The head of the Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), Beyan Kota, says despite Liberia being a signatory to many human rights conventions including the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, disabled people in Liberia do not enjoy their human rights in line with the Liberian Constitution and international protocols.
Mr. Kota made the statement to a cross section of students of the Mass Communications Department of the University of Liberia last week.
He said people with disabilities do not have access to tertiary education in Liberia because the facilities are not built to accommodate them.
Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution gives all Liberians the right to access education and to seek information, but Mr. Kota said Liberians with disabilities are denied, “because government has not created the conditions that will allow them to enjoy this right.”
Kota further stressed that their freedom of movement is impeded, “because the roads are built in such a way that there are no good sidewalks that will enable visually impaired people and other physically challenged to easily move.”
In spite of the competence of most disabled people, including him, the society marginalizes them in the allotment of public positions, Mr. Kota further indicated.
The articulate, visually impaired Kota recalled how in 2011 he contested for the representative seat of District #9 in Montserrado County, but was evaluated on the basis of his disability and not his ability to deliver.
“Not that I was incompetent or those without disabilities are more competent than me. People in the district felt that electing a visually impaired person was a curse because they believe by that decision the district will not be fully represented if a person with disability is elected to the position,” Mr. Kota lamented.
He vowed that although they are gravely affected because of their conditions, members of CAB will continue their advocacy for people with disabilities until a leader hears their cries and one day responds to their human rights needs.
He said advocacy for women’s participation in politics and other social activities took years to happen, and he believes in some days to come their plight will also be adequately addressed.
Speaking about his impairment, Mr. Kota said he developed cataract in his right eye at age 16, but his parents did not take note of it until it caused him to lose his sight.
To worsen his condition, a stick breached his left eye, which was the only one with proper sight at the time, he explained. The accident occurred while he was felling trees on the farm during vacation in Lofa.
He said all efforts to seek medical treatment to restore sight in his left eye proved unsuccessful, causing him to become totally blind.
Much of what people with disabilities go through are not their fault, but natural phenomena that no one has control over, he said.
“I was not born blind. I came out with clear eyesight, but conditions caused me to be as I am. I went to school and graduated from high school in 1989. Besides my high school studies that I completed after becoming blind, I have been privileged to do some studies in the United States and South Africa, and also traveled to Canada,” he said.
Mr. Kota’s remarks were part of curricular activities of Mass Communication (309) that deals with Human Rights Reporting.
The course instructor, Mr. Frank Sainworla, told the Daily Observer that it is a requirement for mass communications students connected to media institutions to publish or broadcast the information from the seminar through their respective media outlets.
He said the seminar seeks to invite persons confronted with human rights issues to explain their situations in order to give students a clear insight into Human Rights reporting.