Minister of Gender, Disability, the Elderly and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati has warned that her ministry will shut down buildings, including those owned by government, that are not friendly to people with disabilities.
In an interview with The Daily Times on Thursday, Kaliati said structural designs in some buildings disregard the disabled as such her ministry would soon take action.
“We need to respect their rights. If the owners of the buildings do not make them accessible to persons with disabilities, we will close them until they do so. The grace period that we set during celebration of the rights of people with disabilities in Mzuzu is over,” she said.
She emphasised that her ministry will intensify awareness campaigns to ensure that people constructing new structures should comply with the directive, failing which, the closure will apply.
On accessibility by the people with disabilities, Section 8 of the Disability Act of 2012 states that the government shall take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications, including information and communication technologies and systems, and other facilities and services available or provided to the public.
Section 9 (1) of the Act states that no-one shall be denied access or admission to any premises or the provision of any service or amenity, on the basis of disability. Subsection (2) of the Act states that any person or organisation who does not comply with the above; shall be liable to fine.
Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (2), a court may, in addition to any penalty imposed under the subsection, order the person or body corporate, to undertake reasonable accommodation to facilitate access for persons with disabilities to the premises or the provision of the service or amenity.
A random inspection of both private and public buildings around Blantyre reveals that most of the buildings cannot be accessed by the disabled.