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ERIH PLUS, Emerging Sources Citation Index
Journal of Innovation and Knowledge 2 (2017) 74-86 - DOI: 10.1016/j.jik.2017.03.005
Conceptual paper
Development of capabilities from the innovation of the perspective of poverty and disability
Desarrollo de capacidades desde la innovación de perspectiva de la pobreza y la discapacidad
José Luis Sánchez Garcíaa, , Sergio Pérez Ruizb,
a Vice-rector of Pastoral and Evangelization, Catholic University of Valencia San Vicente Martir and Professor of Philosophy of Education at the Faculty of Theology in Valencia, Spain
b Catholic University of Valencia San Vicente Martir, Spain
Received 09 February 2017, Accepted 16 March 2017

Poverty is a reality that is present to a greater or lesser extent in all regions of the world. Disability, like poverty, is also a reality in the society in which we live. Disability is not only a reality, but an inescapable truth, as at some point in life all people will be vulnerable and will exhibit some form of disability. When combined, poverty and disability immerse a person in more serious circumstances. Within the concept of poverty, disability means greater poverty. Based on a correct conceptualization of what poverty and disability are, this paper aims at proposing an innovative model of accompaniment, one which starts from a complete and multidimensional vision of reality, where the focus is on the human person, understood as a radical novelty, and characterized by singularity and uniqueness. The model presented herein addresses issues that affect both the person being accompanied and the person providing help. The main idea in this model is the development of capabilities in the person with disability and in the person providing the help.


La pobreza es una realidad presente en mayor o menor medida en todas las regiones del mundo. La discapacidad, al igual que la pobreza, es una realidad también en la sociedad en la que vivimos. No sólo es una realidad la discapacidad, sino que en algún momento de la vida todas las personas serán vulnerables y presentarán algún tipo de discapacidad. Si juntamos pobreza y discapacidad la persona está sumida en circunstancias de mayor gravedad. Dentro de la pobreza, la discapacidad es mayor pobreza. Lo que pretendemos en este trabajo es, a partir de una conceptualización correcta de lo que es la pobreza y la discapacidad, proponer un modelo de acompañamiento innovador, que parte de una visión completa y multidimensional de la realidad, donde el centro sea la persona humana, entendida como radical novedad, y caracterizada por una singularidad y unicidad. En el modelo planteado se abordan cuestiones que afectan tanto a la persona acompañada como a la que ayuda. La idea principal del modelo es el desarrollo de capacidades en la persona con discapacidad y en la persona que ayuda.

Poverty, Disability, Vulnerability, Person, Accompaniment
JEL classification
A13, F0, I1, Z1
Palabras clave
Pobreza, Discapacidad, Vulnerabilidad, Persona, Acompañamiento

In what follows we will argue, in the most clear and concise way, the grounds or reasons that led us to write this paper on poverty and disability.

In 2002, Wolfensohn (quoted in Martinez, 2011) stated that “if development implies the inclusion of excluded people as part of society, then it is necessary for people with disabilities to be part of the schools, the Congress, the workplaces, buses, theaters and any other place where the rest of the population is assumed to be. Unless people with disabilities are mainstreamed in development policies, it will be impossible to halve poverty by 2015.”

As Martínez (2011) pointed out, people with disabilities are socially perceived now in a totally different way than they were in the past. This change has occurred mostly in the last decades. That is, the rights of people with disabilities are no longer questioned, they are equally entitled to become an active part of society, to work, to form a family, to receive an education, etc. We currently have a vision of disability focused on human rights, according to which people with disabilities become entirely protagonists of their own integration processes.

What has just been said is in conflict with what is denounced by the United Nations (2012) when they state that “in a world characterized by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological means and financial resources, it is a moral scandal that millions of people are living in extreme poverty”. (p. 2).

According to what is stated in the previous paragraphs, if we introduce the idea proposed by Castillo (2007), in the sense that disability should not be valued solely as a consequence of something that affects the person, but rather, as depending on the facilities that exist in the environment, disability is shown in a more accurate way and with hardly any impact; we need principles, models, aid processes that enable people with disabilities in poorer environments to be in a position to lead a decent life.

Therefore, what was previously expressed, in relation to equal rights of people with disabilities, does not apply in cases of greater poverty, since these present problems of access to education, decent work and are therefore in a situation of vulnerability that needs to be remedied.

The aim of this paper is, on the one hand, to develop a model of accompaniment for people with disabilities in a situation of poverty according to a Christian humanist anthropology approach, based on principles and strategies with practical, real-world application.

In order to achieve this general objective the following specific objectives have been identified:

  • 1.

    Inquiring about the current situation of poverty in the world.

  • 2.

    Collecting information on the number of people with disabilities living in poverty.

  • 3.

    Elaborating a concept of disability that takes into account the capabilities of the person.

  • 4.

    Developing a model of aid and accompaniment focused on people with disabilities living in poverty.

In order to achieve the proposed objectives, the following working methodology was followed:

  • 1.

    Conducting searches in main PhD databases: TESEO, TDR (Tesis Doctorales en Red).

  • 2.

    Conducting searches in libraries and archives of the main Catholic Universities.

  • 3.

    Analyzing the documents extracted from revised documentary sources.

  • 4.

    Developing ideas and systematically organizing all the information compiled, based on the fundamental concepts of poverty and disability, in order to build a model of aid and support focused on the human person.

Thus, this article will be divided into several sections; a first section, where we will talk about poverty in the world, its concept and related economic data. We will then discuss and develop the concept of disability. As we will see, these two ideas remain closely related at all times, because we are interested in people with disabilities in a situation of poverty. We will then elaborate on a model, at a theoretical level, but with practical applications, to accompany disability from a Christian anthropology perspective to help people living in poverty. And finally, some conclusions will be drawn.

Human povertyA multidimensional concept

There are hundreds and hundreds of definitions of poverty if we conduct a document search. Here, we will present some of them; the ones that we believe will allow us to start organizing our ideas.

“Poverty is not just an economic issue; it is a multidimensional phenomenon that includes the lack of both the income and the basic capabilities to live with dignity” (United Nations, 2012, p. 2).

According to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language by the Spanish Royal Academy the meaning of poverty can be understood in the following terms:

  • 1.

    Condition of being poor.

  • 2.

    Lack, scarcity.

  • 3.

    Voluntary abandonment of all that is possessed and of everything that one's self-esteem may deem necessary, of which the religious make a public vow on the day of their profession.

  • 4.

    The state or condition of having little or no money, goods, etc. of poor people.

  • 5.

    A lack of magnanimity, gallantry (i.e. effort and courage in executing and undertaking actions), nobility of the spirit.

In this paper we will focus on the concept of poverty as the condition of being poor and as a lack, scarcity of something. Complementing this definition, and looking for the meaning of poor, it is necessary to say that the poor are the needy, those who do not have what it takes to secure a minimum standard of living (Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Spanish Royal Academy).

