HRCM urges state to address needs of disabled, government launches programmes to improve services

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has urged the government and relevant authorities to fully address the needs of persons with disabilities.

“Disabled persons in the Maldives are not usually provided equal opportunities in education, health care and at communal interactions,” read the statement marking International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The HRCM noted that, despite the skills and resourcefulness of disabled persons, they are not provided with adequate opportunities and are often excluded by the community.

President Abdulla Yameen attended the official function marking the occasion today, with the first lady launching schemes to improve access to medical services and travel for disabled persons.

Today is the twelfth celebration of the international day, which seeks to promote understanding of disability issues and garnering support for affected persons through campaigns and support grants.

The theme for this year is ‘The Promise of technology’, with a focus on assisting the disabled with disaster risk reduction systems, creating enabling work environments, and addressing disability within future development goals.

While speaking at the  ceremony held this morning, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told local media that there were many rights which still needed to be provided for disabled Maldivians.

Anil noted that insufficient thought was going into the construction 0f disability-friendly buildings, adding that service provision was not addressing the needs of the disabled, resulting in “decreased participation and interaction of disabled persons within the community”.

First Lady Madam Fathimath Ibrahim launched the ‎medical and travel concessionary card for persons with disabilities, as well as ‎inaugurating the special discount programme ‘Dharumaverivaashe’.

The ‘Eheetheriya’ programme was also introduced by the national airline, making persons with ‎disability eligible to  a 15 percent discount when purchasing tickets ‎from the airline.‎ The Airports Ferry Operators Association announced last month that it would provide free services for the disabled between Malé and Hulhulé.

Today’s ceremony also saw the assignment of three disability rights goodwill ambassadors – Kaashidhoo MP Faisal Naeem, former Deputy Health Minister Fathimath Afiya, and disability rights activist and National Award winner Ahmed Hishan.

President Yameen also handed employment contracts with state-owned companies to ten people with disabilities.

The Maldives Association for Physical Disabilities (MAPD) observed the occasion today with a walk in the capital Malé, as well the launch of a programme aiming to provide equal and competitive sporting opportunities for disabled youth.

A baseline study conducted by the HRCM in 2010 stated that 8.1 percent of the population suffers from a temporary or permanent disability with most commonly reported disabilities being hearing impairments, speech impairments, and mental illnesses.

Maldives signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in October 2007, the purpose of which is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

The Ministry of Law and Gender announced earlier this year that the government would turn Guraidhoo’s Home for Special Needs – currently the only such facility in the country – into mental health institute, providing separate facilities for the elderly, the disabled, and the psychiatric patients who currently reside there.

Additionally, Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem submitted an amendment to the Disability Act to raise the monthly allowance provided to persons with special needs to MVR5,000 (US$324) in order to enable medical treatment overseas.

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