By: Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
Advocates for people with disabilities have called on the Government of Rwanda to legalize Rwanda Organization of Persons with Deafblindness as the latter is struggling to bring to the attention the challenging living conditions of the organization’s members.
The call was made on Thursday, June 27, 2019 during the celebration of International Day of Deafblindnes in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.
On June 27 each year, the world celebrates the International Deafblindness and this year’s celebrations in Rwanda were held under the theme ‘All is incomplete without us, rights for all Rwandans include the rights of persons with deafblindness’.
Speaking at the celebration, the Executive Director of Rwanda Union of Blinds Dr. Donatilla Kanimba said that “Persons with DeafBlindness are the most vulnerable persons with disabilities comparing to those who have one disability.”
Dr. Kanimba noted that for instance in the city of Kigali we have at least 40 people with DeafBlindness with a number of them having additional disabilities which include mental disabilities and other physical disabilities.”
“So the Ministry of health should help us to come up with tangible solution to the problem” She said.
She elaborated that “There is a need for instance of physiotherapy services for members who can afford that services on their own, We have children who want wheelchairs because when a child has DeafBlindness and again with mental illness he/she can’t work personally. There is a need to support them to have the wheelchairs for example,”
Among also challenges there is expensive translation services due to limited number of people who can translate the message in the language that they can understand.
Dr. Kanimba added that “These illnesses are not hereditary. So being able to understand disabilities is very important. It is very important for the Government to conduct campaigns to explain various types of disabilities in order to pave the way to the full enjoyment of equal rights for all Rwandans include the rights of persons with deafblindnes.”
The Government of Rwanda has put in place policies that favor people with special needs including those living with disabilities.
However the Blinds organizations said when it comes to those who have more than one disability they categorize them in “Other disability” which is why they don’t get special attention they deserve like those ones living with blinds, they have an umbrella organization of Union of Blinds.
It is in this regards that those with Deafblindness also seek to form an organization with specific tasks meant for them due to seriousness of their disabilities.
Since 2013, Rwanda Union of the Blind-RUB in partnership with Rwanda National Union of the Deaf- RNUD and the Rwanda National Association of Deaf Women-RNADW celebrate the International Deafblindness day in order to advocate for deafblindness to be recognized as a distinct disability and to encourage the public awareness for people with deafblindness themselves and issues that they are facing.
So far, 166 persons with deafblindness countrywide were identified, 27 of them were trained on tactile sign language use and the Rwandan Organization for persons with deafblindness was established.
However, one of the key challenges is that deafblindness disability is not yet recognized as a distinct disability which makes it difficult for the public to be aware of persons with deafblindness and respect tactile sign language as an important language in helping people with deafblindness live with greater independence and freedom.
The Women representative at Rwanda Union of the Blinds and Vice President of the National Council of People with Disabilities Dr. Mukarwego Beth insisted that “We want the Organization of people with DeafBlindness to be legally recognized because it will easy the follow up on living conditions of Persons with DeafBlindness”
Objectives of the International Day of Deafblindness day celebration this year, is to improve the level of awareness for our Government and stakeholders on how they can contribute to the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights of persons with deafblindness. As the disability movement slogan “Disability is not inability” guides our work, it is evident that integration of persons with deafblindness in society goes through the recognition of persons with deafblindness as persons with own disability, and by giving them a way to communicate from their own possibilities and contribute themselves in addressing their problems.