Monday, January 17, 2022

The disabled disenfranchised as Botswana lacks Disability Act

Botswana’s disabled people’s welfare has been left to chance because the country does not have a law governing their affairs, it emerged this week. Delivering a keynote address at a summit for Public Library Innovation, at Tlotlo Hotel in Gaborone, acting Director for Botswana National Library Service, Ms. Gaorere Kgotla said, “Botswana currently does not have an Act that talks specifically to the disability, particularly in library services.”

She said her department was elated by the newly formulated policy approved by parliament as it seeks to protect the group who constitute the vulnerable population of our society. Giving a presentation on library services for the blind and visually impaired people, Francois Hendrikz from South-Africa Library of the Blind (SALB) pointed out that a country that has no legislation, not only for disability, but for any group or section of the nation, validates the argument that it has no commitment to such a group of concern. “If there is no proper legislation for disability, or any other group of concern in the society, it raises the question of political will or lack thereof. In fact, the absence of a relevant act, relegate the disability service provision to just a mere activity of charity which have no meaningful importance thus condemning the affected group to grinding levels of difficulty”, charged Hendrikz.

The South-African distinguished intellectual further stated that it is a binding social responsibility for government to provide services to the disability. “The whole thing starts with the enactment of a law as a constitutional provision, then funding follows. Funding the disability must not be misconstrued as raining money on them, but a gesture of protecting and helping them realize their potential; thus inculcating in them the notion that disability is not inability.” Hendrikz concluded by saying South Africa’s facility of the blind and visually impaired people is the one of its kind across Africa; founded in 1919 and operating under the 1998 Act NO. 91.

He said they provide National Braille Consultancy; teach Braille and its standardization, Abisy and audio book production. To make matters worse, Botswana has not ratified and/or acceded to a couple of world treatises such as WIPO Treaty for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Marrakesh whose aim is to facilitate access to Published Works for Persons who are blind or otherwise print disabled. The Acting Director lobbied other stakeholders to join them in mounting advocacy for disability, saying it is a collective responsibility which can’t be left on their shoulders alone, more importantly that its cant be achieved over night. It was observed that lack of specific legislation disenfranchise the disability.


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