TACOMA, Washington — People with disabilities form one of the world’s largest minorities, comprising an estimated 1 billion people, according to Global Citizen. Of this number, around 80% reside in developing nations. Significant stigma regarding disabilities still exists in these areas — people with disabilities face severe ostracism and are sometimes subject to violating procedures “as part of their treatment.” Because many people born with disabilities require special aid to perform daily activities, family members sometimes consider them a burden on an already struggling family. A Leg To Stand On is an organization that helps to provide free mobility devices and prosthetics to the impoverished, particularly children.
Poverty and Disability
Poverty is both a cause and an effect of disability. Impoverishment sometimes increases the chance of people acquiring disabilities because circumstances of poverty often entail poor living conditions, lack of access to health care, lack of access to clean water and sanitation and inadequate nutrition. These circumstances increase the likelihood of disease and health issues, which can lead to disability without prompt intervention.
At the same time, poverty also results from circumstances of disability. One common issue that traps people in poverty is a lack of education. Without an education, people cannot develop the skills and knowledge necessary to secure higher-paying jobs and rise out of poverty. People with disabilities face more barriers to obtaining an education in comparison to those without disabilities. Apart from the discrimination they face in schools, schools often do not or cannot cater to the specific needs of students with disabilities. A staggering “90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school.”
Gender and Disability
Women with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged because of their gender and disability. They are at high risk of violence and abuse — women with disabilities are three times as likely to experience sexual abuse in comparison to women without disabilities. Women with disabilities are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by perpetrators who take advantage of their lack of education and impediments. Young women living with disabilities sometimes have little autonomy over their own bodies. Their families often consider them incapable of decision-making and, as a result, force procedures like sterilization and abortion upon them. Many people with disabilities are impoverished because they face marginalization, social exclusion and do not have access to the necessary systems and resources to help them thrive.
Often, employers are hesitant to employ people with disabilities due to misconceptions such as the flawed premise that people with disabilities are less productive. Employers also assume hiring a person with a disability will be more expensive due to the accommodations they will require. As a result, people with disabilities also experience difficulty finding employment and remain trapped in the cycle of poverty. People with disabilities also lack equal rights in many countries, having little access to health care and few political rights. This ostracization from the community can lead to a loss of self-confidence and motivation.
A Leg to Stand On
A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO) is an organization dedicated to providing free prosthetics for the impoverished, in addition to wheelchairs and other orthotic devices to children in the developing world who cannot afford these resources. Ultimately, the organization aims to improve the mobility of children with disabilities, recognizing that increased mobility makes access to education and employment easier and helps children become independent and self-sufficient.
ALTSO develops sustainable prosthetics and partners with other groups to provide specialized treatment to each child. ALTSO’s Joshi Modular Prosthetic Limb Kit is a “high-quality, universal modular prosthetic lower limb system” — a more sustainable, affordable prosthetic. While a typical prosthetic may cost thousands of dollars, ALTSO’s Joshi costs only $250. Other mobility devices provided by ALTSO are orthotic braces, wheelchairs and crutches.
Since its beginning in 2003, ALTSO has instituted 11 programs in 10 countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa. The organization has provided nearly 30,000 treatments, serving more than 20,000 children in developing countries.
People with disabilities in developing countries are at risk of staying trapped in a cycle of poverty. Fortunately, organizations like A Leg To Stand On can provide prosthetics to the impoverished to grant support and the means to live an independent life.
– Alison Ding