The newly adopted National Policy on Persons with Disabilities will go a long way in helping improve the lives of people living with disabilities, the head of the umbrella advocating for PwDs has said.
Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the executive secretary of the National Council of People with Disabilities, said Monday’s cabinet approval of the new policy paves way for equal opportunities and quality services for PwDs.
“It’s a game-changer, especially in the areas of education and health,” he told The New Times.
He said the policy rightly defines disability more broadly, a departure from common public perception which is narrow.
“Disability is the combination of impairment and barriers or challenges a person with a certain disability faces,” he explained.
He said: “Service providers usually focus their attention on the inability or impairment of a person with disability, but the policy is designed to remove all barriers that restrict (PwD’s) participation in all domains.”
According to the new policy, the objective is to address communicational and environmental barriers which make it difficult for PwDs to fully access social, education and health services.
The policy seeks to promote PwDs’ access to social security and income support programmes, their participation in the labour market, as well as ensure universal design standards and regulations that support accessible and affordable infrastructure.
With the new policy, the government also hopes to promote participation of people with disabilities in the agriculture sector and technology.
Accessing healthcare services has been a huge challenge for persons with disabilities because of the cost and inaccessibility in some facilities, Ndayisaba said.
He hailed the new policy, saying it will eliminate cases of designs of some facilities that make it practically inaccessible to people with disabilities.
With the new legal framework, persons with disabilities now expect to access rehabilitation and therapeutic services, assistive aids, and other key health provisions more easily.
According to figures from the Ministry of Education, there were 1,545 children with disabilities in pre-primary education out of 185,666 children, in 2017.
Ndayisaba said the new framework will help improve enrolment and retention of children with disabilities in schools, as they will easily access learning institutions. The policy will make it a requirement for all public and private institutions to make their infrastructure accessible to PwDs.
‘A reference for all actors’
Jean Baptiste Murema, the legal advisor of the National Union of Disability organizations in Rwanda (NUDOR), said the new policy will plug gaps. “All we had were interventions from different players in education, health and other sectors.”
The new policy, he said, will now “serve as a reference for all actors in matters related to people with disabilities.”
Aline Gakwaya, a 58-year-old nurse at a secondary school in Kigali, who lost her ability to walk due to an accident, said she expects the new policy to ease the challenges she often faces as someone with a disability, especially accessing buildings.
“Besides this disability, I have high blood pressure,” she said. “So, I recently had a heart attack and needed immediate medical attention, but it was hard to access medical help.
“The health facility had no wheelchair ramps and no elevators, so they had to carry me to see a doctor,” he recalled.
Different other stakeholders have also welcomed the policy, saying it will promote inclusion.