The National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) has called on the government to look into improving its building facilities and making them more accessible to people with disabilities.
The Executive Secretary of the NCPD; Emmanuel Ndayisaba told members of the parliamentary committee on social affairs that while there has been significant improvement in facilitating the movement of people with disabilities, some government buildings were still impossible to navigate for most of them.
Murmurs were heard in the room when Ndayisaba pointed out that even Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) which was tasked to come up with the building regulations aimed at facilitating people with disabilities, continues to work from premises without any of them.
“We feel that the government needs to take the lead in implementation. A number of its buildings do not facilitate people with disabilities and even when we inspect some private buildings, we are always challenged by the same issue,” he said.
Ndayisaba said that putting in place regulations and penalties has pushed many people venturing into public building construction to adhere to the tight rules.
“In 2016, we sat with the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Rwanda Housing Authority and together, we reviewed the regulations in place and this time added penalties. It has since turned around the whole process and the improvement is obvious,” he said.
He said that the authorities are obliged by law not to issue a construction permit unless the building plan indicates disabled people’s facilities.
“There are people who dodge this because it comes with additional costs. Whoever gives them a permit is the issue and some people have been fired over it. We have fines ranging between Rfw50, 000 to Rfw5, 000,000 depending on the size of the building. Sometimes we enforce the closure of a building until changes have been made,” he said.
MP Eugene Mussolini, who represents persons with disabilities advised the regulators to look into expanding the scope of the categories of the people with disabilities who can access these buildings.
“To be honest, a lot has been done and we are very grateful that there are so many avenues through which people with disabilities are being supported.
However, I suggest that the scope of disability is broadened because it seems to me that the physical is what is being looked at but what about hearing or visual impairment?,” he said.
MP Marie Florence Uwanyirigira requested the government to look into providing more support to institutions that take in severely disabled children.
“There are institutions where children with severe disabilities are abandoned by their families, making them their full responsibility. Most of them are overwhelmed. The government needs to look into ways to support them,” she said.
Government has been supporting persons with disabilities over the years through its National Employment Programme (NEP -Kora Wigire).
The support is channeled through BDF and the money goes to Umurenge Savings Credit and Co-operatives who offer the loan to beneficiaries.
As of late last year, 239 cooperatives with over 11,029 members had benefited from the programme.