Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation today commemorates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities under the theme ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID 19 world’.
This year’s event comes on the backdrop of continued vulnerability for this sector of our population owing to the ravages of COVID-19 with no support from Government and its agencies. Not only have our members been deprived of support, but containment measures such as vaccination and associated publicity campaigns, People with disabilities (PWDs) have been left out, yet sign language is recognised as part of the country’s 16 official languages.
According to a UNESCO Rapid Assessment report of November 2020, on the effects of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities asserted that the majority of persons with disabilities survive on informal sector activities such as vending and begging on the streets.
People with disabilities faced significant difficulties to access support from government, NGOs and private individuals owing to travel restrictions imposed by the government during the lockdown period. Mary Mushayi a person with disabilities in a report of December 2020 said that when borders are closed, relatives cannot send groceries to them and they are unable to move around to collect parcels owing to transport challenges compounded by the ban on commuter omnibuses.
For VISET, this sector is a critical component of the informal economy as many persons with disabilities derive their living from the sector due to the fact that there are less barriers to entry as many of them are deprived of formal education. A walk in the central business district (CBD) will confirm this assertion, yet government and local authorities have no plan to ensure this constituency is accommodated in accessible buildings and facilities such as public toilets and transport.
VISET calls for the enactment into an act of Parliament the National Disability Policy that was launched by the President in June 2021. We also call upon all policing authorities to be trained in communication and interaction of persons with disabilities and cessation of the heavy handedness that is applied to the sector in raids.