Despite clear policies protecting persons living with disabilities (PLWDs), there is still a “huge” gap in the realisation of rights and inclusion of these vulnerable persons, according to activists.
Jean Damascene Nsengiyumva, an official from the National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda (NUDOR), said, while the Government has guaranteed rights of PLWDs, loopholes still exist on how policy implementers put into practice what is stipulated in the law, with stigmatisation common even in education sector.
“Most of the challenges that PLWDs face are simply because some laws are not as inclusive, especially at the grassroots level. We need our experts to ensure that those laws and programmes are designed to cover our rights and give us space to participate. At the grassroots, there are cases of discrimination of PLWDs... even in social welfare programmes you hardly see the involvement of PLWDs,” he said.
Nsengiyumva was addressing journalists on the sidelines of the ongoing four-day conference of persons with disabilities from Uganda and Rwanda in Kigali.
The meeting, hosted by NUDOR, attracted 62 leaders from organisations of persons with disabilities as well as allies in international development parners and representatives of the Government of Rwanda.
Tackling PLWDs issues
Participants are sharing ideas and strategies on key rights and development issues, developing effective advocacy strategies, and identify areas for collaboration.
“In some schools, teachers are reluctant to help children with special physical needs. The law on public buildings say different things but the buildings in the cities show different structures as far as the implementation of such laws is concerned; accessibility to some of these buildings is really wanting,” Nsengiumva said.
Med Ssengooba, the Disability Rights Fund programmes officer for Africa, said Rwanda is not an exception when it comes to challenges faced by persons with disabilities.
“People with disabilities have not been viewed as people in a long time. They are people first, before the word disabilities and it is important to be viewed as people and their voices to count just like anyone else,” Diana Samarasan, the founding executive director of Disability Rights Fund, said.
Edson Ngirabakunzi, from the National Union of Disabled People of Uganda, said disability should not be considered as a barrier to their success.