Through the initiative of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare 2018 as the year of those challenged with a disability, numerous efforts and decisions have been taken to assure them proper living conditions, but indeed more efforts need to be exerted.
Disabilities in Egypt include: visual, hearing, and mobility impairment, as well as mental disability.
People with disabilities in Egypt’s 2014 constitution
Article 81 of Egypt’s 2014 constitution states: “The State shall guarantee the health, economic, social, cultural, entertainment, sporting and educational rights of persons with disabilities strive to provide them with job opportunities, allocate a percentage of job opportunities to them, and adapt public facilities and their surrounding environment to their special needs. The State shall also ensure their exercise of all political rights and integration with other citizens in compliance with the principles of equality, justice and equal opportunities.”
Seven other articles in the 2014 constitution also directly and indirectly address persons with disabilities, protecting their rights to equal health care, employment, education, political participation, and social inclusion.
Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Sisi issued law no. 10 for year 2018 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on February 20, after being approved by the parliament.
The new law offers many commitments by the government to persons with disabilities following implementation of the new law; including Non-discrimination due to disability, or gender of the person with disabilities. And to ensure real equality in the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields, Respect their choices and how they express them by their own independent will, the right of persons with disabilities and their families to obtain all information that concerns them from all sectors.
The law also says that persons with disabilities shall exercise the right to education, learning, work and recreation, and in the use of public facilities and services. The right of the disabled to receive a combination of salary and pension, and the obligation to create all facilities in the country for the disabled, Adding to providing a safe environment for persons with disabilities, and not being subjected to economic, political or commercial exploitation, violence, abuse, torture, abuse, neglect, negligence, humiliating treatment or affecting any of their rights.
A look what has been achieved for disabled
According to the Egypt National Review report 2016, for sustainable development goals by the Ministry on International cooperation:
In 2015, the “Karama” (Dignity) program was launched, providing unconditional financial support programs for those who are underprivileged, namely the elderly and those who are fully disabled. The main aim of the programs is to eliminate absolute poverty and cover the basic needs of the elderly and people with disabilities.
The Ministry of Housing is allocating of 5 percent of the national project on public housing to PwDs and initiatives are underway to establish four accessible sites near Qena, Ismailia, Alexandria and Cairo.
The Egypt Information and Communication Technology Trust Fund (ICT-TF), jointly established by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the UNDP, has several IT training and educational programs targeting people with disabilities in about 112 slum areas in Cairo.
Many service projects have been established in Governorates in Upper Egypt in cooperation with Terre des Homme, to advocate for rights and equal opportunities of PWD, and enhance their talents to enable them to operate and manage small projects for hand crafts. Also related to employment, the Federation of Egyptian Industries’ initiative of “Equal for a better living” which aims at providing 1,000 employment opportunities in private sector for persons with disabilities.
The allocation of a number of cell blocks for the prisoners with disabilities in three prisons, according to the Ministry of Interior; including: Wadi Al-Natron in Beheira Governorate north of Cairo and Borg al-Arab in Alexandria. A further 42 prisons in Upper Egypt are being equipped with the special cell block. A total of 100 prisoners with disabilities have already been transferred to the special devised cellblocks.
Education: an opportunity for disabled
The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, said on Saturday that the Ministry of Higher Education is aware of the importance of embracing students with special needs, and to include them in society as active citizens able to make many achievements.
Three colleges are being prepared to receive people with disabilities, and there is a plan to have more colleges, in addition to adjusting the admission rates for a number of other colleges by nearly 50 percent for easy integration for them into the university community, he added.
There are directions for the heads of universities to exempt students with disabilities from tuition expenses, as well as expenses of accommodation at the university cities through the use of resources of social solidarity fund; adding that that he is working to establish the Department of care for students with special needs, as happened at Mansoura University, the minister mentioned.
For his part, Dr. Mohamed Othman Al-Khosht, President of Cairo University, stressed that the university and its departments are doing their best to facilitate the education process for students with disabilities, adding that the new law for the disabled, approved their admission into university cities, by 10 percent of the total students in the coming years.
More on Disabilities in Egypt
Although the past efforts done, people with visual, hearing, mobility impairment in Egypt still need more. For example more schools need to be built in order to facilitate the challenged children; also the TV has to provide interpretation for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. The health sector has to build specialized centers in different governorates. Also the defendants with special needs should have effective access to justice on an equal basis with others, like preparing the court session halls, detention cells and police cars.
Civil Society: light at end of the path
On the other hand, the civil society is trying to support people with disabilities in different sectors, understanding their needs and pushes them to believe more in themselves and have a normal life.
The International Labor Organization working on “Jobs and Skills for Persons with Disabilities Project” tackled the various aspects needed to better include people with disabilities in the job market. This included developing training materials and tools, strengthening the capacities of individuals and organization through workshop and ToTs, creating a network for inclusive employers to exchange experience, launching a competition for accessible tourism in Egypt, amongst others.
The Alhassan Foundation was founded in 2013, it’s a development organization that embraces wheelchair/physical disabilities with emphasis on endless possibilities.
It works on providing tailored solutions, facilities, rehabilitation & re-occupation for people in wheelchairs, and their families to overcome their challenges and make best use of their different abilities.
Helm, translating to “Dream”, is a non-profit organization that aims to promote the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life, and specifically, to facilitate their employment and ensure that private and public premises are accessible to all. Helm is proud to be the first prize-winner in Negma Social Entrepreneurship Competition in MIT, USA in 2013, and was also awarded the Rise Egypt Fellowship, Harvard University, USA for 2014-2016.