African Decade of Disabled People


last update: 20170326


1983 - 1992 was the United Nations Decade of disabled persons, the period in which UN member states were expected to implement the World Programme of Action Concerning People with Disabilities. The idea of the decade was in response to the need for a concerted effort to improve the quality of life of disabled people the world over. The decade raised a lot of expectations on the part of disabled people the world over. It was hoped that after the UN Decade, the quality of life of disabled people would improve and that they would be part of mainstream society. While some states took note of the Decade and did something about it, others just let it pass by.

Thus, the UN decade for disabled persons had its own successes and failures. The following are some of its successes:

- It created an opportunity for disabled people to meet globally to discuss their issues;

- There was an improvement in attitudes in some parts of the world towards people with disabilities;

- It resulted in the formulation of the Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for People with Disabilities;

- There were more organisations of disabled people formed during the Decade than at any other time formed and those already in existence were strengthened (in many parts of the world, including Africa, organisations controlled by disabled people are championing their cause).

However, at the mid-term review of the Decade it was observed that the Decade had its own problems, most expectations that had been raised were dashed as numerous problems were un-earthed. The following are some of the problems;

- The United Nations Decade was not well publicised by the UN and some governments, whilst they were signatory to the UN resolution, they did nothing to promote the Decade;

- The UN itself and many governments did not provided adequate funding for the Decade activities;

- No specific fund was set aside by the UN for the Decade as was the case with the UNIFEM Decade (Women’s Decade). The fund set-up was a voluntary fund which

depended on the will of the well-wishers to contribute to it.

The above problems contributed immensely to some of the failures of the Decade. Many successes were scored by the Decade in North America and some parts of Europe and the Scandinavian countries. In Africa, the World Programme of Action had very little impact. The ills and evils of Africa are many and are well known but given the political commitment of its governments to the ideals of the World Programme of Action, many things would have been done for people with disabilities in Africa during the World Decade. Very few countries did something about it.



Due to the different levels of economic development Africa has not managed to significantly implement programmes that are helping to at improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Some of the reasons for the failures of the World Decade have already been presented under background. By-and-large, the United Nations Decade was a global approach to the problems of disability and needed the solutions that were offered were general and global. There is, therefore, need for to have a Decade of Disabled People in Africa which will have an African approach to the problems of disability and thus develop African solutions to the problems.

There is the concern that disability is on the increase in Africa. There is concern that disabled people continue to be relegated to the margins of society as countries grapple with economic woes and civil strife. The following is a detailed listing of some of the increases in the disability population:

- Wars and the consequences of wars and other fornis of violence and destruction, poverty, hunger, epidemics, major shifts in population, high proportion of over-burdened and impoverished families, over-crowded and unhealthy housing and living conditions.

- Populations with high proportion of illiteracy arid little awareness of basic social services on health and education measures resulting in the absence of accurate knowledge about disability, its causes, prevention arid treatment; this includes stigma, discrimination and misconceived ideas on disability, and preventable diseases.

- Inadequate programnies of primary healthcare and services due to lack of resources, geographical distance and physical and social barriers, that make it impossible for many people to take advantage of available services;

- The channelling of resources to highly speciahised services that are not relevant to the needs of the majority of people who need help and low priority in social and economic development for activities related to equahisation of opportunities, disability prevention and rehabilitation;

- The absence of or weaknesses of an infrastructure of related services for social assistance, health, education, vocational training and placements co,mpound disabled people’s problems;

- Industrial, agricultural and transportation and related accidents, natural disasters and earthquakes, and pollution of the physical environment;

- The iniprudent use of niedication, the misuse of therapeutic substances and the illicit use of drugs and stimulants, the faulty treatment of injured persons at the time of a disaster, which can be the cause of available disability.

When the last country was liberated from colonial rule and the armed struggles for liberation stopped, it was felt that more and more resources would be channelled towards the economic development of the African continent. This has not been possible in many parts of the continent as civil wars and strife continue to disturb development plans.


