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International Day of Persons with Disabilities : Think more of how to improve our lives

On 3rd December yearly 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 has reached 8 billion people and more than one billion people, or approximately 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability; 80% live in developing countries.

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The theme of this year is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.” Analysing this theme, we can notice there are some key words namely: transformative solutions, inclusive development, innovation and accessible and equitable world.

Transformative solutions are changes which will have an impact in the social, economic and political processes within the society in a country. They are conditions to enable capacities and challenge existing facilities towards a proper and sustainable development. Proper changes can only happen when persons with disabilities are empowered socially with facilities to enjoy a social life, economically with reasonable employment opportunities and politically with the chance to join any political party. With the evolving world, emphasis should be laid upon the capacities of persons with disabilities and ensure that existing

facilities are up to the standard and sustainable.

Inclusive development involves the participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life. For example, all persons with disabilities to have equal access to education, healthcare services, work and employment, and social protection, among others. It is the elimination of discrimination and barriers in the lives of persons with disabilities and rather promote their development and wellbeing with all the facilities to lead a normal life like people without disabilities. In order to have an inclusive society, it is also vital for children and women and girls with disabilities to benefit from full protection and consideration in every policy decision regarding them as they are often victims of violence.

Innovation is the introduction of new products or services and making full use of a number of technological assistive devices. Generally speaking, the pandemic of Covid-19 changed

the way people used to work. While in the past most jobs were carried out with physical presence of employees. With Covid-19 wherever possible, we have witnessed the introduction of work from home in the public sector to protect employees from being infected by the Coronavirus. If this new way of work was something already present in European countries and in other parts of the world, in Mauritius this option was practised only in the private sector. The government had no other alternatives than to introduce it in different ministries. The regrettable part is that such work system was made possible only for civil servants and not for persons with disabilities. I have been advocating since many years now to extend this service also for persons with disabilities in the public sector. Having a better internet connection with the fibre optic, it is not a difficult task at all for the concerned ministries and stakeholders to work together and extend this for persons with disabilities.

Accessible and equitable world means a planet which is both accessible with equal rights of each and every individual to be fully respected including persons with disabilities. Talking about accessibility it involves not only transport but a lot more facilities. Having accessible pavements, streets, website, sound system, tactile devices amongst others for persons with disabilities of all types. Regarding transport, if we can rejoice having Metro Express, however our buses are not accessible, thus we need to hire a taxi to go to the Metro Station and enjoy a ride in Metro. For our pavements and streets, they are not up to the standard with accessible space to allow movement of wheelchairs like it is available in our malls, websites are not friendly for our friends with visual impairment, sound systems are not available in buses and in old and most lifts, tactile devices are absent in lifts for our friends with visual impairment. These are just a few of the issues that we have in Mauritius and there are others as well which I have mentioned in my previous articles in the Forum Page of Le Mauricien.

It will be unfair not to mention the different available services provided by the government to persons with disabilities. Those are pension, refund of the sum equivalent to bus fares to accompanying parents of disabled children attending day-care centres, specialized, integrated and mainstream schools, refund of taxi fares to students with severe disabilities attending universities and mainstream schools, François Sockalingum Award – scholarship for outstanding results of students in primary, secondary and tertiary, concessionary airfare, concessionary fee for passport, free parking cards, respite care programme for parents to have some free time, duty free facilities, loan for people with disabilities.

To conclude, beside the facilities and services available for persons with disabilities which we are thankful and grateful to the government, it will be very good if the latter

come up with more facilities and services to enhance the quality life and welfare of persons with disabilities in Mauritius. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities should be a day of reflection to think more of how to improve our lives rather than to mention the services provided by the government which we are all aware and benefit.

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