December 6, 2017 By Ibrahim K. Turay
With support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone yesterday did a symbolic commissioning of a ramp at the Central Police station to be used by persons with disability.
The project was meant to remind government and other stakeholders of their obligation under international treaties, specifically the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, say officials at the national rights commission.
Sierra Leone ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 28th July, 2009 and domesticated it by enacting the Persons with Disability Act in 2011, as the legal framework to enhance the implementation of the said convention.
Chairman National Commission for Persons with Disability, Frederick Kamara, praised the HRCSL and the Sierra Leone Police for being pacesetters in making their buildings accessible to persons with disability.
He said the Disability Act makes provision for adjustment orders to owners of buildings and recreational centres, and appealed to other institutions to emulate them.
While commissioning the ramp, Chairman of HRCSL Rev. Dr. Usman Jesse Fornah said, accessibility could be viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from some system or entity as a concept within the convention that focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities or special needs.
He stated that according to a survey report in April 2003, undertaken by the United Nations, less than 10% of all public buildings in Sierra Leone are accessible to persons with disabilities.
He said the commission had in their annual reports noted the challenge of accessibility for persons with disability to public buildings and some other physical environments.
“Although the Persons With Disability Act 2011 makes provision for adjustment order to all public buildings within five years of its enactment, sadly this is yet to take effect. As a result, persons with disabilities are still encountering problems of accessing public buildings, particularly those without lifts/elevators,” he stated.
Rev. Dr. Fornah noted that facilities for persons with disabilities in public buildings are important and necessary because disabled human beings have right to access public areas.
He added that they do not need permanent assistance because they should live independently in public areas.