Disability and Assistive Technology in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwei mapIn Zimbabwe, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) works with its national affiliate, the Federation of Organisations of Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe (FODPZ). FODPZ is a national disability umbrella body of various national Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) established to achieve equalization of opportunities for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its Optional Protocol on 23 September 2013. Zimbabwe has disability-friendly constitution that has a number of clauses aligned with the Convention, taking a human rights approach to disability issues. According to an article published in 2018 in the African Journal of Disability (AJOD), the Constitution under section 22(4) calls for agencies to take measures to ensure accessibility by Persons with Disabilities to all buildings, environments and transportation to which other members of the public have access. By so doing, further observe the authors, “the constitution implements articles 9 and 19 of the UNCRPD, calling for states to ensure that PWDs participate fully in community life and also live independently.”

Zimbabwe is one of the beneficiaries of the series of SAFOD’s country-focused surveys on Living Conditions among People with Activity Limitations in Developing Countries carried out in Southern Africa which were part of SAFOD’s regional initiative to establish baseline data on living conditions among people with disabilities in Southern Africa, coordinate by the SINTEF, on behalf of the Norwegian Federation of Organizations of Disabled Persons (FFO ) and SAFOD. SAFOD and FODPZ's collaborated in these surveys in carried out in 2003 which found that.

around 45% of those with disabilities had mobility difficulties (major or minor disability, paralysis),  one third reported sensory impairments, while intellectual disabilities, learning disorders and emotional disorders  accounted  for 11% of reported cases.

The survey further found that while   an   overview   of   accessibility   to   different   services, facilities and institutions gives a mixed picture, it is clear that certain of these facilities are not generally accessible to all.  Hotels, workplaces, magistrate offices, recreational facilities and banks are all accessible to less than 30% of individuals with   disabilities. Health care clinics, hospitals and public transport are on the other hand reported to be accessible by the large majority. 

Just like the other surveys carried out in the other countries, assistive technology was one of the important components of this research. However, data related to both assistive technology and disability in general as illustrated above may be challenged as outdated, considering that the surveys took place in 2013. To address this challenge, in 2013, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC), in partnership with UNICEF Zimbabwe, conducted another Living Conditions among Persons with Disability Survey to determine the prevalence of disability; assess and document the degree of activity limitations, participation restrictions and societal activities for persons with disability; ascertain the specific vulnerabilities that children with disability face' establish the accessibility of health and social services for persons with disability; and generate data that guides the development of policies and strategies that ensure equity and opportunities for children and adults with disabilities

This survey found that the prevalence of disability in Zimbabwe was estimated at 7% which amounts to over 990,000 individuals. The major disability types according to the sample were physical disability (31%), visual impairment (26%), multiple disorders (13%), hearing impairment (12%), intellectual disability (8%) and mental illness (6%).

In terms of the situation of assistive technology in Zimbabwe, among individuals with disability, 14.4 % reported that they were using an assistive device. The highest proportion of users was in the urban areas. The most common type of devices in use was mobility aids (70%). The second major type was devices used by individuals with visual problems.

While one of most common challenges related to AT access in Southern Africa that has been cited repeatedly in various forums is lack of local manufacturing of AT, a local initiative in Zimbabwe called Local Rehabilitation Workshop (LOREWO) was established to address the situation. The initiative ensures availability of assistive devices (wheel-chairs, walking aids, hearing aids etc.) suited to local technologies and economic conditions; among other things.

SAFOD will continue to update this page with any new interesting information related to the AT situation in the country, or if you are a disability focused organization that has worked in Zimbabwe, or an independent researcher with any useful information about the AT situation the country, SAFOD would love to hear from you should you be willing to share whatever related information you may happen to possess. Please contact us here