- Poverty alleviation amongst disabled people and their- families;

- Awareness raising/conscientisation on disability;


- Combating causes of disability by promoting peace and reducing other causes of disability;

- Strengthening of African voice of disabled people;

- Putting disability on the social, economic and political agenda of African governments;

- Spearheading the implementation of the United Nations Standard Rules on the equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities; leading to the adoption of a convention on disabled people by OAU member states;

- The application of UN instruments on the Declaration of Human Rights;

- Address of issues pertaining to children, youths and women with disabilities;

- To use UN Standard Rules as a basis for policy and legislation to protect the interests of disabled people in Africa.


The idea of a Decade for Africa has is not an imposition on disabled people in Africa but is a result of their own initiative and it has received support from different international organisations of disabled people. The following are some of the important International meetings of disabled people’s organisations that have fully discussed and backed the decade:

- Disabled People’s International’s World Council at its 5th World Congress held in Mexico in December 1998 agreed to issue a letter of support tot he Pan African Federation of the Disabled (PAFOD) to use in its lobbying.

- PAFOD member countries attending the 5th DPI World Assembly in December 1998, at their Africa meeting adopted the idea of a decade and mandated PAFOD to pursue it.

- The six major international organisations of disabled people namely: Disabled

Peoples’ International, Inclusion International, World Federation of Psychiatric Users,

World Federation of the Deaf, African Union of the Blind and International

Organisations of the Deaf/Blind gave their unwavering support to the

declaration of an African Decade for Disabled People at their meeting held in January

1999 in Cape Town, South Africa.

- The UN, realising the short-comings of the World Decade, has pledged its full support for the African Decade initiative as it has done with the Asian/Pacific Decade



In as much as disabled people have a lot of problems but the decade will have to streamline them and focus on those that will help to empower them to deal with the rest. These will be tackled in line with the provision of the UN Standard Rules and the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled People. The critical issues to be addressed are as follows:Poverty Alleviation (Rule I 6)

Due to the expensive nature of disability many disabled people are finding it difficult to lead independent lives despite their having gone through successful rehabilitation programmes. When disability occurs in a family whose resources are already


far-stretched, it is not possible for the family to engage in activities that will prevent the disability from being fully developed.

Action Needed to Alleviate Poverty

OAU member states have the financial responsibility for national programmes and measures to equalise opportunities for persons with disabilities, and they should commit themselves to the following:

OAU member states should include disability matters in the regular budgets of all national, regional and local government bodies.

2. OAU member states, non-governmental organisations arid other interested bodies should interact to determine the most effective ways of supporting projects and measures relevant to persons with disabilities. This should incorporate disabled people’s organisations.

3. OAU member states should consider the use of economic measures (loans, tax exemptions, ear-marked grants, special funds, and so on) to stimulate and support equal participation by persons with disabilities in society.

4. OAU member states should establish a disability development fund, which could support various pilot projects and self-help programmes at the grass-roots level.

Education (Rule 6)

Academic education remains highly inaccessible to disabled people both in terms of the physical access to the school and access to information as schools are not equipped to the needs of disabled people with their various fornis of disability. There is need for each OAU member state to develop policies on thie education of disabled people. This needs to be done with the full involvement of disabled people themselves and their immediate family members. Special education should not be offered as a way to offer sub-standard education which will render disabled people as non-competitive.

OAU member states should recognise the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities in integrated settings. They should ensure that the education of persons with disabilities is an integral part of the educational system.


General educational authorities are responsible for the education of persons with disabilities in integrated settings. Education for persons with disabilities should form an integral part of national educational planning, curriculum development and school organisation.

2. Education in mainstream schools presupposes the provision of interpreters and other appropriate support services. Adequate accessibility and support set-vices designed to meet the needs of persons with different disabilities, should be provided.


3. Parents groups and organisations of persons with disabilities should be involved in the education process at all levels.

4. States should make the education of persons with disabilities compulsory and should put in places measures to ensure that this requirement is adhered to.

5. To accommodate educational provisions for persons with disabilities in the mainstream, OAU member states should:

(a) Have a clearly stated policy, understood arid accepted at the school level and by the wider community;

(b) Allow for curriculum flexibility, addition and adaptation;

(c) Provide for quality materials, on-going teacher training and support teachers;

6. Integrated education arid comniunity-based programmes should be seen as complementary approaches in providing cost effective educatioii arid training for person with disabilities. National community based programmes should encourage communities to use and develop their resources to provide local education to persons with disabilities.