Complementing the definitions of poverty raised to this point, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated in 2001 (United Nations, 2001) that poverty is “a human condition characterized by sustained or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights” (E/C.12/2001/10, para. 8).

In line with what is being considered, and as Gutiérrez (2013) noted, the notion of human poverty arises as an interpretation of poverty as a deprivation of basic capabilities, where the essential thing is to help people to develop their human potential.

Several aspects can be highlighted from what has been said so far. One is the fact that poverty cannot be reduced to a merely economic issue, since the variables involved in such phenomenon, as well as its consequences are multiple, affecting the person in his or her totality.

In addition, it is clear that people in poverty face enormous obstacles to exercise their rights, both from a physical, economic and labor perspective, which prevents them from developing a decent life. Let us imagine, for a moment, how access to certain basic matters must be, if, in addition, the person presents a disability.

Poverty: an economic and human vision

The economic figures on poverty that will be presented here come mainly from the World Bank; they were last updated in 2015.

The first thing noted by this entity is that there have been significant achievements in terms of poverty eradication in the last decades; although the number of people living in extreme poverty in the world remains very high, an aspect that is unacceptable.

According to the World Bank (2017):

  • a.

    Based on the latest estimates, 12.7% of the world's population lived on less than US $1.90 a day in 2011, down from 37% in 1990 and 44% in 1981. That is, 896 million people subsisted on less than US $1.90 a day in 2012, compared with 1950 million in 1990 and 1990 million in 1981.

  • b.

    Given that poverty rates are lower in all regions, the achievements have not been the same in all of them; this aspect is discussed in the following sections.

  • c.

    Particularly, East Asia achieved a dramatic fall in extreme poverty, going from 80% in 1981 to 7.2% in 2012.

  • d.

    South Asia registered the lowest rate of extreme poverty since 1981; this indicator changed from 58% in 1981 to 18.7% in 2012.

  • e.

    In sub-Saharan Africa, the poverty rate stood at 42.6%.

  • f.

    China experienced the largest reduction in poverty levels between 1981 and 2011, with 753 million people meeting the threshold of US $1.90 a day.

  • g.

    In 2012, approximately 77.8% of people living in poverty lived in South Asia (309 million) and sub-Saharan Africa (388.7 million). In addition, another 147 million lived in East Asia and the Pacific. Less than 44 million poor people lived in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a whole.

These data allow us to conclude that much remains to be done in terms of poverty; it is unacceptable that thousands of people continue to have difficulty accessing education, health, basic services, among other questions.

Delving into the issue of poverty, at least 500 million of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide are among the poorest (Martínez, 2011). The WHO, as we will see later on, speaks of a greater number of people with disabilities. It should be pointed out that the greatest poverty is not economic, but rather that of the person who is far from the truth, far from God, that of the person who rejects and does not help others; of people who are selfish and think only of themselves, unaware that they are disabling themselves.

Economic data, of course, are undoubtedly relevant and useful, especially if we want to have some information about reality, but we need to connect those numbers with other dimensions of the human person, since, if we do not do it we will end up having a reductionist view of reality. Thus, we should not forget the specific human reality of those people who live in a world that excludes others, as this will negatively affect their life experience. It is necessary to remember, at this point, the difference between information and knowledge. Information refers to data that we are capturing and processing. As Sánchez, Díez, and Pérez (2017, pp. 4–5) pointed out, “information refers to perceptions, data, inputs, disconnected elements, loose notes in our perception, with no assembly, no binding, a mere flow of data received and processed by our intelligence” (Marías, 1970, p. 71).

This means that poverty and disability should be understood and addressed from an approach that is not focused on disconnected elements, because in this way reality will not be well understood and we will experience a disorientation that will lead us to understand human life as broken up or torn into pieces. In this paper, we are well aware that “today's information is very accurate and exhaustive, there are many sources of information and we need to discern that information. It is therefore important to organize such information sources. And reason will tell us how to sort, distinguish, discover what is valid, what is necessary and what is essential” (Sánchez et al., 2017, pp. 4–5).

Therefore, we are interested not only in gathering information, but in establishing connections through knowledge, so that poverty and disability are comprehensively understood and based on an approach that addresses the issue without reducing it to mere data or information, but rather to establish relationships that allow us to understand the underlying concept, that the greatest human poverty of all is that of the people who live away from the truth, and away from other people who need their help and support. And it is human reason which gives value to this perception of interconnected reality (Marías, 1970). As stated by Sanchez (2013, p. 245), “knowledge does not conform to mere explanation because according to Marías, explanation is not the primary form of acknowledging reality. It is a mental scheme of reality, and consequently an interpretation of reality. “In this way, disability is not only for those who are categorized as such, but also for the ones who are “disabled” through their egotism, through their lack of charity for the other person. These are the questions being developed in this paper, where we propose a concept of person focused on Christian anthropology and a model of aid and accompaniment that removes the blindfold from the world's current understanding and allows us to fully understand the reality of poverty and disability from a much more true and profound vision. As we will see in the following section, disability empowers and helps those who accompany the disabled; in short, “we need the disabled, not only because we admire their progress, but also because we learn the answers that they have concretized in their lives, and we can thus apply them to ours. We need the disabled because they are a reference for us of effort and encouragement, while teaching us a new path from the humility of recognizing our limitations” (Sánchez, 2015, p. 49).

If we reflect on what is being said in this section, and by establishing a connection with the next one, dedicated to highlighting relevant issues on how disability enables us, we can see that love is essential when it comes to proposing developments and solutions to solve human poverty and disability. On the one hand, in poverty, i.e. not only economic, but of any kind, love is lessened in one way or another, and we see individualism appear many times; and, on the other hand, within disability, also selfishness, rejection, lack of consideration of the other as a human person are shown in certain circumstances. For this reason, poverty and disability are two sides of the same coin, in both love may be absent. In this paper we highlight the value of love. “According to Marías, to love is to make others the project of my own life. Thus, when love comes, the others are transformed as they feel loved for what they are... The future of humankind is at stake, happiness does not depend on our physical condition, but on a heart full of hope. As the poet Leon Felipe put it, “what matters is not getting there alone and early, but getting there altogether and on time” (Sánchez, 2015, p. 51).

Disability empowers

Disability refers, on the one hand, to the restricted conditions of development of a human person, both from a physical, mental and emotional point of view, and, on the other, to the relevance of socio-environmental factors and the community the person belongs to (Sánchez, 2015; Sosa, 2009). As Martínez (2011) indicated, there is not always agreement on the concept of disability due to the different sociocultural criteria.

