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Why the amendment of the Disabled Person's Act is timely and nationally significant
National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH)
Extracted from NASCOH August Newsletter
August 15, 2005

NASCOH’s effort in lobbying for the amendment and implementation of the Disabled Persons’ Act (1992) remains a critical issue, not only to the disability sector, but also to the nation at large, due to a number of factors to be identified below. The continued disadvantaging and marginalisation of the disability community in development and governance processes places a cost on society of delayed and skewed development. The following is a summary of the reason why there is more need for the Disabled Persons’ Act to be amended and implemented now, more than before. As the new legislators deliberate on the important issues for our nation they should realise that an equitable society places value and worth on each human being’s contribution to the development and well being of society at all levels.

  • According to the World Health Organization’s estimates, 10% of every population are people with disabilities. Zimbabwe, with a population of 12 million people therefore has 1, 2 million people with disabilities, which is quite a sizeable chunk of the population. In the absence of tangible statistics, these figures could have increased due to high stress levels among Zimbabweans as life becomes more and more unbearable with the socio-economic and political collapse. Moreover, HIV/AIDS is adding to the number of people who are becoming disabled each day. HIV/AIDS has given birth to disabilities like mental challenges, physical challenges, visual impairments, hearing impairments as well as conditions due to its disabling effects, whereby most of the disabilities being reported now are due to HIV/AIDS. The number of people with disabilities therefore, might actually be more than what it is.

  • The social, economic and political impact of Operation Murambatsvina no doubt calls for a protective legislation in place for people with disabilities. A survey carried out by NASCOH in Chinhoyi, Bindura, Marondera, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and Bulawayo has revealed shocking revelations of the plight of people with disabilities following operation Murambatsvina. We have established that 60 families of people with disabilities were left stranded and have recently been housed by Jairos Jiri Association’s Nguboyenja branch; that about 15% of people being housed at churches in Gweru are people with disabilities; that the visually impaired people who used to beg in the streets of Mutare are now sleeping on the veranda of toilets in Sakubva; that 5 visually impaired couples were bundled up together with street kids in Chinhoyi and are being kept at a certain farm outside Chinhoyi; that parents of children with disabilities who used to own stands at stalls in Masvingo have been displaced and are now finding it difficult to take care of their children with disabilities.

  • Operation Garikai has come on board with numerous stands and houses being given to people. Unfortunately, we have not come across a case study of special allocation of stands and houses to people with disabilities, despite Harare’s Whitecliff residential area alone having over 9000 stands on offer, with 600 stands being reserved for soldiers and 400 for the police and 3 trillion dollars having been given towards housing. Moreover, issues of accessibility to buildings are not a priority in this rushed programme. In the absence of a quota system and protective legislation in place, what will happen to people with disabilities?

  • Currently Zimbabwe is facing a foreign currency crisis, which has resulted in failure to procure fuel and the subsequent transport blues though fuel price has increased by 300%. Furthermore, with its Look-East Policy, the country has procured Chinese buses, which are very inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Inaccessibility of the modes of transport plus their shortage has negatively impacted on people with disabilities who have suffered more during this period of turbulence.

  • The cost of assistive devices have skyrocketed with the following being the recent costs: wheelchairs: $12 - $15 million; Pair of hearing aids: $8 - $10 million; Callipers: $25 million; Walking sticks: $5 million. It should also be noted that most of the above devices have to be imported from neighbouring countries like South Africa. In the absence of available foreign currency, whither people with disabilities?

  • Disabilities due to accidents have increased by 55% according to the Traffic Safety Board and 75% of disabilities in Zimbabwe have been regarded as disabilities, which are acquired and hence can be prevented.

  • Issues of accessibility to buildings, information, employment, education, health, transportation and other services remain unresolved for people with disabilities in Zimbabwe. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe currently stands at 80% while researches carried out by NASCOH have revealed that 83% of buildings in Harare are inaccessible while only 2% of people with disabilities are employed by the public sector. With Zimbabwe being at the height of macroeconomic instability and with a shrinking formal employment base, it is no doubt that the percentage of people with disabilities employed in the formal sector has drastically decreased.

The above no doubt points out that there is more need now for a protective legislation in place and for the implementation thereof in such an environment hence the issue is still timely and nationally significant.

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