Thursday, June 13, 2024

Implicit stereotyping against people with disabilities still continues

Persons with disabilities in Botswana continue to face barriers that prevent them from enjoying their full civil, political, economic, social, cultural and developmental rights.  This is mainly as a result of lack of awareness, ignorance and prejudice in our society. Reports and experience show that people with disabilities in Botswana often face mistreatments in a number of ways and because of various reasons. Clearly, women and children with disabilities are more vulnerable to abuse, including physical and sexual violence as they may not receive sexual education and may be less able to defend themselves against sexual abuse and rape. 

Although awareness about the needs of people with disabilities has been anaemic and half-hearted, The Telegraph spoke to individuals with disabilities to get a more in-depth look at their lives. The issue is not about feeling sorry for people with disabilities as they are resilient. The issue is about shedding more light on the implicit attitudes and explicit bias being meted out toward people with disabilities.

Eva* who is living with disability and has spinal cord injury narrated her everyday struggles to this publication indicating that from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the sun, her life, and that of other women and girls with disabilities, is a constant struggle with extreme lows. “The greatest challenge that i face is stigma. A lot of people are ignorant about our plight and associate disability with curses, dependence and helplessness,” says *Eva.

She also says misconceptions about work and disability continue unabated. “There are people and companies that believe that hiring persons with disabilities could lead to a loss of productivity and financial loss to a company. These theories have been debunked because disability inclusion has a positive impact on business performance,” she says.

In Botswana, People with disabilities still do not experience the same access to work opportunities as their counterparts without disabilities. Many employers have been shown to harbor sincere yet ill-founded views about the work-related abilities of people with disabilities.

A study published by Accenture in 2018 analyses the correlation between the financial performance of organizations and the number of employees with disabilities in their workforces. The results show that companies employing persons with disabilities are above average in terms of profitability (revenues and net income) and value creation (economic profit margin). Moreover, turnover of persons with disabilities is 48% less than for persons without disabilities. Furthermore, general staff turnover can be reduced by up to 30% by having persons with disabilities in the workforce.

*Oaitse who is visually impaired says he and his friends with disabilities face challenges in accessing health services as they usually get humiliated at hospitals and clinics. He also said some of the infrastructure at the health facilities pose obstacles for them to reach the areas. “Disabled toilets are still scarce, and where they are available they are hardly maintained. It seems people with disabilities have been pushed to the periphery,” he says.

Among other things, he mentioned that the physical environment is inaccessible as there are unpaved streets and even house yards full of pebbles and stones which block the movement of those with physical disabilities. “These might seem trivial issues but they hinder the ability of people with disabilities to take up any educational or economic opportunities,” says *Oaitse.

*Lesego who is deaf says roads are not properly maintained and pavements make travelling very difficult for wheelchair users. “There is also lack of awareness and respect amongst bus and taxi drivers as they do not provide any assistance to ensure on and off-boarding of passengers with disabilities,” he says.

Although we live in a cut throat world, there is need to turn it into a world of co-existence beyond all these societal bias. There is need for extensive training on identifying and meeting the needs of PWD. There is also need for awareness and advocacy initiatives about PWD rights to help combat stigma and discrimination.

These might be sobering stories, but they are unquestionably not isolated ones. Botswana is still way behind other countries with regards to promoting the fundamental rights of PWD and awareness on disability issues. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides the framework for inclusive global sustainable development efforts for the coming decade. Persons with disabilities are considered one of the groups meriting specific attention in the 2030 Agenda, and the corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make explicit reference to persons with disabilities, including in the context of decent work and economic growth. The rights-based approach towards persons with disabilities reflected in the 2030 Agenda is aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 

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