The Zambia Union for the blind says five decades after independence, the blind are yet to attain independence as they still face discrimination at all levels.
The union says despite having some good laws which discourage discrimination, the country still has a long way to go before the disabled can fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Union President Pascal Mulenga says discrimination both latent and structural is a reality.
Mr Mulenga said infrastructural barriers, such as the absence of appropriate pavements, landmarks or even clustered public areas deprive people with visual impairments of the right to safe access as well as mobility and therefore cause dependency.
With regard to printed information, he said Braille users are frequently unable to access printed material.
“Most public information has not been put in Braille for the blind to also access it and make informed decisions”, he said.
Mr Mulenga, who is blind, said the visually impaired are still looked at as a separate group detached from the rest of society.
He said most employers are reluctant to hire a blind person .
“The blind face challenges on sustainable livelihood as most of them depend on begging for survival.The money from begging cannot meet all their basic needs”,Mr Mulenga said.
He said even though there are laws penalizing discrimination; the country should go beyond legislation to build an inclusive society.
Mr Mulenga said society still views the disabled as pitiable human beings who require handouts as opposed to survival skills.
He said the disabled do not need handouts but need to be empowered with skills to help them survive on their own.
“Some blind people can do many things, but people look at their disability and equate it to incapability, this is not right”,Mr Mulenga said.
He said women with visual impairments still face discrimination and exclusion from mainstream activities.
“Even on health information, blind people are left out as most health information is not available on Braille, he said.
Mr Mulenga has called on government to go beyond legislation and put in place measures that will help the blind on sustainable livelihood through skills training.
By Mweemba Nchimunya – Radio Chikuni