BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
The public has expressed dissatisfaction with government’s slap stick approach in addressing the plight of people living with disabilities (PWDs) in communities, according to a survey by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).
Findings of a ZCC study on disability inclusion in the country, which were released on Friday, showed that 39% of respondents indicated that policymakers do act on their views to some extent, while 29% indicated authorities did not act on the views of PWDs at all. The study was conducted to assess the state of disability inclusion and participation in processes and initiatives by key sectors such as the church, civil society, private sector, local and central government.
Results of the survey show that 74% of the respondents were not aware of government policies on disability.
This, according to ZCC, implied that the public policy trajectory was exclusive and did not promote full participation of PWDs.
The report also revealed that private companies were viewed as being more insensitive to the needs and aspirations of persons with disabilities, suggesting that the economic development agenda did not fully incorporate the needs and aspirations of PWDs.
“The findings suggest that respondents are not satisfied with the extent to which policy makers’ act on the views of persons with disabilities,” the report read.
“From the foregoing, public transport was rated as the most inaccessible followed by public buildings and toilets. Thus, the research findings registered the deepening levels of exclusion of PWDs in both the public and private spheres in Zimbabwe.
Respondent’s experiences in accessing basic services from local institutions such as police stations, schools, churches and health care facilities showed that most of these institutions do not have disability friendly facilities such as ramps, rails, sign language, wide passageways, braille and lowered lighting switches. For most participants, the root cause of these discrepancies was the negative attitudes towards PWDs in society.”
ZCC said although the country had a clear legal framework to protect the rights of PWD, lack of implementation had resulted in limited participation on issues that matter.
“The Zimbabwean government has made significant strides towards effecting policy, programmatic and legal reforms to advance disability inclusion in society,” ZCC said.
“Sections 22 and 83 oblige the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level, to recognise the rights of persons with disabilities, in particular their right to be treated with respect and dignity.
“While these legal provisions and other policy and programmatic intentions of the State with regards to disability inclusion are significant milestones in terms of advancing a human rights-based approach to disability inclusion, they can only improve the quality of life of PWDs when fully implemented by both State and non-State actors.
“Moreover, the problem of negative cultural and religious beliefs about disability remains deep-seated in Zimbabwean society hence the need for the active involvement of faith communities in promoting disability inclusion.”
The 2013 World Report on disability estimates that persons with disabilities constitute about 15% of the world’s population, with about 80% located in low-income countries.