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Better Times Ahead For Our Disabled People

An interesting coincidence? Fiji School of the Blind student, Naomi Lewakita, gets recognised in Parliament and a standing ovation. At about the same time, on another side of the world,
14 Sep 2016 08:55
Better Times Ahead For Our Disabled People

An interesting coincidence? Fiji School of the Blind student, Naomi Lewakita, gets recognised in Parliament and a standing ovation. At about the same time, on another side of the world, Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports, Iliesa Delana gets the honours to present medals at three medal ceremonies at the Paralympics Games in Rio.

Two people with disabilities, getting involved at the highest level, is no coincidence. In fact it is the perfect demonstration that our disabled brothers and sisters now enjoy equal opportunities in life under the policies of the FijiFirst Government.

Naomi’s participation at the Constitution Day celebration last week was the beginning of a new chapter for disabled people. The fact that a national document like the 2013 Constitution has a Braille version is a massive step. What needs to be done now is to extend it to ensure that everything we use, read and write is user friendly for the disabled. No matter what our physical limitation is, activities that we are involved with must be accessible and inclusive.

As we build infrastructure we must not forget the disabled people. Footpaths wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs should now become an integral part of building a new road or new building. We already see that happening at the approaches to Nausori and Nadi international airports.

There should be a requirement in town and country planning about disabled facilities.

Provisions like disabled-friendly restrooms complete with ramps and handle bars in towns and cities should be made compulsory. All our public buildings, parks and amenities should have facilities especially for the disabled to facilitate movement and enjoyment of life.

If it has not already been done, legislation should be enacted to make it mandatory that all buildings, commercial or otherwise and used by people should have facilities to cater for the disabled.

We need to continue to build on the progress we have made so far.

We can help our disabled become independent and achievers like Mr Delana and Naomi.

Our disabled people should be able to move around easily without much impediment, go to the shop and market to buy their basic needs, go to the parks and enjoy the outdoors.

Being disabled does not mean they can’t enjoy the same quality of life that others enjoy.

They can work, play sports, study for higher qualification and acquire skills that can make them marketable. Our responsibility is to create an environment which allows them to develop, grow and flourish.

Never before in our history have we placed so much emphasis and importance on the welfare of our disabled. We cannot prosper without them. In other words we cannot leave them behind or forget about them. They should be with us as we journey forward. Development and progress are meaningless without them.

When Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, came out of Parliament on Monday, he went to the refreshment shed, met Naomi’s family in a wonderful personal and symbolic gesture.

He brought to life what he means when he talks about inclusivity.

Once again, he showed he is a Prime Minister for all the people.

The disabled group should be happy so far with the efforts of this Government to improve their lot.

Better times are still ahead for them because Government is expected to roll out more initiatives.

 

NEMANI DELAIBATIKI
Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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