The Government of Rwanda has approved a four-year policy aimed at inclusion and welfare of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).
The four-year programme involves different activities to promote inclusive technology, increase the participation of persons with disabilities in employment and other sectors, establish various special needs of PwDs for full participation in all agricultural programs and initiatives, subsidise the provision of assistive devices and disability related health care services to PwDs and promote social and cultural activities as well.
The Executive Secretary of the National Council of PwDs, Emmanuel Ndayisaba has explained that the policy is expected to bridge gaps in different aspects of life impeding welfare and development of persons with disabilities.
“It sets a framework for needed actions, identifies all stakeholders and needed interventions,” he said.
For the last ten years, Successive Education Sector strategic plans (ESSP) have continued to note high school dropout rates for vulnerable children (28.3% in Primary 5 and 10.2% in Primary 1) since 2005. For example, the Rwanda Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) of 2013-2018 confirmed that more Children with Disabilities (CwDs) have never attended school than those without any (27% versus 14%) and more CwDs dropped out of school than those without (9% versus 6%).
The Ministry of Education (2017)19 report indicates that out of 185,666 children enrolled in pre-primary education, 1,545 children are CwDs, representing less than 1% of enrolled students. The number of CwDs enrolled at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels are similarly very low and well below the expected proportion of PwDs (approximately 15% of the population using WHO’s definition of disability or 5% using Rwanda’s definition).
Ndayisaba highlighted that the policy will also address barriers hindering persons with disabilities from attending schools or occasioning school drop outs yet education is considered the backbone for development.
Other barriers are reported in healthcare, employment and accessibility.
Accessing healthcare in all its forms is also said to be challenging for PwDs because of associated costs, distance from service providers, and systemic and institutional healthcare practices and barriers.
Health service access data does not disaggregate by disability which undermines planning and decision making.
Eleven of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require disaggregation by disability. Disaggregated disability data is important if achievements in health care recorded by Rwanda are to be extended to all citizens. In addition, there is little documented evidence about the physical and social barriers that PwDs may face in accessing health services.
The present policy is particularly concerned about access to rehabilitation and therapeutic services, assistive aids, and other key health provisions that enable PwD equal access participation to socio-economic activities.
Being unable to detect road signs, waterways along the road among others also presents difficulties depending on the nature of disabilities.
Ndayisaba has expressed optimism that many of these challenges will be addressed in the new policy.
“A blind person should not wait for green to cross red lights. He/she should have a switch to detect red lights or zebra crossing. The new policy incorporates these concerns. We are optimistic that a lot of things will be addressed within the four years,” he affirmed.
With allocated budget of Rwf 41,458, 014, 440, the new policy for persons will be implemented through different ministries to bridge loopholes in the sectors of education, health, social protection (impact the welfare and wellbeing of children and adults with disabilities), agriculture, infrastructure, employment, justice, child protection, sports and leisure among others.
The Rwandan law No 01/2007 of 20/01/2007 aligns with the medical model and defines disability as the condition of a person’s impairment of health ability which consequently leads to deficiency compared to others.