Rights of people with disabilities – how far has Lanka progressed?

Rights of people with disabilities – how far has Lanka progressed?

Written by Bella Dalima

04 Dec, 2014 | 6:42 am

Eight percent of Sri Lanka’s population are considered disabled.

According to the UN Development Programme Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. How far has Sri Lanka come in order to ensure that their rights are being protected and in giving them equal opportunities?

Kasun Jayatunga who suffers from deafness, and law student Kasunjith Satanaracrachchi who is a victim of cerebral palsy are no strangers to obstacles and had to fight all odds to receive an education in a society where disability rights are yet to be fully accepted and recognised.

President of the Ruhunu Circle of the Deaf, Kasun Jayatunga said;

“My mother and father were both teachers that is how I received the opportunity to continue my studies. The teachers who taught me were not equipped with the knowledge of sign language. It was very challenging to do my studies.”

Law Student, Kasunjith Satanarachchi said;

“The last resort we have as lay people, as citizens, is for us to take our case to the judiciary. There should be substantive laws. But if this bill is not passing and law is not implementing how should I take this matter to a court of law which is the fundamental thing that a disabled person could do. Of course this wont eradicate every problem that we have this is the starting point if I may say.”

Disability Rights Consultant, Dr. Padmini Mendis said that in order to ensure the effective implementation of the national plan and policy of disability rights, protective legislation is needed in our country.

“Our problem is that we have a frame-work, we have the policy, we have the national policy which is rights-based, we have national action plan which is rights based which is going to be launched on Thursday by the president. But we don’t have a protective legislation to give effect to and back up to the national plan and the policy and this is rather a big disadvantage. This issue now is that we have two draft disability rights bill and there is a controversy as to which one is to be selected. So this is where process of ratification is delayed,we don’t have the local law and we need to have one of these bills out to Parliament and enacted.”

But, does Sri Lanka possess the political will, to care for its most vulnerable groups?

Minister of Social Welfare., Felix Perera speaking on the issue said;

“We take decisions according to the disability commission. We do not influence anyone. I work according to their own benefit, not mine. Those who are blind may have a different perspective while those who are deaf may have a different perspective. Because of these varying perspectives, when we were putting forward the bill it was postponed three times as per the requests made by them in order to add more recommendations. I believe that the ministry of welfare is the ministry which looks after the disabled the best.”

The enactment of a disability rights bill will enable individuals such as Kasun and Kasunjith who have faced numerous hardships to get to where they are against all odds, to live full and enriched lives.

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