As noted by Sanchez (2015, p. 49), “it is also worth noticing the existence of disabilities that are not part of the categorization of these, but which give rise to bigger ones, such as selfishness, lack of meaning, lies, etc. In short, all of them could be summarized as not living in the truth, as that would be the greatest disability of all, thus being relativism the false cure for this medical condition. From this platform, for our part, we claim access to truth as the best recognition of our existence in its gifts and limitations. This would not only lead to every man and woman having relevance for us, not only to the integration of all of them, but to acquiring the goods of the experience that we are going to live; By not living with the disabled, who enable us, our future will have less possibilities.”

Therefore, we can say that not helping the needy, the poor, causes a disability that distances selfish people from others.

Historically, the person with disabilities has been perceived from a negative level, as a category, as a label referred to those people who do not conform to what is considered as “normal” (Sánchez, 2015). As if there were first-class and second-class people.

In the language that has been used to label people with disabilities a pejorative meaning is often found, a sense of underestimation that we have just mentioned, seen in terms such as: “subnormal”, “impaired”, “disabled”, “retard”… (Castillo, 2009; Palacios & Romañach, 1997).

“What we are trying to emphasize here is that disability is found in every human being; we are born and grow as people from it. In fact, boundaries help us identify the goals we should aspire to achieve, because we all need to have projects. The most important project is the pilgrimage each person makes, our encounter with truth, which unites us with the complete truth” (Sánchez, 2015, p. 42).

In this paper we want to highlight the originality, uniqueness and individuality of the person with disability, and point out that any person at some point in their life cycle will manifest some kind of vulnerability or disability.

It is necessary and convenient at this point to talk about the concept of vulnerability, as it helps to better understand disability.

Vulnerability can be defined as “the quality or condition that someone has of being hurt.” In this way, “the experience of vulnerability is intimately rooted in humanity” (Torralba i Roselló, 2005, p. 241). What happens, says Alarcos (2002), is that today there has been a forgetfulness of vulnerability. We would add, “or a rejection”, in the sense of it being relegated to the background, as if it did not exist.

There are different criteria or conditions to speak of vulnerability as it has previously been mentioned (Sánchez et al., 2017):

  • -

    Social criteria (or natural conditions), for example, women, children, the sick and the elderly are generally considered to be more vulnerable.

  • -

    Cultural and educational conditions. People living on the street are considered vulnerable to various problems (illness, dirt, etc.), as well as illiterate or uneducated people.

  • -

    Economic criteria, people with limited resources, in a situation of dependency or those who are unemployed, are also vulnerable.

  • -

    Climate conditions, such as those due to natural catastrophes. In this way, there are certain regions in the world that are vulnerable, because they can suffer natural damages, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic phenomena, etc. with greater probability and intensity.

  • -

    Ethical criteria, certain behaviors place those who carry them out in a situation of vulnerability (for example, an addiction).

  • -

    Psychological criteria, “vulnerability”, which in this case means both an exposure to risk and the measurement of each person's ability to cope with it through an appropriate response.

Turning to the central topic of disability, it should be pointed out that, as Martínez (2014) suggested, it is appropriate to propose a concept of disability that incorporates social, educational and community aspects and, as Sánchez et al. (2017) posed escapes from the commonplaces on the subject, of seeing the disabled person under a label of normality or “abnormality”, because we really need to relate and integrate many other ideas and variables, because otherwise we are applying certain disability to ourselves.

Moreover, as pointed out by Sánchez (2015, p. 42), “there is a structure, or matrix, of sensitivity in every person and in people with disabilities, beyond their own reality. And this is crucial, since we can say that the blind have a visual structure, even if they cannot see; although they are unable to see, they have been given this structure like any other human being”.

In relation to sensitivity, Marías (1995, pp. 100–101) tells us that “the real way of being ‘in’ and ‘with’ reality, of ‘being in the world’, is what we call sensitivity; Thanks to sensitivity I find myself and I find the things that are with me. Such sensitivity is primarily transparency: ‘through’ my body I feel that I am with and within other things, with and within my body insofar it is also a thing. As a thing, the human body is ‘opaque’. As a sensitive body, it is a ‘transparent’ medium that inserts me into the world.”

Sensitivity is made up of senses, which allow us to discover the various aspects of our world. On the other hand, our senses analyze reality, which is out there. Sensitivity allows us to travel around the world; it should be noted that our senses are organized hierarchically, i.e. the senses of sight and smell are not given the same relevance, or value; the same is applied if we lose them (Sánchez, 2004).

The system of human sensitivity conditions our structure of the world: “Man illuminates new physical energies – or makes them accessible and manageable; through other techniques, human beings enhance their “natural” sensory abilities – if we are unable to understand, as it would seem right, that technology is also part of our “nature” – or create new ones, thereby expanding and expanding human sensitivity, which was previously non-existent; In short, the human sensitive structure is modified” (Marías, 1995, pp. 101–102).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than 1 billion people live with some form of disability, which accounts for about 15% of the world's population (according to the 2010 World Disability Report estimates) (OMS, 2011).

When talking about disability and ability and interrelating disability with poverty, it seems clear that understanding poverty from a capability perspective facilitates a new conceptualization of the term (Martínez, 2011), where quality of life is related to what the person is able to reach and the ways in which a person is able to live. In relation to what we are proposing, we must contemplate that a person with disabilities will need more resources than “a person with no disabilities” to achieve their particular level of development and to be able to function as well as others in the performance of their daily activities.

In relation to what has just been mentioned it should be noted that, in this paper, as in the previous ones, we start from the idea that disability enables us because:

“It allows the enabled to recognize themselves in the disabled. The enabled discover – precisely in the limitations and vulnerability of a person with disability – the very limited and vulnerable character of their human condition. Openness to the disabled person allows the enabled to discover who they really are. Disability enables self-awareness, a true process of self-discovery. A person with disabilities expands our capacities. People with a disability – not only in their limitation, but in their very being – offer a framework of development to those enabled for self-recognition” (Sánchez et al., 2017, p. 15).

What we aim to propose in this paper, in line with previous work carried out by Sanchez et al. (Sánchez, 2015; Sánchez et al., 2017) is to emphasize that disability empowers us, and enables us to see the capabilities of the disabled and also to emphasize the fact that the “enabled” enhance their capabilities when they help the disabled.

In relation to what has just been mentioned and following Sánchez et al. (2017, pp. 16–17): “The person with a disability is a sign of the value of the person himself, in a deep ontological sense, beyond his external and apparent contributions to humanity. The disabled person reminds us of the person in himself, and therefore of his value and dignity. Disability is a sign of the extent of reality that from conception every human being bears within himself, as a unique and unrepeatable being. The person with a disability is a sign of the exnovo and exnihilo, a sign that man is a new creature and out of nothing. It would be violent trying to reduce it to some given realities (genetically, environmentally, and ethically). The person with a disability is a sign of the radical innovation of reality. (...) The person with a disability is a sign of the love and tenderness that every human being is required to make present in our world, but above all, it is a sign of innocence that is not at odds with intelligence or reason; and something that every human being should consider as a capability. The innocence that the disabled show with greater strength and vigorousness than the remainder of people, has to be returned to those who lost it.”

