8 February 2013

Rwanda: People with Disabilities Demand Eased Access to Buildings

The Director-General of the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), Osward Tuyizere, has urged estate developers to include facilities for people with disabilities in their buildings.

By doing this, he said, they would minimise the trouble people with disabilities go through to access services.

Tuyizere said many buildings, countrywide, do not have requirements for the disabled as stipulated by the law though some have tried to put ramps.

He said in August last year, NCPD agreed with the Rwanda Housing Authority that more efforts were needed in urging contractors to keep in mind rights of the disabled when constructing.

Indeed,, Lilian Mupende, the director-general of Kigali City Urban Planning and Infrastructure Development Unit, says currently, any construction project of a public building submitted for approval, facilities for people with disabilities is mandatory before obtaining a construction permit.

She said in case of any deviation in the construction process, corrections are ordered before proprietors obtain a permit.

She said homes which were turned into commercial premises have been required to apply for change of use, where, before getting an approval, they will berequired to fulfil the building control regulations for public buildings, including facilities for people with disabilities.

However, Mupende said statistics to show the buildings fulfilling these requirements are not yet in place.

The plight

John Ndekezi, a disabled from Nyarugunga sector in Kicukiro district, said one time he was in a meeting at a hotel, but failed to respond to nature as the corridor to the toilets was narrow.

He is paralysed and moves in a wheelchair.

He said he asked people to lift him so he could reach the meeting room just because there were no ramps for his wheelchair.

He also said he once requested the branch manager of a bank in Ndera to turn stairs at the entrance into a ramp, but he got a lukewarm response.

"As the solution to my request, the manager advised me to be telling guards to help me reach the inside by lifting me with my wheelchair, which is an embarrassment. I felt I was not one of their clients," Ndekezi said.

Jacques Mugisha, who is visually impaired, said a lot has to be done to meet their rights. He requested for special computers for the blind and its software.

Data from NCPD collected in 2010 by the Ministry of Health puts disabled in the following categories: 230,304 body impairment, 66,754 visually impairment, 49,670 hearing and speach impairment, 92,158 brain related problems, and 83,970 those whose disabilities are not mentioned in the above categories.

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