DIANE Driedger, a Jamaican-born historian for her thesis leading to attainment of her masters’ degree in history studied the genesis and evolution of the disability rights movements and its peculiarities.
She concluded that it was the last major human civil rights movements, considering the rise of the blacks and other minorities’ emancipation movements, the fight against colonialism, the fight against apartheid, the gender equality fight.
This move makes the disability movement as the last human rights movement. It is not a surprise that a similar pattern evolved in Zambia starting with the fight against colonialism, then the fight for multiparty democracy, then gender equality now it’s the turn for the disability movement to take centre-stage.
Like any other human activity, opportunists are busy positioning themselves to rip off some benefits.
In support of the movement, the United Nations has from its inception in 1945 always had disability on its agenda, although earlier programmes were driven by mass causative factors of disability such as care for those maimed as a result of combat or workplace related disabilities.
Such were done through UN Agencies like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) through labour and employment related recommendations and conventions.
The other UN agency that had indirect work with disability through prevention and rehabilitation is the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Through primary healthcare, immunisations continue to be administered to children in preventing disabling conditions such as smallpox, infantile paralytic polio-myelitis and other programmes for eradication of tropical diseases like blindness to mention a few.
In brief, specific milestones by the UN system on disability are;
– 1981 declared as international year of persons with disabilities (IYDP)
– 1982 to 1992 international decade of persons with disabilities
– 1982 publication “world programme of action concerning persons with disabilities”
– 1996 UN standard rules of equalization of opportunities
The documents were not legally bidding, as such state parties were not legally obliged to it seriously.
By 2006, the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities finally declared the document legal which state parties are required to ratify and domesticate.
With all this international good will and support to persons with disabilities why do our people with disabilities still remain the poorest of the poor, have low education levels and more likely to be unemployed.
Thanks to the Patriotic Front (PF) Government, the disability landscape is set for a permanent change, this is because the UNCRPD has been domesticated through the enactment of the persons with disabilities Act number 6 of 2012 and also the provisions of the PF manifesto on disability.
This is an opportunity for persons with disabilities to get organised and establish credible organisations based on good governance principles of transparency, accountability and sustainability to ensure representation of the interests of all categories of disabilities at all levels of governance.
This could start with wards and area development committees building up to constituency or district development coordinating committees way up to provincial development coordinating committees.
The disability Act of 2012, aims to promote mainstreaming of disability in all development programmes being undertaken by all Government ministries and spending agencies. Through constructive dialogue, leaders of the disability movement should demand for the provision of quality aesthetic assistive devices, promote the fabrication of such by Zambians with disabilities as a way of employment creation.
Demand for accessible environment starting with markets in residential areas and other public places.
Demand for priority in consideration for gainful formal employment by way of job reservations and prior skills and vocation training.
Demand that those running modern shopping malls take into consideration the need of persons with disabilities through signage for those with low vision and the deaf, tactile surfaces for the visually impaired and non slippery tiles for the physically disabled or rather provision of motorized scooters for shopping purposes.
Demand for barrier free accessible public transport of the right size and adequate space in between seats for easy mobility.
Demand for respite care for children with severe disabilities and persons with multiple disabilities to relief the family from the burden of care.
This starts with understanding article 33 of the UNCRPD in this case a strengthened and well-supported Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities will ensure that services to persons with disabilities are delivered in accordance to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, the ILO Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) convention ( No. 159) and Recommendation ( No. 168)
More specific articles will follow to specifically inform the nation on the work being done to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in line with the principles of leadership, accountability, transparency and sustainability within the available resources for human and material.
(The author is Director General, Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities, a post-polio person and disability independent living movement campaigner.
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