LEGAL LINK in partnership with the NATIONAL DISABLED WOMEN’S FORUM has successfully celebrated this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the Africell American Corner, Bathurst Street, in the Western area of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
The event which took place on the 3rd of December 2019 focused on the theme: “The future of Disabled women is accessible”.
Over 150 disabled women were in attendance representing various disability groups in Sierra Leone.
The interim president of the National Disabled Women’s Forum highlighted some of the key challenges affecting disabled women in the country. Among many others, she mentioned the issue of lack of access to education, health care facilities, housing and disability friendly infrastructure.
A remarkable guest lecture was also given by lawyer Rashid Dumbuya on the topic:
“Overcoming the challenges of accessibility affecting Persons With Disabilities in Sierra Leone”
In his delivery, lawyer Rashid Dumbuya thanked the government of Sierra Leone for signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and for enacting the Disability Act and setting up a Disability Commission to superintend over the affairs of persons with Disabilities in the country.
The human rights lawyer however opinionated that there’s still more room for improvement as government is yet to fully implement the provisions of the Disability Act of 2011.
For eg, section 14 (1) of the Act provides for free education at tertiary levels for persons with Disabilities and section 14 (2) further dictates that *”the Government shall ensure the structural adaptation of educational institutions to make them easily accessible to persons with Disabilities.”
Also, by section 24 (1), persons with Disabilities are entitled to a barrier- free environment as they carry out their day to day activities in the country.
Unfortunately, all of the above provisions regarding accessibility remains a distant dream as public buildings, institutions and transportation have remained unfriendly for PWD’s in Sierra Leone.
Regarding institutions of learning, it is only the University of Makeni that maintains a Special Needs Department that caters for Persons with Disabilities. The environment and structural buildings at other universities such as Fourah Bay College, IPAM, COMAHS and NJALA are nothing but death traps for persons with Disabilities.
The Executive Director of LEGAL LINK called on various academic institutions and the government of Sierra Leone to develop a Disability Accessibility Policy that will inform a change of attitudes and approach regarding the infrastructural designs of public buildings and institutions in the country.
The programme was climaxed by inputs from various women disability groups, many of whom called on the government to implement the Disability Act to its fullest and prioritize persons with Disabilities in the country.
Other dignitaries that graced the occasion was the Board Chairman of LEGAL LINK, a representative from World Hope International, a representative from NACFORD as well as the press.
The celebrations ended up with refreshments and Thanksgiving in honour of Disabled women around the world.