Sunday 26 January 2020

Accessibility In Bangladesh

Hello Everyone,

Last month I went to Bangladesh for the first time in years. I loved it! This post is about accessibility in Bangladesh, or lack there of. It's about the differences from the UK. Everyday aspects of people's lives that you don't hear about. This post doesn't reflect what living with sight loss would be like for the entire population. Just a particular class. But I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Sight Savers:
Before we begin I thought I'd tell you about a charity that is helping people with sight lose in Bangladesh. Sight savers. It's a charity that treats and prevents eye condition and fights for disability rights. I think they're doing amazing work for people with sight loss in developing countries. In Bangladesh they: 
  • Treat Cataracts
  • Train volunteer community health care workers
  • Run inclusive programmes to make sure people with disabilities have access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities
  • Reach rural areas to provide disabled people with the support they need
Want to know more? Check out the Sight Savers website

Now then let's have a look at what I noticed on my trip.

1. People don't know what the white cane means: 

In the west when people see the different types of white canes, they know what it symbolizes. The person using it has sight problems. They can't see. They need help. When I've used my cane out and about, people move out of the way when I'm walking. Or they ask me if I need help. My cane helps me be independent. I took my cane with me because it made navigating Heathrow airport a lot easier. 

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: photo from my plane window. It's of London at night with all the lights, high in the sky with the plane wing outside. I took this on our flight to Sylhet

When I arrived to the airport in Sylhet I used my cane as normal. I could tell something was different because it still felt busy with lots of people walking. It wasn't until my mum pointed it out to and told me to put my cane away, that I knew why. People were staring. Unsure of what the stick was for. They didn't know that a white cane meant I was visually impaired. So when we did go out I didn't use my cane. Instead I would be guided by my mum or cousins.

2. Navigating the roads is a nightmare:
Note when I say "nightmare" I mean for me. Someone who is used to walking the streets of London independently. Someone who has learnt how to get from A to B safely. Cross the road by myself. I know the way the roads are is the norm for people who live there. Saying it's different from what I'm used to would be an understatement.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: photo of a large white cup of coffee with chocolate flakes on top, and a white plate of chips on the top right. All of this is on a black table as the background. We had this as a snack after our shopping

I found this out when I went to the local "markets" with my mum and aunt. I've never been shopping in Bangladesh before, so wanted to see what the markets were like. They're big shopping center buildings with small market stalls inside. Shops with items on display outside. Shop signs above. Clothes, scarfs and shoes surrounding the space and things hanging behind a desk area. There are also cafes, shoe shops and a food court area. It's quite crowded as well with lots of people walking, bargaining and shopping. Think of it as a combination of going to Westfield on the weekend and Asian shopping in Green Street or South Hall for Eid. We went to one market place by car and then decided to walk to another one which was near by. My mum guided me during this walk. I'm glad she did. For one it was night time when we left and the only lights outside were from cars and shops outside. Cars were beepiping. Rickshaws stopped to drop people off. Also it was very crowded. Emphasis on the very. Plus when I was walking I learnt that the streets had a lot of uneven pavements. Not the usual gap here and there. But taking a large step down or up the pavement. Walking in the middle of some work going on in the road. On a narrow path with people sitting down on the left and right. Plus at one point we were on the main road, walking in the middle of the traffic I saw a motorbike divert from the road and drive onto the pavement. Just to avoid the traffic. We also ran across the road whilst cars were driving to get into our car. I wouldn't have been able to walk the streets myself. Even with my cane.

3. Public Transport has it's own set of rules:
The closest I came to using public transport was a 10 minute riksha ride in Dhaka. But I have heard things. Namely that on buses a lot of people stand. It's very crowded. Only women and elderly are offered a seat. I imagine it's a lot like taking the bus or train during rush hour in London. But all the time. Also with Uber, you pay in cash once they've taken you to your destination. You pay for the amount of miles they take. I've heard they'll take more people in a car than they should. Not following the regulations. Which is extremely different from Uber in the west. With paying on the app itself. Knowing the cost beforehand. Oh and uber assist for people with disabilities.

4. Audio Description on Netflix:
i only know about this because I already have a Netflix account. In Bangladesh Netflix is a lot like the American Netflix. My brother even suggested it's better than that! It's got shows like Supergirl, Arrow and DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Plus an Audio Description section. On it there are shows and films with English audio description. Plus programmes that are in Hindi wirh Hindi audio description. I found some shows in Bengali on Netflix. But none with AD. So I'm guessing Bengali programmes don't have any audio description.

Aside from that I've heard Netflix is expensive in Bangladesh. Side note mobile data is really cheap and you can even download Youtube videos on the app.

5. Glasses and Contact lenses are distributed differently:
Lastly this has nothing to do with accessibility. But I thought it was a fun fact to share. I've heard that with glasses it's a lot cheaper to make them p in Bangladesh than the UK. All you need to do is pick the frames and share the lenses you need. With cobtact lenses, they make your lenses and give you a big bottle of a cleaning solution to use. That way you can keep using the lenses and keep them clean. Very different from the west. Here you get sent lenses that will last you three months.

Overall I enjoyed my time in Bangladesh. These are just little things that are part of everything life in Bangladesh. I wanted to share the difference in accessibility. That's all I've got for this post. I hope you enjoyed it. 



  1. I'm surprised the white cane for people with sight problems isn't an international thing, how do people with really poor or no sight get around in Bangladesh without one otherwise?

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think they go with someone sighted instead of independently

  2. Thank you for sharing all this information and your experience! X

  3. Thanks for reading it. I hope you enjoyed it

  4. The white cane thing really surprised me! As well as the autodescription thing, I thought they were universal

    1. Thank you for reading my post. I'm glad you found it informative. It's a shame these things aren't universal.

  5. Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more. auto refractors and keratometers

  6. Thank you for your post, I look for such article along time, today i find it finally. this post give me lots of advise it is very useful for me. auto refractors and keratometers

  7. Very very nice post, Thank you for sharing such a fantastic information.