The Persons with Disability Equity Act (“Act”) was enacted on 12 March 2021 in order to provide for equal opportunities and recognition of rights of persons living with disabilities in Lesotho.
Lesotho is a member State to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and as such, it has now ratified all the relevant principles into our domestic law. The main purpose of the convention is to ensure that member states provide the enjoyment of all human rights collectively for the promotion of human dignity.
According to the UNCRPD discrimination on the basis of disability means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.
In light of the above, the purpose of the Persons with Disability Equity Act, is to domesticate the UNCRPD principles in order to uphold the fundamental freedoms of the People living with Disabilities. As such, an independent body namely the Council of Disability Rights has been established to oversee the implementation of the Act.
The following has now been enacted:
Access to education
No person shall be denied access to study based on disability. The Ministry of Health shall through, the Department of Special Education, ensure that training is offered on the use of accessible format methods for a person living with a disability on an early basis, to the training of educators.
An employee with a disability, who at the workplace performs his/her duties and responsibilities as competently as other employees, shall be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment, privileges, incentives, benefits, opportunities and allowances as other employees.
An employer will also be prohibited from discrimination against a person living with disabilities in relation to:
- The advertisement of employment, recruitment policies, creation, classification or abolition of posts;
- Determination or allocation of wages, salaries, pensions, accommodation, leave or other benefits;
- Provision of facilities related to or connected with employment;
- Choice of persons for posts, training, advancement, apprenticeship, transfer, promotion or retrenchment; or
- Any other matter related to employment.
People living with Disabilities will have access to public information in the form of Braille and other forms of accessible format. This would include government gazettes and publications.
A person living with disabilities is entitled to a barrier free and disability friendly environment to enable them to have access to buildings, roads and other social amenities. It also provides for access to assistive devices and other equipment to promote their mobility. An owner of a public building shall, within 5 years from the coming into operation of the Act, adapt the building to suit persons living with disabilities.
The Act entitles people living with mental disabilities to register for voting in the national elections. It further provides that a person with mental disabilities should be assisted at his request by a person of his choice in voting.
Sports and recreation
A person living with disabilities is entitled to use the sports or recreational facilities owned or operated by government during social, sporting or recreational activities.
Access to justice
A person with mental disabilities shall be assisted in every possible manner to effectively, directly and indirectly participate in all legal proceedings, including giving evidence in court.
Residential care facilities
The Act also addresses the regulation of residential care facilities for compliance with the law and prescribed standard. It provides that the residential care facilities should be registered with the Ministry of Social Development.
Disability Trust Fund
The Act provides for the establishment of the Disability Trust Fund by the Minister of Finance to support the implementation of the disability programmes and services.
The Act also provides for disability grants and a grant-in-aid which shall be granted to people living with severe disability and who cannot generate income by any means. The determination for the severity of the disability shall be done by professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Medical Practitioners, Audiologists and Speech Therapists. The grant-in-aid shall be given to adults with disability in order to pay their care-givers.
The Act also provides for meaningful and full participation by People living with disabilities in the decision making aspects concerning their lives. This includes making informed choices and decisions about where to live and with whom to live.
The Minister of Transport shall within 5 years of coming into operation of the Act ensure that a state owned bus or any state owned vehicle which transports the public, is adapted to suit a person living with disabilities.
This article was written by Zurayda Mayet. She is a director at Kleingeld Mayet and has acted for a wide range of clients that include multinational-corporations, government institutions, non-governmental organizations, private individuals, listed and unlisted companies. Her experience stretches across corporate, commercial, company and cannabis law in various sectors both in South Africa and Lesotho.