Therefore, disability understood as possibilities, as a new way to understand reality, to interact with it, in short, an optimistic consideration of the person with disability as opposed to the most negative approaches, and that as we have said exclude disability from reality.

As Sanchez explains (2015, p. 48) “when faced with human limitations, illness, and suffering, discovering inner life is a rebirth. Moreover, it represents a serious possibility to open ourselves, ineludibly, to others. And to the Other with a capital letter, who is God. From this point of view, if we understand the question well, we could be talking about the wealth of the disabled. If we gave due weight to this consideration, and attached importance to the things that really matter, this could change our world; If disability is a wealth, having a disabled child would be a source of congratulation to parents. In this regard, when we see a scene of an elderly person walking, doing it very slowly, with small and limited movements, its contemplation produces an inner sense of beauty, because the elegant is delicate and simple. And so, disability can be elegant for everybody.”

Therefore, although it has to be said that the limitation in the disability that a person has, may be greater in one region than in another and that it depends on the obstacles that the person finds and the degree of disability (Martínez, 2011), this limitation will be experienced quite differently if, as stated in the previous paragraph, the interiority of the person is valued.

Let us recall that “not living the disability as part of my own human reality would limit the scope of my ability to reason, giving up certain realities that are disconnected, omitted or marginalized; In this way, we would be faced with a new disability or, if you prefer it, a predisposition towards it” (Sánchez et al., 2017, p. 4).

Aid and accompaniment from a Christian anthropology

Following Sánchez (2015, p. 54) “sometimes, the external, does not let us see the beauty of the people we do not integrate, and we miss a gift. When we come up with the human limitations we may have, we have to understand that, thanks to those limitations,” Oh, blessed blame, we have been redeemed through the blood of the Lamb and we are therefore called to be a part of God, to be like “Gods”, as St. Paul says, and therefore princes, children of the highest... Love of neighbor as the ultimate foundation of social and community life translates into knowing how to listen to their lament and accept it with love and be at its serve, as part of our own identity, because if we fail to notice it, our personal being is destroyed within us, thus limiting it to a selfish action that will not be able to satisfy us, but can destroy us.”

What we have just commented on is the foundation of the model of accompaniment that we propose in the following pages, to cultivate interiority, to be cognizant of each of its own limitations, to love the other with an attitude of listening so that the person emerges strengthened and comforted from the meeting with the person with disability. This is the greatest wealth in a world where poverty becomes clear and present.

What do we mean by person?

In this model of accompanying disability in the poorest areas, which we have defined as the model of Christian anthropology, we need to consider, first of all, what we mean by the concept of person. Without a true anthropology of the human being we are focused on helping the person with a disability from positions that do not really favor him or even generate a whole set of impediments. To understand the model we propose we have to start from the clarification of our idea of person, so as to lay down the principles that favor the integral development of the capabilities of a person with a disability.

The question, that perhaps we could we ask ourselves is as follows: what is the consequence of having so many different models and theoretical and practical approaches in this field on how to approach this work and aid? Is there any fragmentation of knowledge in this area? We propose an approach based on Christian anthropology and on a concept of person that we need to comment on. The path, therefore, is not clear in the field of disability, it seems that all is valid and anything goes, it seems that the anthropological foundation is diffuse. We need a solid structuring of disability starting from a clear, philosophical and Christian conception of the person.

The approach to disability requires complementing, rearming oneself with an integral foundation and anthropology that allows us to approach the great problems of the person from the truth. An approach organized from its foundations, from its essence, on a solid basis and starting from a Christian anthropological conception in order to give more complete answers to the questions about disability.

Thus, the basis for this work is, in part, precisely to delimit the meaning of person from a Christian anthropology in order to lay the foundations necessary to develop a model of disability that interacts with faith.

In this way, the human person is understood from an integrative vision, which takes into consideration the human being from its multiple dimensions, physical, psychological and spiritual (from a truly humanist anthropology). To develop this vision of the human person, we have based ourselves mainly on two authors: Rudolf Allers and Julián Marías.

First, let us present the main ideas of Rudolf Allers, an Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher, who cultivates a humanist anthropology.

Thus, Allers presents a profound, integral approach to the human person from “the heights” (a non-reductionist view), an approach organized around a true conception of what man is (anthropology) and of what he should be (ethics), based on a metaphysical and religious conception (Echavarría, 2013; Tuppia & Jaramillo, 2010; Seligmann, 2011).

As Tuppia and Jaramillo (2010) pointed out, Allers strove to promote an anthropology that conceived the human being as a bio-psycho-spiritual unit, integrating the truths about the person and the world that emanate from the Catholic religion.

Part of his approach is based on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and on Christian anthropology and theology. Thus, Allers posits an integral and comprehensive theory of the person, an approach in which man is not reduced to a set of organs and functions, but as a whole.

As Tuppia and Jaramillo (2010) put it, “the truth that comes from God shows man the nature of his spiritual being, from which he can understand the nature and dynamics of the rest of the dimensions of his being. We could call this a true integral conception of the human being.

Allers does not approach the spiritual as one more element to take into account, but it is rather, within the anthropology that springs from Christian revelation, the dimension from which all the components of his theory are finally outlined” (p. 104).

Allers’ motivation was to understand the concrete human fact and thus respond to the person's real needs (Tuppia & Jaramillo, 2010). This is an idea to emphasize in relation to the model that we are proposing, to give solution to real questions of the poor person with disability.

The person as “quadruple uniques”; the thesis of the unity of the person in Allers springs from his contact with the living human being: “Man is given to us as a person. Not as a mosaic of organs and functions, or as a sum of elements, but as a totality whose being and conduct are subordinated to his own laws that characterize him alone” (Allers, 1932, in Tuppia & Jaramillo, 2010). This idea of unity is understood as a dynamic and vital totality, as is the human experience itself.

The person, while being one and the same, is also unique; this is the unrepeatable mystery that inhabits each person. Therefore, the person is a value in his own right, it is singularity, it exists only once, and as such, it is incomparable and irreplaceable.

Following Tuppia and Jaramillo (2010, p. 103) “this precision of “single unit” is especially relevant when faced with the risk of the 21st century to fall into the absolutization of the functionalist paradigm and the diagnostic labels. Here, you run the risk of getting lost in abstract categories, which sometimes serve more to feed the medical records, than to help the person who suffers the inner drama.

