Section 7(2)(b)(e) of the functions of the HRCSL to advice government on its obligations to comply with international treaties in which it is a signatory. Sierra Leone ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on the 28th July 2009 and domesticated it by enacting the Persons with Disability Act, 2011 as the legal framework to enhance the implementation of the said convention.
Article 9 of the CRPD hinges on ‘Accessibility’ which obligates State Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure accessibility to Persons with Disabilities on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication, including information technologies. Section 27 of the Person with Disability Act 2011 makes provisions to accessibility to both private and public premises by persons with disabilities.
Speaking at the commissioning, the Disability Commission Chairman, Frederick Kamara praised the HRCSL and the Sierra Leone Police for setting the pace for other institutions to emulate in making their buildings accessible to persons with disabilities. He revealed that the disability act makes provision for adjustment orders to owners of buildings and recreational centres. He used the opportunity to further appeal to institutions to emulate the central police station.
Commissioning the ramp, the Chairman of HRCSL, Rev. Dr. Usman Jesse Fornah said accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from some system or entity as the concept within the Convention therefore focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities or special needs.
Chairman Fornah disclosed that according to a survey report in April 2003 undertaken by the United Nations, less than 10% of all public buildings in Sierra Leone are accessible to persons with disabilities. He said the HRCSL in its annual reports has continually noted the challenge of accessibility for persons with disability to public buildings and some other physical environment. “Although the persons with disability act 2011 makes provision for adjustment order to all public buildings within five years of its enactment, sadly this is yet to take effect. As a result, persons with disabilities are still encountering problems of accessing public buildings particularly those without lift/elevators”. He stated.
Rev. Fornah noted that facilities for persons with disabilities in public buildings are important and necessary because the disabled are human beings and have right to access public areas; they do not need permanent assistance because they should live independently in public areas and they are clients, partners, sometimes counterparts, friends or relatives.