MOHAMMAD YAASEEN EDOO

Disability Rights Activist

Queen’s Young Leader

Every year on 3rd December since 1992, the United Nations observes the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The theme for this year’s IDPD is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. Let us have a look and learn the definition of these 3 words on Internet: Empowerment, Inclusion and Equality.

Empowerment « refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority ».

Inclusion « refers to all people with and without disabilities to be included in the society. Regarding individuals with disabilities and special education, it secures opportunities for students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers in general education classrooms. »

Equality « is ensuring individuals or groups of individuals are not treated differently or less favourably, on the basis of their specific protected characteristic, including areas of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. »

After having studied these 3 words, we ask ourselves these questions: (1) Are persons with disabilities (PWDs) being empowered? (2) Are they being included in the society? (3) Are persons with disabilities treated equally? Yes, there are various facilities for persons with disabilities available such as monthly pensions, duty free car, assistive devices etc. But sadly to note, persons with disabilities are not being empowered when it concerns employment. Not all PWDs are included in the mainstream educational system especially the hearing impaired and the visually impaired since teachers are not trained with sign language and Braille. They are not treated equally when a student with disability with good results wants to pursue his studies in a specific college of his choice.

In 2018, we are talking of smart city, smart island, the project of Metro Express is moving faster. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities are still facing barriers to move around on their wheelchair for accessibility is absent in our road infrastructure, existing buildings are not equipped with ramps to mention just those. Metro Express will soon be a reality in our country but will persons with disabilities able to travel by? Are there low floor feeder buses to transport us to the Metro? Qualified persons with disabilities are unable to obtain a job in the public sector for the quota of 3% compulsory to recruit persons with disabilities with more than 35 employees is made only for the parastatal bodies and private sector and not included for the government to recruit.

As a degree holder, with BSc (Hons) in Multimedia and Web Technologies, I have not been able to secure a job because my country, Mauritius Island, is not accessible to me as a wheelchair user both in terms of transport and road infrastructure. I have received several job offers but once I raised the issue of transport facility the companies never came back to me. And this is also the case for my friends with disabilities having high qualifications. As a Disability Rights Activist, I do not only criticise what is lacking in our country; unlike others, I have also proposed some solutions to the government through a letter which I personally wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting him to include Work from Home (which is a measure brought forward for pregnant women in the Budget) for persons with disabilities which would greatly help. And we would contribute for the economy of our country. It is not a difficult task to be set up by the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation. We have a number of technological tools where meetings can be conducted online from anywhere in the world and system to track the productivity of employees. Sadly, my suggestion to the Prime Minister remained unanswered and even unattended.

I leave the readers of Forum of Le Mauricien themselves to judge if our country has abided to the theme set this year by the United Nations. Until our rights are implemented, I will continue to raise awareness for a better future for all my friends with disabilities.