Starting from Tuppia and Jaramillo (2010) we must point out that without understanding the background of the actions that are performed, and without an adequate anthropology of the person, which is what we are developing in this section, the people who accompany or help a disabled person living in poverty risk not understanding the deeper nature of the human being and, therefore, falling into a technical reductionism, which does not solve the real problems experienced by people who come for help, since in many cases the complexity of human experience is not only solved by rigorous analysis of psycho-social variables or by the application of a set of techniques, but by being able to approach the biopsychological-spiritual unity that conforms every person, to take the actions that are deemed necessary from there.

According to Echavarría (2004, p. 88), “Allers unveils the limitation of a merely statistical conception of normality, “Let us suppose that in one country there were 999 men affected by tuberculosis and only one who was not sick. Can we conclude that “the normal man” is the one whose lungs are eaten by the disease? The normal is not the average. If, according to the average or any other mean, man decides by instinct, this does not prove that he cannot do otherwise, nor does it prove that high values are weak by nature”.” If the statistical criterion were the decisive norm, normality would be sadness, failure, rebellion, imbalance...”

On the other hand, and following Marias it is necessary to indicate that it is of vital relevance “to understand the most important reality in this world, at the same time the most mysterious and elusive one, and one that is key to all other effective understanding: the human person” (p. 9).

Marías (1996, p. 15) states that “the presence of the person (...) occurs firstly in the body (...) it is revealed in it, but goes beyond. The person is a futuristic, projective reality”. The person is being, is going to be, there is no known limit. Therefore, the person consists of constant innovation, can always rectify, repent, and begin again. If we reflect on this aspect that Marías poses in relation to what he understands as a person, we will approach the disabled person who lives in poverty from a hopeful and open vision, thus envisaging new possibilities. What is derived from these words is the fact that the person is not already made, it is being made. We are all in this vital dynamic. The person is projective, futuristic; that is, the person is realized while living and disability should be addressed from this experience.

The person, as Marías would say, features characteristics that cannot be applied to things. Things cannot be given the attributes of people, such as sameness, unpredictability, or freedom.

“The person is “unavoidable”, cannot be unnoticed and reduced to anything other than what is, but at the same time the person presents himself as a secret, as something that is a question, a problem, and which must be saved.”

Another relevant issue for Marías is the radical freedom of the person, who can choose between many different possibilities and paths.

As Sánchez stated (2004, pp. 306–307) “for Marías each person means some radical newness, so we cannot reduce it to a thing, because in each person there is a unique reality that is only his, we cannot talk about the Person only as a biological being, the person is fundamentally biographical. The anthropological categories that Marias communicates to us are: the body where I find myself, the sensitivity from which I discover things (Marias recalls that according to Gratry this is the primary organ of reality). Sensitivity reveals the senses, which have a hierarchy. The concept or category of installation brings us closer to knowing the world in which we live, the body that is also us, both comfort and discomfort”.

To continue with this section on the person we would like to present some ideas of Julián Marías, from his work “Psychiatry and Philosophy” (1954), since in that work Marías raises a series of questions that may be extrapolated to any situation of assistance in the field of disability, seen from an integral and anthropological paradigm:

  • 1.

    A psychiatrist (and any person who tries to support the needs of other people) cannot, however, be based only on the present moment, because man would then be unintelligible. In order to understand man we have to invent it, I mean, imagine or reconstruct the novel of his life; only when inserted in it is this gesture, this word, understandable, as well as this silence that I have now in front of me. Life is, according to the ancient definition by Ortega, “what we do and what happens to us”. Life is given to me, but it is not given to me already finished and complete, I must finish it, moment by moment... In my making of this instant the past is present, because the reason for what I do is only found in what I have done before, and the future is present in the project that constitutes me, which implies the full meaning and possibility of my life... That is why the only way to understand a man is to imagine, to revive or to anticipate the novel of his life; the only real way to talk about his life is to tell it” (pp. 66–67). That is, what has just been presented is not only applicable to the field of psychiatry but to a wider field of aid and support, in the present case, of disability.

  • 2.

    According to Marías, the person that establishes a relationship of aid with another, – and we add the one that accompanies a person with a disability – needs to have a set of mental instruments (i.e. concepts) that could approach the person who needs help and thus exercise an effective accompanying action.

Finally, we would like to emphasize that the human person is not only a perceptive being, such as animals, because reason allows him to understand the reality that surrounds him. “The human person, unlike animals, is not merely perceptive, since having reason implies the capacity to understand reality. This makes the responses of man not merely instinctive, not immediate. Reason is a specifically human faculty” (Sánchez et al., 2017, p. 3).

Reason is the ability to “apprehend reality in its connection” (Marías, 1970, p. 55). Reason is the capacity that allows us to establish connections with reality to understand the world, not only to perceive it.

“The fundamental problem that arises when one takes the experience of reality seriously is that of the connection (...) Only the reason, the apprehension of reality in its connection – according to the old definition that I proposed in Introduction to Philosophy –, makes human life possible” (Marias, 1970, p. 55). Therefore, reason is the “organ to understand reality” (Marias, 1949, Volume II, page 941), a specifically human faculty that allows us to apprehend and understand reality and live a human life. Reason exceeds reality because it includes in it the possibility of what is not yet real, the unreal. “The person cannot be content to “understand” in a projective and instinctive way as the animal, the person needs to discover the connection between the various elements, including the nonexistent ones, anticipated in his imagination. This responds in Marías to the futuristic condition of the person, its projective character, the inclusion of the unreal in its reality, and this is the great difference between reason and intelligence” (Sánchez, 2013, p. 276). Human reason does not merely stick to the given, the evident, the present, but is rather projective, it discovers future possibilities in present reality.

As stated in another paper (Sánchez et al., 2017), reason is life itself in its function of apprehending reality. Life is what “gives reason” to reality, what allows to establish connections. And this is a requirement of human life, because living is already being in a world and doing something in it, taking into account that through reason the person responds to his context.

The person (...) needs to discover the connection between the various elements, including the nonexistent ones, anticipated in imagination, this responds in Marías to the future condition of the person, its projective character, the inclusion of the unreal in its reality” (Sánchez, 2013, p. 276). “Life is therefore the preferred objective of thought in our days and in my life, the concrete life of each one of us” (Sánchez, 2016b, p. 191).

We must not forget that, although we have talked about many questions that are intellectual and spiritual, they are grounded on a body and that “we understand with Marias that when I say I, you or a proper name, I think of a body, we think of a body of someone, that someone is corporal, and it is what we suddenly understand as person (Sánchez, 2016b, p. 170).

Thus, “each person is a radical novelty; we cannot reduce a person to a thing, or to any other given reality. In each person there is a unique reality that is only theirs. Also, we cannot speak of the person only as biological because, fundamentally, the person is biographical” (Sánchez, 2016a, p. 77).

