According to Rose Dinette Joseph, a young woman of 40, living with a disability should not be an obstacle to achieving her personal and professional goals. However, for this Haitian born with congenital clubfoot, known as clubfoot, the reality is completely different. Her life has been filled with taunts from classmates, parents and neighbors, social barriers and inadequate infrastructure to accommodate her disability. Rose Dinette remained insensitive to these important constraints and to the opinions of others. Indeed, these obstacles pushed her to get involved in the fight for better living conditions for people with disabilities.
Ensuring greater inclusion of people with disabilities is essential to build a more equitable society in Haiti. Although disabilities are recognized as affecting a significant portion of the Haitian population, there are no recent accurate estimates of the number of people with disabilities in Haiti. The EMMUS-VI survey (2016-2017) estimated that approximately 4% of the Haitian population aged five and over suffers from some form of disability.
According to the report “Disability and inclusion in the Latin America and the Caribbean region”, published by the World Bank in December 2021, people living with a disability are over-represented among the groups at risk of falling into poverty. The report concludes that they are more likely to live in informal settlements, to attend school for less time and to be often excluded from the labor market. People with disabilities, especially in developing countries, have limited access to services and there is often a lack of appropriate infrastructure to enable them to participate fully in society.
In Haiti, the prospect of full inclusion of people with disabilities is extremely difficult due to the extreme socio-economic vulnerability of the population in general. Haiti has the lowest GDP per capita in the Latin America and the Caribbean region and the country is ranked 170th out of 189 in the United Nations Human Development Index table in 2020.
Lack of access to social services, an obstacle to inclusion
As part of the ongoing expansion of the SIMAST social register the Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of People with Disabilities (BSEIPH) carried out a survey to register 53,783 people living with a disability in Haiti, using a new disability module in nearly 60 municipalities in the country .
According to the data collected, disabilities related to physical mobility are the most frequent in Haiti and affect 43% of respondents. Significant difficulties with vision, cognition and the inability to take care of oneself affect between 21% and 27% of registrants. Hearing and communication difficulties respectively affect 11% and 14% of the disabled people questioned.
Based on this data, some people may have more than one type of disability. On average, a disabled person declares to be affected by 1.4 types of impairment among the types of impairment considered.
While the overall literacy rate is 62% in the country, the survey reveals that less than 30% of people with disabilities surveyed could read and write. This trend is exacerbated for women with disabilities, since less than 23% of them can read and write. Even more, certain groups seem particularly excluded from education, with less than 14% of hearing-impaired women able to read and write.
This survey also revealed that only 3.8% of the surveyed population receives an invalidity allowance (allowance, allowance, pension). While around 96% of the population is exposed to natural hazards, Rose Dinette regrets that there is not enough specific attention for people with disabilities displaced in emergency shelters. âWe have set up a Volontariat Sud structure for the protection of disabled people. When a disaster occurs, we support Civil Protection so that people living with a disability can safely benefit from support adapted to their condition of reduced mobility.
Obstacles to the world of work
Data collected as part of this survey revealed that more than three-quarters of working-age people living with a disability are not working, citing their health and disability as the reason. Only 2.6% of respondents work as employees. Most of them report earning money through entrepreneurship.
Rose Dinette’s story reflects this grim reality. âAfter graduating in administrative sciences, I applied for several positions, but without success,â she recalls. Today, Rose Dinette volunteers for an organization serving women with disabilities as an accounting secretary for a project. She reports that many people with disabilities have been refused employment due to concerns about their physical limitations. “Sometimes they are hired for charity, without the employer taking into account their real competence.”
Across the Latin America and Caribbean region, people with disabilities continue to be widely discriminated against and face barriers that limit their personal development and social mobility. In the case of Haiti, people with disabilities are extremely vulnerable, have very high illiteracy rates and face a lack of integration into the world of work, as well as significant needs in terms of technical aids. .
The National Policy for Social Protection and Promotion (PNPPS), adopted in 2020, recognizes the vulnerability of people with disabilities. It is within this framework that the adaptive social protection project for increased resilience (ASPIRE), financed by the World Bank, finances the new flagship program of social safety nets piloted by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, Klere Chimenin the department of Grand’Anse. The project provides cash transfers to the most vulnerable households, including people with disabilities, to support them with regular cash transfers as well as accompanying measures addressing health, nutrition and financial inclusion issues.
Beyond the collection of survey data for SIMAST, BSEIPH also implemented a series of activities to promote access to the labor market through vocational training and placement services, as well as knowledge sharing through awareness raising activities, including a communication campaign. Training in the fields of cooking, agriculture and motorcycle processing and repair was also provided to an initial cohort of 127 people, including Rose Dinette. The project aims to provide them with the means to increase their income so that they can gradually become economically independent..
âIf you are not from a well-off family, the only social mobility option for a person with a disability in Haiti is to start a business. For example, after my training in processing agricultural products, I set up my own business which allows me to diversify my source of income, âexplains Rose Dinette.
Overall, these new data are starting to fill a critical knowledge gap, allowing a better understanding of the living conditions of people with disabilities and highlighting their extreme vulnerability. People with disabilities are often excluded from services, resulting in low literacy rates as well as low levels of labor market participation, and do not have adequate access to necessary technical aids or allowances. A cycle of crises has further aggravated the vulnerability of these populations. In this context, it is essential to continue their inclusion in the social register and to promote their resilience and inclusion through programs addressing their specific vulnerabilities.
 Information System of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Laborhttp://infopage.simast.info/
 The survey was based on the methodology developed by the Washington Group
 The project was funded by the Japan Fund for Policy and Human Development (PHRD)