Disabled still get raw deal

FINANCE Minister Timothy Thahane was reported last February promising to remain focused to achieve sustainable economic growth and protect the vulnerable.

The budget speech presented to parliament last February caught my attention because of that aspect.

But having gone through the speech again and listened to the finance minister’s speeches at other fora I wonder if people with disabilities are part of the ‘vulnerable groups’ that the minister was referring to.

If they are indeed part of that group why are their concerns not being fully addressed?

In his speech, Thahane said: “We need a strong national commitment to our common endevours and to a peaceful future that leaves no one behind.”

It is my firm contention that Basotho men, women and children with disabilities are being left out.

I want to point out that people living with disabilities are receiving a raw deal from the government.

I want to disagree with the minister and state clearly that people with disabilities are not part of the government’s 2020 vision.

This is a shame for a country that is a member of the United Nations.

This is a shame for a country that is a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Lesotho has also signed other agreements that seek to protect basic rights of people living with disabilities.

Lesotho has committed itself to implement a long-term plan regarding persons with disabilities.

Article 20 of the national budget speech said: “The Budget is an important instrument for allocating resources that public servants will use to deliver public services and to discharge national obligations.

“This Budget not only seeks to add to the abundance of many Basotho through economic growth; but also to provide for those who have too little.”

I think the budget does little of the above.

We are crying for inclusion. The 10-point action plan which was presented by the finance minister does not mean much to us.

For instance, the Budget talks of promotion of housing and infrastructure projects.

But as long as these housing and infrastructure projects remain inaccessible to the disabled they mean nothing to me.

The structures are basically inaccessible.

Disability is not restricted to an individual. The problems for the disabled are complex.

The management of problems for the disabled require social action.

It is the collective responsibility of society at large to make the necessary environmental modifications to allow for the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of social life.

The issue is therefore an attitudinal one requiring social change.

According to the World Health Organisation this is a human rights issue requiring political intervention.

I suggest that the government pass the National Disability Policy into law.

The policy has been in draft form since the 1990s and was reviewed again in 2005-06.

The government must integrate policies dealing with the disabled into its national poverty reduction plans.

It must set up a variety of funds and credit programmes to help the disabled set up or expand their businesses.

The government must set up a disability grant programme to help people living with disabilities deal with the extra expenses they incur due to their special needs.

For example, the disabled need assistive devices such as wheelchairs and calipers.

They sometimes have to hire personal assistants such as sign language interpreters and guides for the visually impaired.

The disabled must get easy access to job, education and training to ensure their economic independence.

We need affirmative action for the disabled to ensure that their interests are protected.

I would also want to say people with disabilities are not a homogeneous group.

They could have a physical disability, a sensory, intellectual or mental disability.

They could have had a disability from birth or acquired it during childhood or later in life.

Their disability may have little impact on their ability to work and contribute as members of society or it may have a major impact, requiring considerable support and assistance.

We require complete inclusion in all national plans but more especially in the national budget.

The national budget is the key element that determines how Basotho should benefit.

It is important to improve national legislation regarding the disabled and incorporate disability related issues into our socio-economic policies, plans and programmes.

We want greater assistance for the disabled to allow us to become financially independent.

The disabled warrant particular attention due to their high levels of vulnerability. We also don’t want to be marginalised.

We want to see our concerns being taken care of in the next Budget. We have been left out for too long.

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