Persons with disabilities: Service lost, rights denied

Persons with disabilities are human beings, and have rights to access services. They can live independently, without assistance, especially in public areas, where service is provided. In Rwanda however, only 25 health workers can communicate with hearing impaired persons.



Apart from being brothers and sisters or parents, People With Disabilities are potential clients, partners or counterparts. In each province of Rwanda, one district has a health center equipped with facilities to serve persons with disabilities, with 5 trained workers in each. These are Kinyinya/ Gasabo(V.K), Gatagara/Nyanza(South), Kabarore/Gatsibo (East), Nemba/Gakenke(North) and Rubengera/Karongi(West).

PWDs continue to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society and violations of their human rights. This results from lack of appropriate infrastructures, skills of servants or lack of will. This is part of their rights denied, and cause many consequences up to loosing lives.

Testimonies of persons with disabilities show that there is still stigma over them. They call them in various negative names, and families don’t care of them. Parents of Gatesi, a girl with disability, disputed to bringing her to hospital. Herself went there, but didn’t enter, because entrance was not favorable to her wheelchair.

Communication is also a problem, as one of nurse says “I cannot treat someone, to whom I cannot communicate, and whose identity is not given”. Moreover, treatments are provided from the assistant feelings, rather than the client with disability.

Access to service for PWDs, is a major concern of UPHLS (Umbrella of organizations of Persons with disabilities on HIV/AIDS and for Health promotion). The Executive Director declares that some of members do not even have IDs. “Some mental disabled persons do not have Identity cards”, says Francois Xavier Karangwa, while inaugurating PWDs facilities in Kinyinya Health Center, Gasabo.

Private and public buildings without ramps

Many buildings in Rwanda need adjustments to include needs of PWDs, and remove physical barriers they daily face, while looking for services. One visual impaired woman says, “No ramps at all, I have been at the District, I did not reach upstairs”. Mr Karangwa gives an example of a new building in Kigali, which does not incorporate facilities for PWDs.

In this regard, Gatsibo district has already adopted a measure, by which all administrative buildings (District, Sectors and Cells offices) must have PWDs facilities. Gasabo district represented in the event, vows to make advocacy to the Council to adopt the same measure. “We considered this for the new building. For the time being, we have a special receptionist downstairs for PWDs”, JMV Ntaganzwa, on behalf of the Mayor.

Legal background

The matter of disability has been for years, a concern of impaired individuals, their families or organizations. It is only since 2006, with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) calling states parties to observe disability as a human right issue. It tells them to “promote the training of professionals and staff working with persons with disabilities so as to better provide the assistance and services guaranteed by those rights”.

Rwanda has ratified the same convention; in law no 01/2007 of 20/01/2007. In articles 25, the law stipulates that “buildings in which various services meant for residents are conducted are required to be built in a way such that they facilitate the disabled persons to acquire access to such services”.

In accordance with the law, the Rwanda Housing Authority put in place a document on inclusive building. RBCR(Rwanda Building Control Regulations) give standards of facilities for PWDs. These facilities concern standard ramps, signposts, toilets, counter, stairways, guest rooms, parking and lift.

Besides, art. 26 of the same law argues, that “Public transport and communication services are obliged to facilitate the disabled persons. Gestures, Braille writings and other ways that aid the disabled persons in communication, where possible shall, be used in conferences and meetings, news reading and other public debates”. Thus, feel a need to train more service providers in sign language, and Braille writing to be effective with the law: workers in health, education, banks, etc.

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Jean Baptiste Karegeya




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