Special Awards In Pictures

This column highlights major issues arising from the National Legislature (House of Representatives & Senate), but this edition focuses primarily on the Bill calling for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

Liberia is among countries around the world plagued with the scourge of dealing with burdens of people physically challenged. The burdens range from physical and social needs such as provision of education, welfare, healthcare, employment opportunities and others, the reasons for which most of them are out in the streets begging for little or nothing.

It is estimated that 16% of population is physically or mentally disabled according to 2008 census; others stand at 10%.

Local and international non-governmental organizations are providing assistance to this segment of the population, but there have been mounting calls for national government to take proactive actions that aid these ongoing efforts.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed a bill proffered by Representatives Larry Younquoi of Nimba County seeking full protection of persons with disabilities in the country.
In a chat with The Legislative Arrow, Rep. Younquoi threw light on the status of the bill and other issues surrounding PwDs in the country.
Rep. Younquoi said he was committed to advocating for people with disabilities, noting that his advocacy is still on course.
“The world, as it stands, was made for the able people, not the disabled, especially in our world,” he stressed, and added that some countries are doing well in closing the gap between able and disabled people.
“In some countries, they are closing the gap. When they build skyscrapers, or build anything, they make rooms for the disabled especially those that are physically challenged. Those that are physically challenged are normally given some special treatments. They create a place where people in wheel chairs don’t have to necessarily get down cross on their hands when they need those hands to shake another hands, writing, and eating.”
According to him, other nations are treating disabled people with dignity, creating rooms for free movement.
Unlike Liberia, he argued that advanced countries create special bathrooms at airports and public places for these people.
“Lifts are there to carry them up. In the absent, there are ways that these people can ride the stuffs. To construct buildings and public places in Liberia without those provisions means that our society is just made for the able people and not the disabled,” the Nimba Lawmaker stressed.
He told Legislative Arrow that those who worked on the population policy of this country discovered the need to champion the cause of the disabled.
“We use our own position as policy makers to let our colleagues know that we need to do something about it. We are standing in the vanguard to champion the cause of the disabled people. We have enabled for the disabled themselves to have their own programs of sensitizing the larger community,” the lawmaker emphasized.
He said he was been working in the interest of the physically challenged through the Christians Association of the blind, noting “We did lots of consultancies with the disabled groups and I was a facilitator that brought all the disabled together. It was under NARDA sponsored USAID project.
About the Bill Passed:
Commenting on the bill, he said it has been passed into law and it calls for the establishment of the National Commission on Disabilities (NCD).
We worked on a bill for the protection of the Blinds and other disabled persons by recognizing the world white canes. It was overwhelmingly introduced on the floor of the senate in 2012,” he said.
“That bill has since been passed. It came down as a concurrence bill because we already had it in committee room at the House of Representatives. Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor also proffered that at the senate and perfectly passed.”
“When it came on the floor, we formed ourselves as sponsors because it was already in the committee room on health, justice, judiciary and so the two bills met and we were able to harmonize it. Both houses have concurred and the last thing is for the president to sign and be printed into handbill.”
I have been following it beyond that, but even as we speak, during the budget process, lot of lobbying went on to ensure that there is something placed there for the general disabled commission in addition to their budget and some of their members organizations like CAB. I mean something small like US$25,000.”
He said these people are carrying on services government should be carrying on. This includes education of the blinds, provision of shelters, seeking of their welfares in totality, health and socialization. These are things we are yet to do. Like we hearing that the Chinese are going to construct an annex to this place (Capitol Building).”
“We are here to provide those legislative supports. We have the power to work with the executive to make sure those laws are respected and upheld and those who go against the law must account for their actions. I think we are getting somewhere, but we are very far from where we want to go. The law has been made, but it is left with how it can be implemented for the better.”
On Population of PwDs:
Rep. Younquoi feared that disabled could die prematurely if they are not cared for.
“They will suffer from malnutrition, illiteracy, death, poor health, and all hardship lead to death,” he said.
He said his dream is that disabled persons are incorporated into body-politics of the country, noting “as member of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, we allotted US$25,000 for the PwDs as an entity in the county. I received honors from them because I am the lead advocate for them.”

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