The government should revise the Disability Protection Act as some of it is not only out of date, but also leaves out some people with disabilities and deprives them of the opportunity to lead normal, fulfilling lives like other Rwandans.
The executive secretary of the National Union of Disabilities Organizations of Rwanda (NUDOR), Jean Damascène Nsengiyumva, told the New Times on Monday the 7th they would like to campaign.
NUDOR brings together 13 different organizations.
Nsengiyumva said the position paper aims to involve the government on issues relating to categorizing people with disabilities who also have special needs.
It also seeks to promote the distribution of social benefits so that beneficiaries can better exercise their rights and access services more easily.
This includes asking the government to spell the categories of people with disabilities beyond what is traditionally known as disability.
Article 2 of the Disability Protection Act of 2007 describes a person with disability as any person who was born without innate abilities like those of other people, or who have been deprived of those abilities due to illness, accident, conflict or other other reason.
However, a ministerial regulation laying down the modalities of categorizing disabled people recognizes five categories of disabled people on the basis of their disability: physical, visual, hearing, mental and one more category just referred to as “other”.
Nsengiyumva explained that little people, those with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, albinism and hunchbacks, face many different challenges and they are grouped into “others”, depriving them of the foundation to stand up for themselves.
“The law tends to be more based on physical disabilities and bundles the rest into the ‘Other’ category. Who are others It should be mentioned in the law as there is a risk of neglecting the kind of challenges these others are facing because they are not really known, ”he said.
Nsengiyumva praised the government for implementing a national policy for people with disabilities, but added that there was still a long way to go in terms of inclusion.
“The directive is a big step, but we need the government and the private sector to get involved and include people with disabilities in all laws, policies and programs. This will help implementers, especially at the district level, better plan and budget for everyone, ”he said.
In a telephone interview, the Executive Secretary of the Organization for the Integration and Promotion of People with Albinism (OIPPA), Nikodem Hakizimana, told the New Times that the 2007 law poses many obstacles for some people with disabilities.
Albinism is a condition that results from a lack of pigmentation (melanin) in hair, skin, and eyes, making them vulnerable to the sun and bright light.
He explained that categorizing some disabilities into others has made some people with disabilities feel marginalized.
For example, he explained that while Rwanda strives for an inclusive education system, students with albinism often struggle with their national exams because they do not take this disability into account.
“These students need very large exam questionnaires because very poor eyesight is one of their greatest challenges. However, when we spoke with the Department of Education, they found that they have the numbers for the students that are listed under the categories indicated that were not included with albinism, ”he said.
However, he thanked the government for providing protective sunscreen, body lotions, and creams in the local market, and for allowing people with albinism to lead normal lives.
“Not only are they available in health centers, they are also very cheap, as they can be purchased through mutual health insurance. That is very commendable, ”he said.
Those who stand up for the rights of people with disabilities say that reducing disabilities will help society better understand these conditions and improve the lives of those affected.
Rosine Kamagaju, who heads Autism Rwanda, told the New Times in an interview that little to no knowledge of conditions such as autism continues to put children and adults who have it at high risk of stigma and isolation.
Autism refers to a range of disorders characterized by challenges in social skills, repetitive behaviors, language, and non-verbal communication, as well as unique strengths and differences.
She called for massive nationwide campaigns to alleviate the prevailing stigma against autistic people, especially children.
“The children are treated badly, some parents lock them in rooms and do not let them out. Children with autism are often treated as if they are not people, but rather a curse in society.
Last week the Cabinet passed a directive that clearly outlines guidelines, sets goals and priorities to address issues affecting people with disabilities and promote an inclusive, accessible and rights-based society.
Once implemented, it will have a direct impact on the legal framework, affect businesses and the economy as a whole, and also affect equality, discrimination, unity and reconciliation.