You Could Face Penalties for Ignoring Disabled

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Parastatals, companies and organisations may soon face the wrath of the law for failing to comply with the Disability Act. Expressing this sentiment at the start of the National Disability Conference in the capital on Monday, Disability Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister Tjiueza Tjombumbi said disability based on discrimination must be brought to the forefront so that the justice system could litigate against those who don’t comply. “It’s a matter of fighting and advocating for our rights,” said Tjombumbi. This can however only be possible once a Final Draft Action Plan for Namibia is drawn up and submitted to Cabinet for approval. In an effort to mainstream the plan to the various stakeholders, the Office of the Prime Minister together with the National Federation of People with Disabilities and the Ministry of Health and Social Services is hosting a three-day consultative conference to craft the Namibia Plan of Action for the African Decades of Persons with Disabilities. Close to 100 participants from various sectors of government, parastatals and regional councils are attending the conference, which is expected to end today. Officially opening the conference on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi said Government has made great strides in building a nation for the self-determination of all Namibians with disabilities. This is evident through the adoption of the National Policy on Disability in 1997 and the establishment of the Disability Advisory Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister in 2001. Amongst others, Cabinet also ratified the Continental Plan of Action for the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (1999-2009). Kamwi explained that the conference is a worthy initiative as the issue of disability deserves attention and action at local, regional and national levels. “We need to redress the problems of unfair discrimination facing people with disabilities…this situation should not be allowed to continue,” said the minister, adding that disability does not mean inability. Thus, the mainstreaming and a much more inclusive approach needs to be taken to bring people with disabilities into the mainstream socio-economic activities of the country’s development. For a long time, people with disabilities are still being treated as “second class citizens” and discriminated against by others in society. The objective of the conference is to ensure full participation, equality and empowerment of people with disabilities in all sectors of development. After 16 years of independence, people with disabilities are being discriminated against. This is a worrying scenario, said Tjombumbi. “In a certain village in Eenhana, we found a child tied by the neck to a tree. The issue of disability is about death and survival and public attitude must change because this has a negative impact on the lives of people with disabilities,” he said. Member of Parliament Alexia Ncube said the time had come for people with disabilities to “liberate themselves”. She noted that every Namibian is equal and should be treated that way in accordance with the Namibian Constitution. Differently-abled women face segregation from their in-laws. There is lack of HIV/Aids information for the visually impaired and a lack of access to certain buildings for people with physical disabilities. “There is poor appliance of policies, problems of access to health policy, sexuality and personal relations, sports and recreation and we have problems to access social grants,” said Ncube. Participants are expected to come up with a plan of action for the country in redressing these numerous challenges. The Final Draft Plan is expected to be completed by September this year, after which it will be submitted to Cabinet for approval.