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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES | December 3 – What about the inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world?

MOHAMMAD YAASEEN EDOO

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Disability Rights Activist

Queen’s Young Leader

Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society

On 3rd December the world celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities since 1992 proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. Today, the world population is over 7 billion people and more than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability; 80 per cent live in developing countries.

The theme of this year is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid-19 world.” From the theme we can notice that emphasis is laid on the leadership and participation of persons with disabilities which is crucial and of utmost importance in the decision-making policy of any government in regards to development for persons with disabilities in the world. As the saying goes “Nothing About Us Without Us”. However, it is regretful to note that in Mauritius persons with disabilities are not consulted whenever a road construction project is undertaken by the Ministry of National Infrastructure and Community Development. Our existing road infrastructure is already inaccessible to persons with physical disabilities using wheelchair to move around and there is absolutely no effort from the said ministry to ensure at least that the new one is wheelchair friendly.

For a country to be inclusive and accessible, persons with disabilities cannot be left behind in every project of every ministry of the government. This goes against the theme and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as Mauritius is a signatory country and ratified the same which makes it compulsory upon the government to ensure all the fifty articles are fully implemented and respected. Its denial leads to discrimination and abuse in all its forms towards persons with disabilities. In fact, not later than this year all Mauritians were shocked to witness twice how a social media user made horrendous and despicable remarks about us. This shows the importance to have the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill which will prevent discrimination, abuse and violence against persons with disabilities in Mauritius.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world and caused 5.21 million deaths. Mauritius has not been spared from this virus. The theme highlights a sustainable post-Covid-19 world, but it is unacceptable that in Mauritius there is no planning in regard to the facilities provided in terms of treatment and care to persons with disabilities if ever they are infected or their parents and they will have to stay at home while their parents admit in hospital. As an Editor of Handicap Universel, holder of press card and disability rights activist, on several occasions I sent a series of questions to the National Communication Committee on Covid-19 through the GIS which were never taken onboard in the questions and answers part. Below are the questions:

1.What provision has the Ministry of Health taken concerning people with disabilities, whether physical, visual, deaf, mute and intellectual, if ever they have to go into quarantine?

2.I learnt when the hospital ambulance picks up a Covid-19 positive patient, the nurse/doctor does not touch the person. What action has the ministry taken if a positive person with a disability is in a wheelchair needs to be transported to the hospital?

3.Are nurses, doctors and nursing staff trained to communicate with people with disabilities especially the blind, deaf, and intellectual?

4.(a) When it comes to people with disabilities of all types,  which quarantine centre will they go to?

(b) Are all quarantine centres wheelchair friendly?

5.(a) If people with disabilities have Coronavirus in which hospital, will they go for treatment?

(b) Are all hospitals accessible for wheelchairs ?

To conclude I quote a statement from the message of the UN General Secretary Mr. Antonio Guterres on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: “I urge all countries to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, increase accessibility, and dismantle legal, social, economic and other barriers with the active involvement of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.” With this I let the government to reflect and work on it. It is never too late to start working seriously.

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