People with disabilities (PWDs) have welcomed a move by Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) obliging all public and commercial properties to put in place facilities to ease their access.
The new rules and regulations were unveiled last week during a meeting that brought together architects, real estate developers, representatives of PWDs and officials from RHA.
The rules include specialised toilets, designated parking spots near the main entrance of every building, lifts, lowering of counters at banks and signage, among others.
In an interview with The New Times yesterday, Betty Mukarwego, a visually impaired lecturer at Kigali Institute (KIE) in the Department of Psychology, said that PWDs have long been ignored.
She pointed out that most buildings, especially storied complexes have no lifts yet it is next to impossible for the PWDs to use wheel chairs or crutches.
“I thank RHA and the government in general for coming up with the new regulations and I believe this will enable us to access all buildings and do our work effectively and efficiently,” Mukarwego said.
She lamented that students and lecturers at KIE with various disabilities find it difficult to attend certain classes which take place in storied buildings.
Mukarwego also urged concerned authorities to cover potholes in pedestrian walkways around Kigali City and other towns countrywide.
Venantie Mukanziza, a visually impaired student at KIE said: “The new rules are long overdue. We have even been unable to access public services that we are entitled to”.
Speaking to The New Times, Charles Haba, the Managing Director of Century Real Estate said: “When a building has all facilities, including those for people with disabilities, it becomes more appealing and profitable,” he said.
“This is the best direction all developers should take. It is not something complicated.”
Haba added that specific access provisions for PWDs also benefit expectant mothers and elderly citizens.
Januario Mucyo, the Marketing Manager of Bank of Kigali, said that his bank prioritises people with disabilities.
“Our headquarters have lifts and all branches have been notified that PWDs are served with priority and do not have to wait in queues,” Mucyo said.
Jean Marie Muheto, who is also visually impaired, noted that if the new policies are implemented, PWDs will fell less discriminated against.