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OPINION: Rights of people with disabilities should be considered, too

Jun 8, 2017, 11:43 AM | Article By: Dodou Loum Gambia Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Regarding promotion and protection of the human rights of citizen, the new government and people of the Gambia have begun to strive to make the country exemplary in Africa.  This is commendable! It is also unstoppable considering the degree of determination backing it.

However, it is imperative that the human rights of Gambians with a disability are made part of this total human rights promotion scheme.  Persons with disability are integral part of the Gambian society.  Equity and inclusiveness, equality of opportunities, accepting and valuing human diversity, has to form the basis of this development. 

A society’s wellbeing depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it, and do not feel excluded from the mainstream.  This requires all groups having opportunity to improve or maintain their wellbeing.  But for development programmes to be fully inclusive of persons with disability, they must be approached from the perspective of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  The Sustainable Development Goals which emphasises that no one must be left behind implies through application of this CRPD approach.

What is in the CRPD?

General Principals – Article 3

Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;


Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;

Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;

 Equality of opportunity;


Equality between men and women;

Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

Obligations of state (under CRPD) – Article 4

Governments must:

 Adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of rights in the Convention;

Remove or change laws, policies or ways that discriminate against persons with disability;

Make policies and programs inclusive of and accessible to people with disability;

Ensure government’s institutions and services refrain from any act or practice that discriminates against persons with disabilities;

Make sure no one else discriminates against people with disability be this NGOs, business or any other non-state actors;

Making sure things are designed for everyone, in an inclusive way; that require minimum adaptation or that can be easily changed;

Invest and promote research into development of new technologies to promote availability and use of assistive technology at affordable cost, including information and communication technology, devices, mobility aids;

Train people – public and private actors, persons with disabilities and families so that everyone is aware of the right and responsibilities in achieving what the CRPD asks;

 Make sure people with disability, including children, have a say in the way the Convention is carried out, through organizations that represent them.

The following is an extract from the Summary Recap Document of the BRIDGE CRPD-SDG training workshop for Eastern-Western Africa 2016-2017 (14-20th November 2016, held in Accra, Ghana, on the theme: Building a CRPD perspective on development and Agenda 2030.

Why we need the CRPD: 

“Whilst people with disability have ‘formal equality’ on paper with others, the reality is that persons with disabilities face discrimination in many areas of life, be this through facing barriers in terms of access to legal, education and health services to participation in community and public life. The barriers are varied: attitudinal, environmental, communications, information, transportation and result in many forms of discrimination multiple.

 “Furthermore, governments often do not understand how to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy their rights as everybody else. Stigma, myths and misconceptions about disability often get in the way. Low expectations on what persons with disabilities can do also marginalises and discriminates people with disabilities.

“It was clear for everyone before the CRPD that mainstream human rights instruments and frameworks did not adequately address the specific human rights violations and discrimination faced by persons with disability. That a human rights instrument was urgently needed to ensure that governments could be clear on how to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of people with disability on an equal basis with others.

“Therefore, the CRPD was developed as an international human rights agreement that sets out what countries have to do to make sure that all people with disabilities enjoy all the same human rights as everybody else.”

Harmonisation and integration of CRPD with national laws is an undertaking which all countries which adopt the convention naturally has to do.  This task must however, not be misinterpreted for freedom to select some aspects of the convention’s human right provision for inclusion into the national laws and leaving out other aspects of it.  No. Human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated.

The implication is that if a country adopts the CRPD, she must adopt the whole of its human rights provisions and gradually implement them.  The African Union Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is basically the same as the CRPD.

 The intent in drafting the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was to lay out the rights of persons with disabilities in a way that provides an African context to rights of persons with disabilities.  The AU Protocol is inspired by the CRPD and draws from it without necessarily adopting all the CRPD’s detail, but also not omitting any of the human right provisions significant to Africa.

The Gambia has ratified the CRPD and its optional protocol since September 2015, but it still do not form part of the country’s  laws and policies, let alone enforcing its concepts.  The right of persons with disabilities continues to be violated in essential service provisions such as education, information, health care and social protection among others.

It is seen clearly that effective intervention efforts here cannot wait as it is as important as the human right protection of any other component of our society.

While concerns of constitutional reform which tops the current agenda is focusing almost entirely on adjusting the age and term limit of political leaders, repealing of the dual citizenship restrictions, and eliminating bad media laws, we expect equal attention be given to this message which is coming from thousands of  Gambians with a disability.