7. In situations wher-e the general school system does not yet adequately meet the needs of all persons with disabilities, special education may be considered. lt should be aimed at preparing students for education in the general school system. OAU member states should aim for the gradual integration of special education services into mainstream education. It is acknowledged thiough thiat in some instances special education may be the most appropr-iate form of education for some students withi disabilities.

8. Owing to the particular- communication needs of deaf and deaf/blind persons, their education may be more suitably provided in schools for such persons in special classes and units in mainstream schools. At the initial stage, in particular, special attention needs to be focused on culturally effective communication skills and maximum independence for people who are deaf or deaf/blind.


Many persons with disabilities are denied employnierit or given only menial and poorly remunerated jobs. This is true even thir-ough it can be demonstrated that with proper assessment, training and placement, the great majority of disabled persons can perform a large range of tasks in accordance with pnevaihing work norms. In times of un-employment and economic distress which some of OAU’s member states are going through, disabled persons are usually the first to be discharged and the last to be hired. In thus vein, the rate of unemployment among disabled job-seekers is double that of able-bodied applicants for jobs.

Many OAU member states are undergoing economic adjustments of one form or another, and this is presenting more hardships for especially disabled people.

OAU member states should recognise thie principle that persons with disabilities must be empowered to exercise their human rights, particularly in the field of employment. In bothi


rural and urban areas, they must have equal opportunities for productive and gainful employment in the labour market.


Laws and regulations in the employment field that discriminate against pen-sons with disabilities must be removed.

2. OAU member states should actively support the integration of person with

disabilities into open employment. The active support could occur through a variety

of measures, such as:

(a) Vocational training;

(b) Incentives oriented quota schemes;

(c) Reserved or designated employment;

(d) Loans or grants for small business;

(e) Tax concessions

(f) Contract compliance on either technical or financial assistance to enterprises employing workers with disabilities;

3. OAU states’ action programmes should include:

(a) Measures to design and adopt workplaces and work premises in such a way that they become accessible to persons with different disabilities;

(b) Support for the use of new technologies and the development and production of appropriate assistive devices, tools and equipment and measures to facilitate access to such devices and equipment for persons with disabilities to enable them to gain and maintain employment;

(c) Provision of appropriate tnaining and placement and on-going support such as personal assistance and interpreter services.

4. OAU member states should initiate and support public awareness-raising campaigns designed to overcome negative attitudes and prejudices concerning workers with disabilities.

5. In their own capacity as employers, OAU member states should create favourable conditions for the employment of persons with disabilities in the public sector.

6. OAU member states, workers’ organisations and employers should put in place measures that are aimed at improving the work environment in order to prevent injuries and impairments and measures for the rehabilitation of emphoyees who have attained employment-related injuries.

7. The aim should always be for persons with disabilities to obtain employment in the open labour market. For persons with disabilities whose needs cannot be met in open employment, small units of sheltered or supported employment may be an alternative and they should have total control of the units.

8. Measures should be taken to include persons with disabilities in training and employment programmes in the private and informal sectors.


9. OAU member states workers’ organisations and employers should co-operate with organisations of persons with disabilities concerning all measures to create training and employment opportunities, including flexible hours, part-time work, job-sharing, self-employment and attendant care for persons with disabilities.


This is a fundamental requirement for disabled people if they are to be integrated into society. Rehabilitation services need to be available within reach of every disabled person. OAU member states should ensure the provision of rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities in order for them to reach and sustain their optimum level of independence and functioning. OAU member states should also ensure the development arid supply of support services (appliances), including assistive devices for persons with disabilities, to assist them to increase their level of independence in their daily living and to exercise both their rights as disabled people and their human rights as human beings.


I. OAU member states should ensure the provision of assistive devices and equipment, personal assistance and interpreter sen-vices, according to the needs of persons with disabilities, as important measures to achieve the equalisation of opportunities.

2. OAU member states should support the development, production, distribution and servicing of assistive devices and equipment and the dissemination of knowledge about them.

3. To achieve the above, generally available technical know-how should be utihised. In member states where high-technology industry is available, it should be fully utilised to improve the standard and effectiveness of assistive devices and equipment. It is important to stimulate the development and production of simple and inexpensive devices, using local material and local production facilities when possible. Persons with disabilities themselves could be involved in the production of those devices.

