Do not discriminate against us: disabled persons

Features Zimbabwe

Ishmael Ndlovu

Today people from across the world commemorate International Day of Persons With Disabilities (IDPD).

The day is dedicated to reflecting on the plight of persons with disabilities, although in many developing countries the day is like any other, with little or no attention being given to the disabled and the plethora of challenges they face on a day to day basis. Indeed life for persons with disabilities continues to be a “living hell” in many communities.

The challenges persons with disabilities face are numerous, and include, but are not limited to, poverty (research has shown that most people with disabilities are poor), lack of proper infrastructure for them to access buildings, and discrimination. Most buildings in urban centres are inaccessible to persons with disabilities as they do not have ramps for wheelchair users. This disempowers as well as discriminates them as they are left out of everyday activities like accessing banks, education facilities and other buildings.

Persons with disabilities are often treated as ‘second class citizens’ and persons with albinism are often murdered for ritual purposes in some African countries. Recent reports have shown that this is rampant in Tanzania and Malawi. Women and girls with albinism have also been raped in some  African countries due to the superstitious belief that the rapists would be cured of HIV.

Often people think disabled persons deserve their sympathy, and motorists and pedestrians dropping a few coins in tins used by little children begging on behalf of their disabled parents, is a common sight in Zimbabwe’s towns and cities. However, most persons with disabilities appreciate being treated like everyone else, on an equal footing.

Writing on the WhatsApp Media and Disability Forum group, a member going by the name, Ian Taku, said people with disabilities do not need sympathy to realise their full potential.

“Provide platforms and opportunities for meaningful development. At family level, treat us like anyone else, give us love and boost our confidence.

“That’s the biggest weapon we can possess against discrimination and segregation. Do something in your small circle to promote inclusivity and shun segregation,” he wrote.   

In an interview with ZTN, Signs of Hope Trust founder and director, Samantha Sibanda said International Day of Persons with Disabilities should not be spent on merrymaking and talking, but on raising awareness and creating progressive dialogue.

“I hope that the day is spent not only on food, drink and talk, but may we take the opportunity to raise awareness and progressive dialogue.

“The theme speaks to challenging the world to revise the participation of People with Disabilities in every space. People with Disabilities have a lot to offer and I wish the world could realise that and involve them in totality,” she said.

Educationist, disability rights activist and Sign Language Interpreters Association chairperson, Professor Lincoln Hlatshwayo said the day gives the nation the opportunity to reflect on disability issues.

“The IDPD is critical for us to look behind us, our current position and forward, then make a reflection,” he said.

Prof Hlatshwayo said Zimbabwe is progressing well towards the realisation of disability rights. However, he said it has taken long to domesticate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD).

“Without the domestication, full rights of PWDs will never be realised,” he said.

However, on the positive side he said the Zimbabwe Disability Policy is almost complete, while the Persons with Disability Act has been revised.

 IDPD commemorations for Harare Province will be held on Friday, December 6, in Chitungwiza.

As part of activities to mark the day, teenagers with disabilities from all walks of life on Saturday (November 30), had a social outing in Harare where they mingled with their non-disabled counterparts and generally had a good time. One of the organisers of the event, teacher and disability activist, Jules Daudi, said the occasion was a resounding success.  

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed annually on December 3. This year’s theme is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda.’ The theme focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognises disability as a cross-cutting issue, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.