Public toilets of no use to visually impaired

Kathmandu, November 19

As the country marked World Toilet Day today, the issue of public toilets and lack thereof in the capital as well as other major cities and towns was highlighted at a programme here.

Without a doubt this remains an even bigger challenge for individuals with special needs since the existing public toilets are not disabled-friendly, as the following conversation proves:

“Is there a toilet nearby? I need to urinate,” Ram Ayer, who is blind, asks a man on the street.

“I don’t know. Find your way to an area where it is stinking the most. May be there is a toilet there,” replies the man.

For Ayer,  finding a toilet in Kathmandu, as he shared in the programme is a daily challenge. Ayer is studying MA sociology/anthropology at the Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus located at the Exhibition Road.

“I called one of my friends from my mobile phone and asked him to come and help me explaining my predicament after getting the cold shoulder from the person I asked. Thank god, my friend came and I found a toilet with his help,” he said. Many other participants with disabilities including the visually impaired shared similar experiences at the programme organised by the Guthi, Action Aid and Gawali to commemorate World Toilet Day 2016.

As per the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, there are 84 public toilets in Kathmandu which has  a budget of Rs 20 million for keeping them clean.

Tulasa Lama, a blind woman and a student, said, “Even in dire emergencies we are able to relieve ourselves only when we reach home or college.” She studies MA gender studies at a private college in Naya Baneshwar.

“Once I went into a public toilet located ahead of Sahid Gate, with the help of a friend. When I went inside, I nearly slipped. I exited without urinating. I relieved myself after I got home,” Lama said.

Ironically enough, even the Nepal Association for the Welfare of the Blind, Tripureshwor, established for the welfare of visually-impaired people, does not have a visually impaired-friendly toilet.

Laxmishwor Mahato, who plays musical instrument at a pub in Chabahil, said, “People with full vision normally overlook our requirements and thus do not build disabled-friendly toilets. How does it help us?”

A study report of public toilets carried out in Kathmandu Valley shows that 41 per cent public toilets have no water facility. The government has declared full provision of clean drinking water and sanitation facility to all by the end of 2017. According to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, only 74 per cent people have access to drinking water and sanitation.

Senior Programme Officer of Water Aid, Shikha Shrestha, said that even today, three out of 10 people are compelled to defecate in the open. “Special attention should be paid to make public toilets of Kathmandu Valley disabled-friendly.”

Programme Manager of Guthi, Prakash Amatya, said till date, Kathmandu Metropolitan City has neither been able to work on improving the condition of public toilets nor build more inclusive toilet facilities catering to the disabled.