Implement PWD Act to stop rights abuse

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By Ambrose Murangira

Posted  Tuesday, December 3  2013 at  02:00

Today, Uganda joins the rest of the world to observe the annual International Day of the Disabled. The theme for this year’s celebration, “Breaking barriers and opening doors for an inclusive society for all” is particularly important to Uganda where people with disabilities (PWD) face barriers in the enjoyment of their rights. It is five years since the government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of PWDs in September 2008.

This convention seeks to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by PWDs and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. PWDs include people with long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Barriers to the full realisation of PWD rights in Uganda include lack of sign language interpretation services, braille services and inaccessible buildings because buildings don’t provide ramps and pavements.

Different statutory instruments providing for basic rights of PWDs largely remain on paper to the detriment of PWDs who miss out on life opportunities. Article 21 of PWD Act, 2006 requires television stations to provide sign language inset or subtitles in at least one major news cast programme each day and in all special programmes of national significance.

Other provisions under this Article task the government to promote the rights of PWDs to access information, which includes the development and use of sign language, tactile, sign language interpreters, in all public institutions and at public functions.

Others are brailing of public information, such as government documents, newspapers and other publications. Under this Article, telephone companies are required to provide special telephone devices for the hearing-impaired.

I hope President Museveni who is expected to officiate at this year’s celebrations in Kisoro will in his speech make some key commitments to address these barricades.

The ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development should develop guidelines to operationalise provisions of the National Council for Disability Act 2003 as well as to expedite the process of amending PWD Act, 2006 to conform to UN convention on the Rights of PWDs.

For this to happen, it has to be embraced by many actors including all rights activists, political, religious, cultural, civil society leaders, the academia, all nationalities, gender and age groups and the general public because indeed PWDs come from all those broad categories of our society.

Last year, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga promised to expedite the passage of the PWDs (Amendment) Bill as a gift to the PWD fraternity. This awaits actualisation.

We can’t deal with these deprivations against PWDs by wishing them away or relegating on the last pages of our to do list, we deal with it by acknowledging their evil consequences and confronting it with all its ugliness.

Ambrose Murangira,