Removing disability barriers enables inclusion



MASERU – Persons with disabilities have a significant positive impact on society, and their contributions can be even greater if all people remove barriers to their participation. Letšela Ntlale of the National Association of the Deaf Lesotho (NADL) has said removing disability barriers in an environment reduces the impact of an impairment and enables inclusion.

These, he said, include environmental barriers where the inaccessible environments create disability by creating barriers to participation and inclusion, and physical barriers in the natural or built environment, which prevent access and effective opportunities to participate. Ntlale, who has a hearing impairment, said disability is the result on interaction between persons’ impairment and attitudinal and environment barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

He said people with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory challenges. Ntlale indicated that there are three key models of disability, namely; medical model, charity model and social-based model, and with these models, a person with disability has a right to access everything within the society on an equal footing with others. He said this approach identifies exclusion as the result of barriers imposed by the particular context in which people with disabilities live.

Everybody is fighting some kind of stereotype, and people with disabilities are no exception. Persons with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socio-economic outcomes such as education, poorer health outcomes and lower levels of employment because of what it is believed about them, Mosa Motanteli, said. Motanteli who is visually impaired, says forming ideas about how other people live is a common problem and, as people who live with disabilities, they often face a number of myths about disability, which is why it is important to break down myths and clear up misunderstandings.

She said these misconceptions come from a variety of places, whether through stereotypes or misinformation, further noting that many myths are rooted in misunderstanding about what it is like to live with a disability. While stereotypes persist, she said it is possible for society to change the narrative about these disability myths and stigmas. “Some of the best ways that individuals within communities can create a world that eliminates barriers for people with disabilities is by planning events with accessibility in mind, by avoiding the use of limited accessible spaces such as parking sports or bathroom stalls, and speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about people with disabilities, when we can all create an equitable world.

Disabled and HIV/AIDS Organisation Lesotho (DHAOL), aimed at providing care and support to people affected and infected by HIV and persons with disabilities, is implementing a project on Mainstreaming Disability in a development agenda in order to address misinformation and disinformation on disability issues through the support of Internews/ARISA. DHAOL executive director, Phantši Makobane, said disability mainstreaming is an on-going process which is about promoting the inclusion of, and addressing the barriers that exclude persons with disabilities from full equal participation in all aspects of socio-economic life.

It is on this basis that DHAOL invited media as an advocacy sector to address misinformation and disinformation towards persons with disabilities. Makobane said this is derived from the fact that media houses usually report stories of persons with disabilities inappropriately without making full investigations due to language barriers and limited knowledge on disability issues. The training helped both parties to understand the key concerns regarding misinformation and disinformation and its implications on national laws governing the media houses. To help reduce stereotypes and myths that people with disabilities face, the Disability Act was enacted to provide for equal opportunities and recognition of rights of persons living with disability in Lesotho.

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