By Faith Chimutsa
Persons with disabilities and visual impairments in marginalized areas face significant challenges, including negative attitudes, stigma, discrimination and lack of accessibility in physical and virtual environments all of which complicated their ability to fully participate in society and the economy. For these and other reasons, despite being “the world’s largest minority,” they are often overlooked, yet they have much to contribute to their communities and to the broader society.
In rural areas, persons with disabilities (PWDs) tend to face more challenges than their counterparts in urban areas. They are less likely to have attended school, less likely to be employed, less likely to be attended by a skilled health worker and less likely to own a mobile phone. Similarly, they are often left behind in rural development interventions. they are frequently seen as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection, not as individuals who are capable of exercising their rights, making decisions based on their free and informed consent and being active members of society and the economy.
During a media tour in Manicaland province, in Nyanga North, Avilla Ward 2, some PWDs have been left out of the ongoing voting process because of transportation barriers due to a lack of adequate transportation that interferes with a person’s ability to be independent and to function in society.
Lack of access to accessible or convenient transportation for people who are not able to drive because of vision or cognitive impairments, and public transportation may be unavailable or at inconvenient distances or locations. They were not registered voters due to the fact that they cannot access polling stations, the station are far away from their homes.
In this particular area and constituency, people use motor-cycles as a mode of transport.
PWDs in Avila were not fully participating in electoral process, they had no same facilities as compared to those without disabilities and there was no equal dissemination of information about the voting process.
In an interview with Trycos Muronza he said, his exceptions was that of ammending electoral law and give preference to PWDs at registration centres. The location and arrangement of the registration centers shall, to the extent which are reasonably and practicably possible, be accessible to persons with disabilities.
“We are seeking for Disability Rights Fund which provides resources to organizations that are improving access to education, employment, and social protection for PWDs, with an emphasis on rural areas in many parts of the world.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development presents a unique opportunity for concerted efforts to reduce inequality for persons with disabilities and ensure their inclusion and participation,” he said.
In the rural areas persons with disabilities are often isolated and face unbearable stigma and discrimination. Schools and health facilities are hard to reach for children and other persons with disabilities because of the long distances they must travel on rural roads, the inaccessibility of buildings or communication, and lack professionals trained to meet the needs of the disability community.
James Kangarade ward 2 chairman for people with disabilities mentioned the need for inclusive Civic and Voter Education (CVE) which plays a crucial role in fostering a democratic society that values the participation of all individuals, including people with disabilities.
“Ensuring the inclusion of PwDs in civic and voter education is not only a matter of equality and social justice but also a means of empowering us to exercise our rights, contribute to public discourse and actively participate in the decision-making processes that affect our lives. We also need Inclusive elections to ensure that people with disabilities can also engaged in the electoral process and make informed choices,” he explained.
With the NDS1 clearly stating the need and vision for the nation to become an Upper Middle Class Economy by 2030 and through the mantra “Leaving no one and no place behind” it is imperative to include PWDs in building the nation.