A model of accompaniment

We begin this section by presenting a series of integrative anthropological principles in relation to disability and poverty, which will be the base for the remainder of questions on the model of accompaniment, and which shall be discussed in the following pages (we refer the reader here to the work of Sánchez et al. (2017) so as to get to know about the other models that have approached disability).

First, note that “the person is the center of all perspectives from which we approach disability. The person is the main character in his own life of limitation. If we do not assume this reference we denature what happens, we despise the person's feelings” (Castillo, 2007, p. 14). In this respect, it is appropriate to remember that “the reality that I am is pointing to a “who” rather than a “thing”, i.e. it has a strict personal connotation, that who is the one who is in a certain circumstance, is a who that is executed. The reality that I am is consequently the radical reality; my life coexists in execution and effort. The big question is how do I have to lead my life?” (Sánchez, 2004, p. 308).

Secondly, we start from the idea that each person lives in his or her own state of health, not in terms of normality – abnormality (Castillo, 2009).

A third principle has to do with the fragility of life. “Enrique Tierno Galván said that life is like a crystal glass that can be used many times, as if it were eternal, but unexpectedly it falls from our hand and breaks into a thousand pieces. This is the double aspect of our existence: the durability of life, with a sense of eternity at times, and its enormous fragility” (Castillo, 2009, p. 29).

Fourthly, following Castillo (2009) we take into consideration the idea that life is to discover oneself, to rediscover our unique limitations and to find our enormous capabilities. Life offers opportunities for enjoyment under all circumstances.

Fifthly, the person accompanying people with disabilities and in poverty should be with them in the process, since the protagonists of their lives, decisions and consequences are the persons being accompanied.

Sixthly, we start considering here disability as a circumstance in the life of the disabled person, not a characteristic (Castillo, 2009).

Finally, and following Castillo (2007) we would like to present a summary of his Decalogue for action with the person with disability; we believe it is applicable to circumstances of poverty:

  • 1.

    Human nature incorporates disability and ability. That is, at some point in our life cycle disability will appear, since while thinking about capacity we must take its loss into account.

  • 2.

    Disability, understood as a state of health, may be temporary. It is not something the person has for the rest of their existence. It is a situation that can be limited for some time.

  • 3.

    “Disability is a mere circumstance. The person is the center and the focus, not their disability. First there is a being full of abilities, qualities, and then there is a disability that limits some (…) of the possibilities of the person. Disability is an obstacle not impossibility” (p. 37).

  • 4.

    Disability is conditioned by the social acceptance of the limitation. People, to a large extent, become what is expected of us. That is, expectations from others are important.

  • 5.

    The person with a disability has the right to self-determination.

  • 6.

    Existing disability classifications only help professionals. People should not be labeled because of their disability, as classifying people stigmatizes them, causes them suffering and pain.

  • 7.

    “Disability depends on the environment in which the person lives... Depending on the facilities that are in place in the environment, the disability manifests itself more acutely or is barely noticed. If the environment does not adapt to the limitations of individuals, their disabilities become more evident” (p. 73). This aspect is of enormous importance for our work as has already been established in previous sections.

  • 8.

    We should focus on the positive aspects of each person's life. In our society, disability has been seen as a disgrace. We need to focus on the individual capabilities of each person.

We present below a text by Tolstoi (1999) (in Alarcos, 2002, pp. 15–17) that will make us reflect on how we often approach the poor person with disabilities, and logically this is what we want to avoid at all costs with this work and this model, which starts from a Christian anthropology:

“The following legend is told among South American Indians: God, they say, created men so that they did not need to work... They all lived for up to a hundred years without knowing any disease.

Time went by, and when God saw how men lived, he learned that instead of enjoying life, each of them cared only about himself...

Then God said, “It is because they live only for themselves.” And to prevent it, God made it so that it was impossible for men to live without work... Work will unite them, thought God...

After some time God came again to watch how men lived. But men lived worse than before. They worked not all together but in groups... Seeing that this was not right, God decided to make it so people didn’t know when they would die, and make them die when they least thought of it. “If they know that each one will die when they least expect it – God said – they will not bother one another... But it happened otherwise.

When God came back to see how men lived, he realized that their lives had not improved. The strongest, taking advantage of the fact that men should die at any time, dominated the weakest...

God, when seeing that, resolved to use his last resort to remedy it: He sent men all kinds of diseases. God thought that, if all men were subject to illness, they would understand that the strong must have pity on the sick and care for them, so that they may in turn be visited by the weak when they are ill... And again God left men to themselves; But when he returned to see how they lived, now that they were subject to illness, he saw that their lives were even worse... The sick were not an obstacle to the pleasures of the rich, they were installed in houses where they suffered and died, not surrounded by their mourners or mourned by them, but in the hands of people hired to that effect, and who cared for the sick not only without compassion, but with disgust...

Then God said to himself, “If, by this means, men cannot be led to understand what their happiness consists in, they should deal with their own sufferings!” And God abandoned men.

As soon as they were alone... men began to understand that work should not be a scarecrow to repel some and something forced on others, but it should be a common and pleasant work for everyone... They began to understand that diseases should not be a cause of division among men, but, on the contrary, a motive for union and love between them”.

In relation to what has just been mentioned and following Alarcos (2002), Elías (1987, pp. 81–82) explains that “the concept of solitude has a broad spectrum. It may refer to people whose desires of love for others have been so precariously wounded that they have scarcely been able to express them again without feeling the pain that their desire had previously brought them... Another form of solitude and isolation, strictly social, occurs when a person lives in a place or occupies a position that makes it impossible to socialize with other people of the class perceived as needed... People who have been left alone... The concept of solitude also refers to a person living among many others but feeling lonely, as the others are indifferent, nobody cares whether this person exists or not... “Before loneliness, love“Marias presents love as the main project of man from the circumstantiality of human life, which, as a consequence, is expressed in its neediness, which is that what man needs, even though having them man needs them, man needs things, with things, man makes his life” (Sánchez, 2004, p. 310).

Some attitudes that need to be developed in people with disabilities living in poverty, as well as in those who accompany them, are presented below, based on Alarcos’ (2002) analysis, in this case more applied to the sphere of suffering, pain, and illness, but we consider that the questions raised by this author may be extrapolated to the specific field of disability:

  • 1.

    Cultivate patience and hope. The attitude that must be placed first in human existence is the position of not letting ourselves be overwhelmed and annulled by situations and circumstances. In order to achieve this goal, we have patience, a virtue that accompanies vulnerability and helps us get out of frustration. Patience seeks to prevent anyone from destroying inner confidence and preserves the person from the danger of his spirit being broken by dejection.

    In terms of hope, we can point out that facing reality – of disability and poverty in this case – human openness toward the future requires a project. No person can live without expecting something. For this reason, our tendency to hope for something can be endorsed by an education that promotes patience. Hope is a virtue to guide the future and overcome difficult situations in life, and to deal with human vulnerability

    Regarding the capabilities or skills to be cultivated in people with disabilities, and in order to address the problem of poverty, we can add the following (Torralba i Roselló, 2005), from which concrete actions of aid and accompaniment are also derived:

  • 2.