4. OAU member states should recognise that all persons with disabilities who need assistive devices should have access to them as appropriate, including financial accessibility. This may mean that assistive devices and equipment should be provided free of charge on at such a low price that persons with disabilities or their- families can afford to buy them.

5. OAU member states should support the development of and provision of personal assistance programmes and interpretation services, especially for persons with severe and/or multiple disabilities. Such programmes would increase the level of participation of persons with disabilities in everyday life at home, at work, in school and during leisure-time activities.


I. OAU member states should develop national rehabilitation programmes for all groups of persons with disabilities. Such programmes should be based on the actual


individual needs of pen-sons with disabilities and on the principles of full participation and equality.

2. Such programmes should include a wide range of activities, such as basic skills training to improve or compensate for an affected function, counselling of persons with disabilities and their families, develop self-reliance, and occasional service, such as assessment and guidance.

3. All persons with disabilities, including persons with severe and/or multiple disabilities, who require rehabilitation should have access to it.

4. Persons with disabilities and their families should be able to participate in the design and organisation of rehabilitation services concerning themselves.

5. All rehabilitation services should be available in the local community where the person with a disability lives.


PAFOD will co-ordinate the activities conducted by organisations co-ordination of Decade Activities for disabled people throughout Africa. Africa has already been divided into five regions that have regional organisations of disabled people. The following are the regional organisations:

Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

2. East Africa Federation of the Disabled (EAFOD)

3. West Africa Federation of the Disabled (WAFOD)

4. North Africa Federation of the Disabled (NAFOD)

5. Central Africa Federation of the Disabled (CAFOD)

The Federations will co-ordinate the activities of the Decade within their different regions. This will enable effective implementation of the activities in line with the cultural differences. All will report to PAFOD who will co-ordinate the continent. In order for the Decade to be effective, there should be review meetings at the end of every third year in order to ensure that focus and objectives of the Decade are not lost sight of. There will also be planning meetings at regional level so that regions assist each other on any strategies associated with implementing activities for the Decade. Before the launch of the Decade, on 3 December I 999, there will be a PAFOD planning meeting where a committee for the Decade will be formed. The committee will work hand-in-hand with PAFOD and it will comprise of the following organisations:


o African Union of the Blind (AFUB)

o Inclusion International

o World Federation of the Deaf

o African Rehabilitation Institute

o Organisation of African Unity

0 International Organisation of the Deaf/Blind


o International Association of People with Psychiatric Disabilities

o Economic Commission for Africa

o OAU Social Commission

o International Laboui- Organisation

The International Organisations will be represented in the committee by their African representatives.


It is a fact that disability issues are expensive. This is because disability programmes are currently being implemented as an after thought. In other instances disability issues are only considered as a goodwill gesture and thus there is no continuity. OAU member states need to recognise that disabled people are part of the human race and thus their human rights need to be recognised. Failure to recognise them is a violation of human rights. There is therefore, need for a visible and more concerted effort by governments to networl with organisations of disabled people. In this way, disabled people’s concerns will be incorporated in development programmes. Disabled people’s organisations have a wealth of experience that can easily be tapped by governments in thieir bid to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.

Governments need to employ affirmative action programmes during and after the Decade so that they enable disabled people to live independently. Networking should in this regard empower disabled people’s organisations to be able to implement programmes that empower disabled people in league with governments.


SAFOD, EAFOD, WAFOD, NAFOD and CAFOD will help to monitor the implementation of the Decade in their areas of federation. They will in turn be expected to prepare reports annually on activities that are taking place in their federations. OAU member states are also expected to monitor the implementation of the Decade through their regional groupings like ECOWAS, COMESA and SADC, etc.


In order- for the implementation and co-ordination of the Decade to be successful, it is important that a fully fledged secretariat be established.


The incumbent will be responsible for the preparation and dissemination of relevant information on disability during the Decade. The incumbent will also work closely with the five regional offices and assist them in the production of relevant information on the Decade and be responsible for the production of a newsletter for the Decade. The five regions will be submitting articles for the newsletter.



The incumbent will work closely with the five regions so that they plan and implement activities in line with the objectives of the Decade. The incumbent will also be expected to drum-up support for the activities from international donors and other well-wishers. The incumbent will also be expected to prepare reports to donors on the progress being made.


