritas Australia

Photo credit: Caritas Australia

The centre also raises awareness about deafness through Cambodia, in order to reduce stigma and promote the inclusion of people living with a disability.

Rattanak graduated from the program in 2010, where he studied Cambodian sign language, writing, social sciences and maths. He returned the following year to train as a barber.

Through the DDP, Rattanak had the chance to develop vital skills and forge a future for himself. He has lots of friends, a wife and baby, and his own successful barber shop.

So dedicated is this initiative to helping the deaf community overcome their challenges, they visit Cambodia’s poorest communities and invite people living with deafness to take part.

Our program works toward our vision which is that deaf people are accepted, respected and included in all aspects of society - Sokly, Coordinator of the Deaf Development Programme

Catholic Social Teaching reminds us that every single person, regardless of race, religion, gender, age or physical ability, has inherent dignity. When a person faces exclusion due to their disability, their dignity it not being upheld. That is why, working to end poverty must always take an inclusive approach.

To stop exclusion and isolation holding someone back by supporting projects like the Deaf Development Programme in Cambodia, make a tax-deductible donation before June 30.