Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
GWANDA Municipality has become the first local authority in the country to come up with a Disability Inclusion Policy aimed at ensuring that disabled people have access and benefit from all services and opportunities’.
The Federation of Organisations of Disabled People in Zimbabwe (FODZ) has said other local authourities should follow the example set by Gwanda council as people living with disabilities are being excluded from development programmes.
Speaking during the launch of the Gwanda Municipality Disability Inclusion Policy (2017) in Gwanda yesterday, the federation’s chairperson, Mr Watson Khupe, said Gwanda was the first council to craft the policy.
“As we launch this disability policy we are also celebrating the liberation of people with disabilities. Disabled people have been clamouring for an inclusive society and this policy seeks to ensure this.
“Gwanda Municipality is the first urban council to implement this policy and we would like to applaud them for recognising and uplifting people with disabilities. As a federation we urge other councils to follow suit,” he said.
Mr Khupe said the disability policy was crucial in ensuring that the interests of people living with disabilities were incorporated in all key decisions that were made. He said most councils prioritised the interests of citizens as a whole and over looked those of people living with disabilities.
“When infrastructure is built it has to be disability friendly, people living with disabilities have to be consulted and incorporated in all development processes. However to ensure that this is done local authorities have to be guided by disability policies just as companies and the country has to be guided by such policies.
“If polices don’t exist then councils can’t be held accountable because they don’t have any statutory obligation,” he said.
Mr Khupe said people living with disabilities were actively involved in the process of crafting the Municipality of Gwanda disability inclusion policy.
He said the policy was crafted as part of an ongoing programme being implemented by World Vision and Australian Aid which sought to mainstream interests of people living with disability.
Also speaking at the launch, Gwanda Municipality committees’ officer Mr Nelson Ndlovu, who was representing Gwanda Mayor Councillor Knowledge Ndlovu, said council adopted the policy in July at a full council meeting.
He said under the policy people with disabilities were supposed to be given employment opportunities, equal economic, educational, cultural and recreational opportunities.
Mr Ndlovu said the policy also stated that people with disabilities had the right to access housing; transportation and other services that are offered to all members of the community at both public and private facilities.
“As a municipality we will ensure that all service information is available in different and accessible formats, that public buildings are accessible, we will engage people with disabilities in planning and design phases of new major infrastructure.
“We will also conduct training to deal with attitudes and behaviour that the general community has against people living with disabilities. We will also publicly urge people living with disabilities to apply for jobs among other things. As a municipality we are committed to their inclusion in all processes,” he said.
Gwanda Municipality councillor, Mr Thulani Moyo, said they had so far set aside some residential stands for disabled people. He also urged members of the business community to put up ramps at their shops and residents to put up ramps at their houses.