    Starting from the fact that interpersonality is one of the foundations of human life, since the person is a social being; it is an indispensable requirement, in working with disability and poverty, to foster the development and evolution of the human person in continuous interaction with external circumstances. The experiences of encounter and of dialogical life are indispensable for every person. At all stages of a person's life and in all kinds of circumstances the interpersonal relationship is fundamental for the full development of a human person. As Sánchez (2004, p. 317) pointed out, following Marías, “friendship is an intimate relationship between one person and another, but at the same time it respects, not only the person, but the intimacy of the other. You can have many friends, both male and female, but each one is made one with the other, the reality of friendship is dual. Friendship is not invasive, it is made up of limiting content, restraining itself and seeking the right distance, that is why it is a relationship and an elegant feeling.”

  • 3.

    In this comprehensive anthropological model that we propose there is a concept that must be added and from which a series of actions are derived in the relationship with the poor with disability, and that is the concept of caring or care. We would like to refer to this term better as aid or accompaniment. Many of the questions applied to the art of caring may be applicable to the relationship of help or accompaniment. If every person is singular, accompaniment must be singular. If every person is a unit (interiority–exteriority), this aid must be integral. If we start from the reality that every person is free, the accompaniment must take this into consideration. To accompany a person with a disability is to help him be autonomous, to encourage him to share his responsibility and his anguish. The action of helping is continuous. Helping and accompanying a person means, as it has previously been said – but it is good to remember it – saving him from his solitude, from his abandonment. How do we achieve what has just been said? By being present and establishing an interpersonal relationship.

  • 4.

    The support and accompaniment actions that derive from this anthropological model are of responsibility, of responding to the needs of the person with disability and dealing with poverty. To this end, the exercise of helping consists of the ability to situate oneself at the level of others and the ability to listen.

  • 5.

    It is important to emphasize that accompaniment is an interpersonal relationship asymmetric in nature, since all interactions between people are. The relationship between a person with disability (and in poverty) and his company is asymmetric, due to the vulnerability experienced by one of the two people. A person with a disability, who lives in poverty, suffers at that moment the effects of his vulnerabilities, while the person who accompanies him does not suffer the vulnerability at that moment; a fact that could change at any moment, because as we already said a human person is vulnerable from the moment of his birth. That is to say, this asymmetry is mutable and relative; both poles of the relationship exchange their roles throughout life in a continuous way. Thus, this issue should be very clear to both parties, as it will facilitate the interaction between escort and companion.

  • 6.

    Promoting an accompaniment of the poor person with disability that favors the cohesion and work in the community. Only from the community is it possible to accompany each human being “personally”.

  • 7.

    In this integral anthropological model of accompaniment we are proposing, verbal communication plays a relevant role, based on the fact that every person is social and prone to dialog; both verbal and non-verbal communication, all gestures, looks, silence are important. This aspect will be developed in greater detail, as it is one of the most applied questions of the model being proposed.

    In relation to non-verbal communication we must begin by pointing to some “erroneous” beliefs:

    • 1.

      Some people believe that, on the one hand, there is verbal communication and, on the other, there is non-verbal communication. In everyday communication, both elements are interdependent and mutually related. The same happens in the interaction between the companion and the person with disability.

    • 2.

      In addition, one also has to be careful with the belief that a certain non-verbal behavior indicates a certain attitude, or a certain thought, when in fact they can be transmitting different aspects or nuances with a non-verbal element. Therefore, non-verbal behavior must be interpreted in the context of body language as a whole.

    In a conversation speaking is as important as listening. It is often said that a person who is socially skilled speaks 50% and listens 50%. Therefore, it is important that both abilities are found in the person providing the aid because the conversation will be hindered if we only listen or speak. A conversation is controlled by the one who listens not the one who speaks.

    Based on Knapp (1980) we can say that the components of non-verbal communication are those that are presented below, and that the accompanying persons should have knowledge and ability in their interaction with the person with disabilities:

    • -

      Movement of the body or kinetic behavior: it would include gestures, body language, visual contact (kept or avoided) and posture.

    • -

      Physical characteristics (not movement): physical traits or body shape, attractiveness, breath and body odor, height and weight, etc...

    • -

      Touch behavior: a caress, for example.

    • -

      Paralanguage (non-verbal vocal signals around speech): aspects of the voice, vocalization, the use of silence. In relation to silence, there are situations that are beyond the ability to speak.

    • -

      Proxemics1 and territoriality.

    In relation to verbal communication it is necessary to comment that the person who performs the functions of accompanying and helping must be receptive to the ability to narrate of the poor person with a disability. “The human being, precisely because he is a being endowed with words, has the ability to tell the things he sees, to explain his personal experiences, to narrate what he lives and what he feels” (Torralba i Roselló, 2005). The act of narration is essential in the process of accompanying. Knowing the story of the person with disability is necessary to help him in the most appropriate way. The person who accompanies the disabled person “should facilitate the narration ability of the disabled person; the person's ability to narrate should be encouraged, and through it we can detect the disabled person's needs and obsessions” (Torralba i Roselló, 2005, p. 340).

  • 8.

    From a psychological and anthropological point of view the accompaniment we are proposing here requires the development of empathy.

    According to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Spanish Royal Academy, empathy is the “ability to identify oneself with someone and share their feelings”.

    Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person, to anticipate their reactions to what can be said or communicated, as well as the ability to know what we feel before a message from the other party.

    In order for a person accompanying another (with a disability) to show empathy, we should develop the following skills:

    • -

      Ability to approach situations from different angles or points of view.

    • -

      Respect for the ideas, tastes, desires of people with disabilities.

    • -

      Ease of making eye contact with poor people with disabilities.

    • -

      Non-verbal communication.

    • -

      Vocal qualities, including variations of tone, pitch, volume, etc.

    • -

      Ability to ask precise and accurate questions.

    • -

      The use of positive and constructive language.

    • -

      A positive expectation about relationships with others.

    • -

      Ability to listen, accepting the other person and not labeling and categorizing behavior: we are really different at all times. So comments such as “I am like this, and I am not going to change”, “you are like this”, “you always react with anger” set obstacles to empathy. People, persons, are able to change, to show different behaviors, and it is this attitude that helps us show empathy with the person with disabilities.

    • -

      Ability to pay attention and show interest in what they are telling us (nod, act, say ‘yes’). In this way, the person feels at ease, feels motivated to continue talking, and above all he or she feels heard.

  • 9.

    As an end to all that has been said, people with disabilities that are also poor, most likely suffer from an alteration of the meaning they attach to their lives. “This means that the human being longs to live, albeit not in any manner or at any price, but in a way that is meaningful, because only from this way can one live humanly” (Torralba i Roselló, 2005, p. 357).

