BY FRANKLIN SIBINDI
Visually impaired people in Bulawayo have called on the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) to exempt assistive technology gadgets from paying import duty.
Speaking during White Cane day commemorations held at the National Public Library on Tuesday, people who are visually impaired expressed concern over inaccessibility of assistive technology, particularly white canes.
They called on the government to intervene by exempting such technologies from paying duty especially when they are going to be distributed free of charge.
40 people who are visually impaired received white canes worth close to 500 Rand each.
In an interview with CITE, Director and Founder of Gateway to Elation, Robert Malunda said ease to access such technologies will go a long way in alleviating poverty within people living with disabilities.
“Disability and poverty are intertwined, its either disability causes poverty or in some cases poverty causes disability,” said Malunda.
“So, if one does not have these assistive technologies such as the white cane they can be run down by a car and end up multi-disabled and therefore more vulnerable to poverty.”
They also called on the members of the public to be cognisant of their existence in all the activities they carry out.
Thabisile Mhlanga, who is also visually impaired said they should be notified about activities that may pose danger to them through such mediums as radio.
Making reference to red tapes she said: “People will just put them up without even notifying us. We are not demanding too much but due to our condition we have to be notified about almost everything that is happening around us.”
She added: “Our white canes only dictate things that are on the ground not those that are overhead and when you don’t know about your surrounding your head smashes into objects and you know the head is one of the most sensitive parts of the body.”
She also encouraged hygiene among people living with disabilities as a means to eliminate discrimination
“You have to carry yourself around with dignity to an extent that when you ask someone to hold your hand and help you cross the road, they will be actually surprised that you are blind,” said Mhlanga
Gateway to elation is an organisation that trains visually impaired people and equips them with technological and social skills that enable them to be independent as they go about their day to day business.