BY RUVIMBO MUCHENJE
People living with impairments (PLWIs), who constitute 15% of Zimbabwe’s population, are being excluded from the electoral discourse because of communication barriers, a Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) official has said.
Speaking at a National Youth Organisation (Nayo)-organised election accountability dialogue in Harare recently, DZT programmes manager Paidamoyo Chimhini said: “The communication channels used by duty bearers to communicate to the electorate deny people living with impairments a chance to be active participants in the national discourse.”
She added that inclusion is expensive and duty bearers tend to forgo it at the expense of PLWIs.
“Inclusion can be quite expensive and many times people forego it. There is need for an interpreter and even a venue that people in wheelchairs can access,” Chimhini said.
She lauded political parties that included sign language during the campaign period, but urged them to go beyond rallies in accommodating and implementing the views of PLWIs.
“There are some political parties that had interpreters during the campaign period, but now in office during engagements they do not accommodate people living with impairments,” Chimhini noted, adding that appointment of only two senate representatives for people with disability was a sham because they cannot adequately represent 15% of the population.
“Two individuals who purport to represent this special group are not chosen by the disabled and they are too few to represent 15% of the population,” she said.
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Nayo programmes manager MacDonald Munyoro said young people with impairments cannot actively participate in politics because they were being excluded.
“When most of these councillors or MPs conduct their consultations through the parliamentary portfolio committees, they are not disability inclusive. In their consultations, they do not have sign language, they do not have braille. Some of the venues where they hold their meetings are actually not even accessible. And this always keeps away persons with disabilities,” he said.
Munyoro said in the consultations they held in all the 10 provinces, young PLWIs bemoaned unequal opportunities as the major reason for their limited participation.
“One of the biggest issues that came from the young people with disability was the need for inclusion. And as part of inclusion one thing that they raised the most was the need for opportunities. Opportunities that are the same and similar to any child who is out there who is able-bodied,” he said.