BANJUL, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Finally, The Gambia disability community has gotten their long-awaited legislation that ensures their fundamental rights and freedoms. The bill was passed into "Persons with Disabilities Act" by the country's National Assembly on July 6, ten years after it was drafted.
"We are talking about ten years since it has been drafted. But my general impression now is that, there exists specific legislation that sets forth the fundamental rights and freedoms of the persons with disabilities," Muhammed Krubally, Chairperson of the Gambia Federation of Disabled (GFD) told Xinhua recently.
In The Gambia, people with disabilities have been subjected to discrimination at homes, schools, and offices, affecting their right to education and employment.
But Krubally, a magistrate and a lawyer by profession, said the law has come to change things by creating equality before the law, equality in job seeking, and to end all forms of discrimination.
"I feel that those rights are going to be guaranteed. In the sense that in the event of any encroachment or infringements upon the fundamental rights and freedoms, there is specific legislation that can be used to address the violations of those rights," he said.
Some of the rights that are enshrined in the act include the right to education, the right to healthcare and health services, the right to transportation and rehabilitation, vocational training, employment. Krubally described these provisions as pertinent as they have been the rallying cry of persons with disabilities in The Gambia for far too long.
"You can see that accessibility to both private and public buildings for persons with disabilities will also be addressed, at least reasonable adjustments will be done for parts of private and public buildings in accessible formats to ease their daily movements for people such as the visually impaired, those on wheelchairs, crutches," he explained.
However, Krubally, who is visually impaired himself, has expressed concerns about the implementation of the "Persons with Disabilities Act," given that the country has always had issues with the implementation of laws.
"We are afraid of the implementation, because if other laws are not implemented to the letter, how about this particular law that we have struggled for so long. Even to make sure it is placed before the National Assembly took longer than any other laws", he stated.
To make difference, his organization is ready to popularize the law within themselves and among the public members. From there, he stressed that any member of the disabled community can sue any person or institution that violates his or her rights to ensure the law is put into force.
Yaya Barjo, president of the National Union of Disabled Youths (NUDY), an affiliate of the Gambia Federation of Disabled (GFD) welcomed the passing of the bill with excitement.
"The entire disability community is very much excited by the passage of the bill, and we hope that it will be fully implemented. I believe that when it is implemented, it will uplift the lives and livelihoods of persons with disabilities in this country," Barjo told Xinhua.
He said that one of the prominent provisions that caught his attention so much is the one making an order that all public buildings that will be constructed after the passage of the bill should be disability friendly, as it should be fitted with rams that can ease the movements of persons with disabilities, particularly those on wheelchairs.
"I am also particularly excited when it comes to the employment and access to information provisions of the act," Barjo said.
According to the president of the NUDY, those with the visually impaired issue hardly follow the news. They do not know what's going on when it comes to visual media.
"But with the passage of the bill, we are gradually seeing that television stations like the GRTS (Gambia Radio and Television Services) are hiring sign language interpreters," he added. Enditem