Liberia: People with Disabilities Want Accessible TVET Institutions; Call on Government to Ensure Inclusiveness in Developmental Projects
MONROVIA – Several people living with disabilities from five counties in Liberia have completed a three-day accessibility audit training aimed at enabling them to conduct an accessibility audit of Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) centers and suggest recommendations for improvements that will assist people with disabilities to attend.
By: Henry Karmo [email protected]
The training was organized by the National Commission on Disabilities in partnership with AIFO Liberia.
Delegates from Lofa, Bong, Nimba, Bomi, and Montserrado Counties attended the training held in Monrovia from April 26 to 28, 2023. The training is a component of the Coordinated Action on Disability in Liberia (CAD-L), a project sponsored by the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia. The training focused on empowering persons with disabilities to conduct an accessibility audit for five selected TVET centers of the CAD-L project to determine whether or not these TVET institutions are accessible to them.
The training comes against the backdrop of the inaccessibility of most public and private buildings for people with disabilities. In an interview with some participants, they explained the challenges faced by people with disabilities in their counties, a situation that seems unique to every county across Liberia.
Tarnue Max is from Bong County, and he described the training as an eye-opener to some new things because, according to him, it is a known fact in Liberia that people with disabilities are marginalized by the way roads are built and how the government constructs public facilities.
“The training taught me the need and importance of constructing ramps, braille, and other disabled-friendly facilities in government buildings such as hospitals, schools, and even private buildings that are used by the public. If we are serious about making education inclusive for all Liberians, we should ensure that educational institutions are accessible to everyone.”
Patricia Kamara, in her early 30s, is a physically challenged individual from Bomi County. As a participant, she expressed hopes that the new knowledge gathered from the three-day event will help them to gather and present data that will be used by the national government during developmental planning processes, which she believes will make them much more inclusive.
“As a result of this training, we will now be able to flag out our issues and speak to things that challenge our movement. I have engaged the superintendent of Bomi County about the inaccessibility of his office. Even media institutions like radio stations are inaccessible.”
Nenlay Doe moves with the help of a wheelchair and comes from Nimba County. Like the others, she too complained about how inaccessible public buildings are in Nimba and the need for the government to ensure that people with disabilities have access.
“In my county, I am a strong advocate for people with disabilities, and we will continue to do that. Because of our advocacy, some changes are being made in public buildings, and that is what we are committed to doing because if we stop talking, no one will know our pain.”
Ballah Yarmah is from Lofa County and uses crutches to aid her movement. Living as a disabled person in Lofa is particularly challenging for her due to the lack of road networks, and the few paved roads without sidewalks. She found the training she received to be essential as it taught her how to fish, which in turn helped her to become less reliant on handouts from others.
Yarmah believes that access to education is crucial for empowering disabled individuals and enabling them to develop their skills. She states that being denied access to education due to inaccessible infrastructure only serves to limit their potential. Mr. Charles Lawrence, the Program Officer at the Swedish Embassy responsible for democratic governance and human rights, stated that the embassy supports the CAD-L program, along with the responsible government agency. The program aims to empower persons with disabilities economically and increase their independence.
CAD-L is a four-year project that seeks to provide scholarships to persons with disabilities attending Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions to enhance their economic independence. The project is sponsored by the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
AIFO Liberia ended the inception phase of the CAD-L project in May 2021 and started the full phase on 1 September 2021. The project aims to create opportunities for employment, self-employment, and entrepreneurship in both the public and private sectors for persons with disabilities in Liberia. The goal is to make Liberia more equitable and inclusive by enabling PWDs to act as advocates and agents of change. CAD-L seeks to achieve this by improving access to information, economic rights, and employment/entrepreneurship opportunities for persons with disabilities, which will lead to improved economic independence.
CAD-L coordinates the efforts of duty bearers such as employers, policy-makers, and the police, as well as right-based holders including persons with disabilities and leprosy patients. It also involves organizations of persons with disabilities and women with disabilities, along with the institutions and civil society organizations representing them. The project aims to improve the economic independence of PWDs by providing them with access to socio-economic and sexual reproductive health rights and means of communication to advocate for their entitlements. CAD-L emphasizes its focus on working with OPDs, Duty Bearers, and the general public.