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Sensitization on Disability

By Mpho Shelile

MASERU – Disability sensitization is an important aspect of creating an inclusive community. It involves raising awareness and educating people about the needs and rights of people with disabilities. Sensitization workshops are one way to achieve this goal. On the 26 July LNAPD held a workshop to sensitize members of the media on how best to report on disability, the workshop was held at LANFE hall in Maseru.

A representative from Lesotho National Association of the Physical Disabled (LNAPD) Molise Foso said that they have a centre called Itjareng Vocational Centre, which was established in 1984, and legally registered in 1999. The facility is located in Masianokeng and embodies about 400 learners with varying disabilities, excluding the visually impaired because they have their own centre. Stating that the organization was established by the people with disability themselves.

 He went on to express how great it was to have come together to share and understand the importance and sensitization of People with disability (PWD). He expressed his hope to all participants who took part in the workshop, to bring about a positive impact with inclusivity within it. He also appreciated the effort taken by the team and staff at MISA to help in coordination of the workshop and their active contribution in working towards the welfare of the impaired community.

 He urged members of the public to tap into their compassion when dealing with people with disabilities. To go the extra mile to make them feel part of instead of alienating them. “I wish all people could know there is a difference between illness and disability, If they did we would not be here trying to find ways in which we can make the world a better place for PWD, they would see and treat us as equals, and involve us in important discussions which affect us”, He stated.

 He went on to clarify that they are equally capable as any individual in society, they are no different all they require is little encouragement and love from the public. And that they are “not disabled people”, but “people with disabilities”.  He also expressed that many changes are still necessary to support such individuals; by making all public and government establishments, educational institutions and many more disability-friendly.

An individual’s disability can play a major role in his or her life, whether it’s positive or negative. But overcoming the challenges and developing confidence is admirable on their part and vital from a social standpoint. As a society, it is our duty to allow people with disabilities to experience a life they deserve. We are all different but very much alike at the same time.

We all fear the unknown. Helen Keller said: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” There lies a lot of truth in these words especially, when focusing on disabilities within the workplace. When employers and employees have a better understanding of the various disabilities they may be encouraged and be willing to learn how to best deal with this in a sensitive but practical manner. This will help in overcoming the natural fear they may have when employing and interacting with a person with disability.

Minister of information, communication, science, technology and innovation Hon. Nthati Moorosi stated that they support the people with disability fully and to extent her support she said the government will offer them a slot on each government media platform, LNBS, radio Lesotho, Ultimate radio and Lentsoe la Basotho, “I would like to engage with you and learn more about you, and I believe that this is the right step towards reaching a goal where all your voices are heard”, said Hon. Moorosi.  She went on to say that it would be ideal to have a newspaper written in braille.   

 On behalf of LNFOD’s executive director ADV. Mr. Nkhasi Sefuthi said that to this day, there are still many companies which are not open to the idea of employing people with disabilities. Few which were fortunate enough to have secured employment usually get low-level job with limited to zero growth. Disability Awareness and Sensitivity Training, offered by this workshop might be just what they need to start fighting for their rights, and hopefully help to uplift and share the knowledge they acquired here on disability in the workplace, helping them to make better business decisions when creating an inclusive and diverse workforce.  “Some companies still do not have the right means to accommodate us, and that just shows how people with disabilities are not considered to be equal, even the educational institutes do not have the equipment.   “We would also you to refer to us as people with disability and not disabled, a person who is blind and not just the blind, a person with a physical disability and not a cripple or handicapped there is a difference and it is huge”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

  He stated that a reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes/ restructure to a position/area/building that enables a person to participate. Under the disability act, facilities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to people who have disabilities, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. Common requests for accommodations include the ability to park close to a building’s entrance or to sit in a particular space that helps a person to see or hear. An accommodation may also include the provision of sign language interpreters for people who are deaf. Providing a quieter workspace or making other changes to reduce noisy distractions for someone with an intellectual disability may help a person to fully participate.

 The workshop was a wakeup call which was much needed by most in order to include people with disabilities in all aspects of awareness-raising as they are some of the best ambassadors for changing attitudes. The importance of disability awareness is said to constitute a positive approach towards people with disabilities. “There are millions of people dealing with some form of disability and it’s our duty to help make their lives a better one, by contributing and promoting awareness through all types of mediums to amplify their voices.

In his closing remarks Minister of development Hon. Lesaoana Lesupi said the government supports the people with disability fully. “Throughout history, people with disability have been hidden away or subjected to abuse, ignorance and prejudice. The power of disability advocacy over the past century has radically shifted thinking to recognize the rights of all people with disability to live in the community, with choices equal to others”, he said.

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