Tuesday last, 3rd December, 2019 was celebrated as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for this year’s celebrations was ‘promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’.
Unfortunately, in The Gambia here, the day passed by largely unnoticed. There wasn’t any major event to commemorate this day as envisaged by the United Nations who have now recognized that the issue of persons with disabilities is a crosscutting issue of development.
There is certainly a need for more inclusion of this segment of society who have an equal right to take an active part in the development of the country. However, in The Gambia, many people see persons with disabilities as liabilities; as people who should be given charity and told to run along.
Times have changed and this is becoming an issue to be dealt with some sense of urgency. Firstly, there needs to be comprehensive and modern laws which will aim to protect and guarantee the rights of people with disabilities and mainstream them into society.
Most people with disabilities are marginalized and/or discriminated as they are viewed as liabilities and as people to be patronized as if they are doing them a favour whereas they have equal rights as any other Gambian.
For instance, in the education sector, many who are living with some form of disability or another find it very hard to have access to schools and enough learning materials. This is some form of violation of their rights and should be highlighted and thoroughly looked at by the government of the day and civil society in order to seek solutions.
Laws which are geared towards promoting the welfare of all peoples, including those living with disabilities, must be formulated and implemented for the good of all. All government buildings, for instance, must be made user-friendly for people with disabilities.