The incumbent will be expected to administer all necessary office work. The incumbent will also operate as a bookkeeper for the organisation so that all funds for the decade are accounted for in acceptable standards.


PAFOD already has a Secretary General who overseas the operations of the organisations. Since the Decade will involve a lot of work administratively it is important he be supported by a strong team to ensure that work goes on even during his absence.


2000 2001 2002 TOTAL


Salaries & Wages 126,000 126,000 138,600 390,600


Communications 10,000 10,200 10,404 30,604
Office Supplies 5,000 5,100 5,202 I 5,302
Equipment 6,000 - - 6,000
Information 20,000 21,000 22,050 63,050
Rent 12,000 12,000 13,230 37,230


Transport 30,000 31,500 33,075 94,575

Allowances 25,000 26,250 27,563 78,81 3


Braille Production 2,000 2,000 2,100 6,100
Audit 2,000 2,100 2,205 6,305

Consultancy 5,000 5,000 5,000 15,000


Support to Regions 250,000 275,000 302,500 827,500
Meetings 120,000 120,000 132,000 372,000

TOTAL 613,000 636,150 693,929 1,943,079




PAFOD is the overall co-ordinator of the Decade on behalf of both donors and the five regions which Africa is divided into. These will enable the swift dissemination of information so that the regions are able to make informed decisions. The budget will be on a three year cycle to allow for adjustments.


The funds will be employed to establish an effective communication network as the office will be the link.

1 Communication

This includes telephones, faxes, e-mails, postage and internet.

2. Office Supplies:

This will be supplies for the office in terms of stationery and othe roffice requirements.

3. Equipment

The equipment will be for the office and it includes items like computers, office furniture and other items required.

4. Information:

This will be used for the production of the Decade newsletter and the dissemination of information to the 55 countries of Africa. The newsletter and other documents for the decade will have to be produced in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic if it is to be inclusive.

5. Rent:

The secretariate will need office space to operate from and thus will be expected to pay rent for the premises.



It is important that the secretariat is mobile to enable it to be part of the five regions.

2. Allowances

It will cover the per diems of travelling staff in terms of accommodation, food and other expenses.


Braille Production

2. There will be need to engage consultants from time to time.

It will cover the production of documents in braille for the blind community;


I. Support to Regions

These funs will be aimed at assisting the five regions engaged in activities for the decade. These

funds are only a contribution as more funds will be raised for the activities.

2. Meetings

It is important that the decade committee is enabled to meet at least twice a year to plan, monitor and advise on progress of the decade.


In as much as the idea of a Decade is a good idea that will certainly bring about change, it is important to re-iterate the fact that this will only be possible if there is total political will from governments. The political will certainly needs to be transformed to action at home.

It needs to be understood also that what disabled people are calling for during the Decade is not something that is not attainable. Thiey are calling for a major improvement in the quality of their lives and the recognition of their disability rights as hunian rights. Disabled people if given the opportunity can be productive members of the OAU member states. The current scenario in niost countries is that disabled people have been reduced to beggars. To worsen the situation is the fact that social services budgets are diminishing the world over. There is therefore need to reduce also the numbers of those that are heavily dependent on social services handouts.

On its part the OAU should continue more aggressively with peace initiatives as wars only help to increase the population of disabled people in Africa. A culture of tolerance needs to be implanted by OAU in its member states to avoid conflicts. This will help stabilise the disability population and member states can be able to plan for programmes based on stable population. Peace will also help member states to dwell on economic advancement programmes that will improve the quality of life of communities in general and disabled people in particular.

The OAU also needs to revisit the African on the Rights of the Child (ACRC) as its implementation is discriminatory. This is said against the background that disabled children are not benefiting from the provisions of the ACRC. A mechanism should be put in place that will enable the OAU secretariat to receive reports on its implementation from independent stakeholders. This will help the OAU to balance the reports that it receives from member states and independent stakeholders

The OAU should ensure that the gains of the Africa Decade for Disabled People are not reversed after the Decade. The advancement of disabled people should remain part of the responsibilities of the OAU. Financial and material resources should be mobilised by the OAU to ensure that disability issues always remain high on the OAU agenda. The zeal by which the OAU member states liberated Africa should be now applied to the advancement of disabled people.’

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