The deputy minister responsible for disability affairs in the Office of the President Alexia Manombe-Ncube has urged businesses and other institutions not to deny people with disability entry to their establishments.
Manombe-Ncube said this at an awareness-raising press briefing after two local franchises denied visually impaired Letitia Bourwer and her guide dog on their premises due to their no animal policy that prohibits all types of canines.
She stressed that guide dogs or service companions are not different from pets as they are service dogs and should be treated as such.
“I was able to meet with Bourwer and we went to one of the places (she had been to before) and the same discriminatory tendencies were on display,” Manombe-Ncube explained.
“But I was pleased to note that the supervisors in most of these cases were able to handle the issue in a professional manner, although they also need to train their employees on these issues,” said the deputy minister responsible for disability affairs.
Making reference to herself, she said: “I am a wheelchair user, though not wheelchair-bound.”
She questioned would she manage if she were to go into any place and they told her to leave her mobility assistive device outside.
“My human rights would have been violated and my dignity lost. This is the same situation with [Bourwer] and Nathan (the guide dog). If you take away Nathan from [Bourwer] in the same manner these people did, it would be like undressing her in public,” she said.
Manombe-Ncube stressed there is a need for this message to get across to every Namibian as there is no need for any person’s human rights to be violated in that nature as in the case of Bourwer.
However, she added that the objective is not to point fingers but to bring this to light for the sake of everyone.
“Namibia is getting industrialized and soon we need to see signs in our shopping malls, banks and other facilities which are disability-friendly,” she stated.
A seemingly devastated Bourwer narrated her story and daily ordeals when visiting certain public places.
“There’re some restaurants that do not want to let Nathan in and I am forced to leave him at home,” Bourwer noted.
“But I am not supposed to leave him at home according to the South African Guide Dogs’ Association where I got him from. I am forced to break that promise and agreement,” she said.
“Guide dogs are taken to the vet for check-ups every month, so they are healthy and not aggressive. They are trained not to be aggressive,” said Bourwer.
While demonstrating how she and Nathan communicate, Bourwer explained how the ordeal at the restaurant made her feel robbed of her dignity.