Rwanda: People with Disabilities Highlight Current Challenges Ahead of Census

The upcoming National Census of Persons with Disabilities, which officials say will help establish a digital register, will only succeed if previous challenges are addressed, grantees noted.

The results of the census, which is expected to begin next month, will be used to roll out a Disability Management and Information System (DMIS) – the first digital register of persons with disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa.

The $1 million project (equivalent to more than one billion Rwandan francs) will facilitate inclusive national planning and support programs for people with disabilities, officials say.

The National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) says that with the new system, each person with a disability will receive a digital profile, detailing their disability status and the challenges they face due to their standard of living.

Although welcomed by researchers and disabled people’s organizations, the digital census could face obstacles.

Its beneficiaries say the issues of family stigma and mobility in remote areas – which have mired in previous counts – still exist.

“In 2016, the NCPD carried out a physical census, but it failed because the investigators could not reach all the disabled people,” said Jean-Pierre Nizeyimana, a journalist with motor disabilities. The New Times. “So with this new digital census, have they solved the problems that plagued previous attempts?

Some persons with disabilities who live in remote areas were not facilitated to travel from their place of residence to designated places to meet enumerators.

The NCPD says that unlike the previous census where beneficiaries were asked to go to the nearest health center, in the next exercise, enumerators will go from house to house.

But in some cases, the problem is not limited to mobility.

“Because of the stigma, some families hide children and even adults with disabilities from other people or keep them isolated in a room for years,” said Clémence Mukarugwiza, a visually impaired lawyer.

“Think of a child who is deafblind and has a physical disability and the family cannot allow them to go outside. It is the job of the NCPD to ensure that these families are first mobilized to participate in the census.”

Nevertheless, Nizeyimana and Mukarugwiza agree that the digital register could help people with disabilities to seek services in different institutions as well as the government in planning.