As can be seen all these anthropological principles presented herein, all these capabilities described in the person who accompanies do not require any economic investment, or at least do not need a strong monetary input, because they are either aspects that every person has already incorporated, or are aspects that can be attained through very simple education approaches.

Therefore, in an integral anthropology “it is imperative to articulate a pedagogy of the Sense, since accompanying a human being is much more than helping a living being. It should be fundamentally aimed at building Sense from dialog and responsibility” (Torralba i Roselló, 2005, p. 358).

In this model we have proposed we follow very closely St. John Paul II teaching when he said that “the disabled persons, even when mentally impaired or impaired in their sensorial and intellectual capacities, are fully human beings, with the sacred and inalienable rights of every human creature... In the most difficult and disturbing situations, the dignity and greatness of the human being emerges” (Juan Pablo, 2004).


Reducing global poverty rates is a pressing need to be addressed by all countries, with higher or lower poverty levels. One of the strategies is to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in development policies.

Much has been said in relation to the fact that people with disabilities are part of society without any kind of exclusion. However, the reality is often another, an aspect which has been enhanced, among other factors, by poverty.

The disabled person living in poverty faces a greater number of challenges than the disabled person whose economic and social environment is more favorable.

Despite the fact that people with disabilities are perceived as having the same rights as any other person, the reality is often different, forced by the effect of poverty, for example, by not allowing very well formulated issues to be put into practice.

We have started from a concept of multidimensional poverty, it is not only a mere economic question, but it affects the dignity of the person. The poor are the ones who do not have the bare necessities of life. We are, therefore, concerned with human poverty as the absence of certain basic capabilities. The key is to help people with disabilities in poverty environments to develop their human potential.

As we have seen in this paper, although poverty figures have decreased in the last decades, they continue to be alarming. And if we focus on disability, approximately 500 million people with disabilities are among the poorest.

On the other hand, we have delimited what we mean by disability. Firstly, disability has been addressed from a multi-causal framework since the conditions that can affect a person with disability are multiple, those of the human person on the one hand (i.e. physical, mental and emotional), as well as social and environmental variables of the background where the disabled person lives. With respect to the latter, let us say that in all societies disability is neither understood nor approached in the same way, and a person with a disability who does not receive any help from others has greater limitations.

Disability is, in general terms, viewed from a positive and inclusive point of view. The derogatory labels and categories of the past, where the person was clearly despised may be overruled.

The vulnerability to which we are all exposed at some point in our lives, and which is already being experienced by people with disabilities living in poverty is what we have tried to address, among other things, with the accompanying model proposed here. Persons are social beings, in need of others, who live in community.

We have delimited the concept of person because, with a suitable anthropology, we can promote a model of humanistic accompaniment whose main focus is the person. The person understood from an integrating and multidimensional (physical, psychological, spiritual) approach.

Every person is unique, irreplaceable, a radical newness. The person is futuristic, projective, it is a project, a biography.

The person is not a thing, a human person is endowed with reason (apprehension of reality in its connection), having attributes such as unpredictability and freedom.

Finally, and as a consequence of all of the above, we have proposed and developed a model of accompaniment focused on persons with disabilities living in poverty based on a humanistic and Christian anthropology.

In this model the person becomes the center of all strategies, the subject of all aid from which we approach the concept of disability, in addition to this, each person perceives differently their own state of health. We have removed from our model all those concepts referring to ideas of normality or abnormality.

In this anthropological perspective we have also underlined the importance of understanding, of internalizing, that life offers us opportunities for enjoyment in any situation.

The person who provides help must adopt an accompanying attitude along the way, letting the disabled person occupy a central role, as well as establishing a relationship that favors the person with a disability to perceive that his disability is a circumstance of life.

We have highlighted in our model, and throughout the text, the relevance of taking into account the fact that vulnerability and disability will sooner or later make their presence in the life of every person. This reflection must be made by every human being that accompanies another, as well as the importance of focusing on the positive aspects of each person's life. We need to zoom in on the unique capabilities of every human being.

What we pursue with this integrative approach is that the poor person with a disability does not feel alone in the midst of a multitude of people. In order to do so, the person who accompanies the disabled must make them feel their proximity, their closeness, and their help.

On the other hand, we have also spoken in our model about some capabilities that should be strengthened in people with disabilities, such as encouraging patience and hope, getting out of frustration, fostering inner confidence in order to avoid discouragement, and developing the necessary skills to relate to others and helping them become more autonomous, more independent.

From another point of view, this model also aims to work on the skills, the abilities of the person accompanying and supporting a person with disability. In this regard, a series of actions have been described, which can be summarized as follows:

  • 1.

    Developing empathy and he ability of listening.

  • 2.

    Reflecting on the fact that every person will need other people at some point or another in their life, we are all vulnerable.

  • 3.

    Promoting work in the community, in society. We alone cannot accomplish things, we need the group.

  • 4.

    Working and educating communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. Through language we convey the specific actions that should be developed in the person with disability.

Therefore, from a set of principles on the concept of person, as well as some reflections on the act of accompaniment, a set of measures has been specified, of actions to apply in the work with disabled people who live in a situation of poverty. It is a model whose main focus is not on economic aspects, but on the person, or rather, on people. It is a vision of the person focused on the essential, the necessary.

We would like to end these conclusions by saying that in this paper we propose a model of accompaniment and aid based on a vision of poverty that goes far beyond the purely economic approach, addressing it from its multiple perspectives. In our model poverty is understood not only from numerical facts and data, but connecting the figures with other dimensions of the person since a relation has been established between the human reality of the poor person and the person who provides help, one cannot be understood without the other.

In addition, and in accordance with what has just been pointed out, poverty and disability, in this model for the provision of aid, have also been analyzed from a bidirectional point of view, since they are connected because we have tackled the issue without reducing it to mere information, to bare inputs. As we pointed out earlier poverty is more evident when the person distances himself from the truth and from those people who require, who need help, in this way the person becomes “disabled”.

Disability has, on the other hand, been delimited (in this accompaniment approach) from a broad, integrating point of view, which includes not only “the disabilities” categorized as such but also those disabilities based on selfishness, absence of meaning, moving away from the importance of cultivating love for others, since all these prevent a relationship of help and support to the poor person with disabilities. Disability, therefore, empowers us. The person who helps others not only accompanies them, but also somehow empowers himself. We have approached disability from a positive perspective, from an approach that does not exclude the other.

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Proxemics studies the relations of proximity, distance, etc. between people during interaction, postures adopted and the existence or absence of physical contact. Instituto Cervantes, available at http://cvc.cervantes.es/ensenanza/biblioteca_ele/diccio_ele/diccionario/proxemica.htm.

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