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Chakwera orders review of disability laws

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President Lazarus Chakwera has directed the National Construction Industry Council to review the processes of awarding contracts to ensure that contractors satisfy accessibility requirements for buildings in conformity with the Malawi Accessibility Standards.

According to the President, before awarding a contract and before commencement of any construction project of public interest, contractors should comply with inclusion standards.

“I direct the Ministry of Trade and Industry to ensure that the Malawi Bureau of Standards finalises the Malawi Standards on Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment and ensure enforcement of the same,” Chakwera said.

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He was speaking yesterday at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe during commemorations for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The commemoration was organised by the Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare.

Chakwera has also directed the Ministry of Local Government to see to it that all projects under city councils and municipalities meet the minimum accessibility requirements, and that persons with disabilities are represented in decision-making processes involving approvals of construction projects in cities, councils and municipalities.

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“I direct the Ministry of Justice to review the Disability Act of 2012 and identify gaps that must be closed to make the law a stronger and more progressive framework for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities,” he said.

Chakwera has since directed the ministries to furnish his office with reports regarding the directives by the end of this fiscal year. Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati said the directive will help in the push for laws that will need Parliament to pass.

“It high time we made all our buildings accessible to everyone including people with disabilities and that is what we should do to every building we are constructing,” Kaliati said.

Fedoma Executive Chairperson, Mapopa Shaba, also reiterated the need for the Handicapped Persons Act to be repealed and the Disability Act to be revised.

Chairperson for Malawi Human Rights Commission Scader Louis said the commission is aware that the review of the Disability Act started in 2016 and that it is yet to be finalised.

“We believe that moving forward, more solutions will be brought forward so that persons with disabilities are not left behind,” Louis said.

United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator Maria De Ribeiro pledged that the UN will continue supporting Malawi in its development priorities including those to do with protection of persons with disabilities.

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