Disabled Persons Bill was long overdue: stakeholders

By Mark Matambirofa

Persons with disabilities in the country are thrilled by consultations currently underway towards the drafting of the Disabled Persons Bill, adding that the current Act has been overtaken by events.

The current Disabled Persons Act was enacted in 1992 and stakeholders are of the view that it did not represent the interest of all disabled persons in the country.

Stakeholders in the disability cluster want the Bill to be specific especially in terms of rights of disabled persons with regards to political rights, freedom of expression, right to equal opportunities among many others.

In an interview, Senator Rejoice Timire who represent the interest of persons with disabilities confirmed that consultation with stakeholders on the Bill is underway and that some of the critical issues affecting the cluster have been highlighted.

“The disability Act was enacted in 1992, and amended in 1996 really was a good law with values which other neighbouring countries adopted into their laws.

However, it has been taken by events with the coming of the new constitution in 2013, the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and African Disability Protocol among many other things.

So many things have come into play and the Act also need to be in line with the new constitution,” she said.

Speaking on that same issue Deaf Zimbabwe Trust executive director Barbra Nyangairi applauded efforts to come up with a new Bill adding that the current one only focused on physical disabilities leaving other people outside.

“The Act is an outdated document that did not address the needs of persons with disabilities, it emphasized on physical disabilities with little or no mention of sensory disabilities.

“It needed to be repelled to create a new Act that would be in line with the provisions of the new constitution and the UNCRPD which takes a human rights approach to disability,” she said.

According to stakeholders representing persons with disabilities, they want to also enjoy the rights that the new constitution gave to people adding that those rights are also for them.

Some of the rights being sought by persons with disabilities include freedom of expression, freedom to participate like every human being, freedom to choose a political party of their choice, freedom to be elected in power, freedom to vote and be voted for.

They are also demanding the right to a secret vote and to choose whoever they want to assist them when voting.

Persons with disabilities are also calling for an environment that will have infrastructure which supports disabled people especially when it comes to accessing public offices that offer important services.

Meanwhile, ZDT executive director has also revealed that “Section 43 of the Disabled Persons Bill addresses political inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities, expressing that all persons with disabilities have the right to effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, it also provides for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in decision making bodies such as commissions and boards of public entities and when implemented these provisions will adequately address political inclusion of persons with disabilities.

“Section 39 of the Bill has addressed the issues of inclusive education by placing an obligation on the state to give equal opportunities when it comes to education without prejudice or discrimination in both vocational and academic education,” she said.

Meanwhile, Senator Timire has said that “many children with disabilities are not attending school because the infrastructure and teachers are not accommodating for persons with disabilities.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is the news editor for OpenParlyZW an online platform that covers Parliament of Zimbabwe activities using social media (Twitter and Facebook). He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum and a board member of Digital Communication Network.

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