ZBC and govt ordered to ensure people living with disabilities access vital information on coronavirus in friendly format

HIGH Court Judge Justice Joseph Mafusire has ordered the state-run
public broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and
government to immediately end the violation of rights of some deaf,
blind and visually impaired people by providing them with information
on the coronavirus epidemic in a format which is accessible to them.

Justice Mafusire granted the order on Monday 20 April 2020 after he
was petitioned by three organisations namely Centre for Disability and
Development Trust, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and Zimbabwe National League of
the Blind representing people who are visually impaired and Deaf, who
sued government and the state-run ZBC demanding to be provided with
information on coronavirus in a format which is accessible to them.

In the application filed by Denford Halimani and Doug Coltart of
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Centre for Disability and
Development Trust, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and Zimbabwe National League Of
The Blind argued that given the state of public health emergency and
the national lockdown, there is need for ZBC to have sign language as
part of its programming to enable the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people
to be fully informed about the coronavirus pandemic and continuous
changes effected on compliance with the national lockdown by the
citizens and any subsequent measures taken by government.

The rights of persons with disabilities, Centre for Disability and
Development Trust, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and Zimbabwe National League Of
The Blind argued, had been infringed by government and ZBC during a
public health emergency crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic
as there was a lack of access to information in a format that is
accessible to persons with disabilities, notably Deaf and Hard of
Hearing people and the blind and partially sighted persons.

In his ruling, Justice Mafusire ordered ZBC to provide
subtitles/captions such as a word for word transcription of the
dialogue) for all pre-recorded programmes and to provide sign language
interpretation for all main bulletins such as lunch time news, 8PM
news and 11 PM on weekdays.

ZBC, Justice Mafusire ruled, should allow Deaf Zimbabwe Trust to
second trained sign language interpreter(s) to the state-run
broadcaster to provide additional sign language interpretation beyond
ZBC’s existing capacity.

The High Court Judge also ordered ZBC to provide sign language
interpretation for all live announcements subject to the state-run
broadcaster receiving sufficient notice and for ZBC to progressively
increase its provision of sign language interpretation for all live
programming including news bulletins.

Justice Mafusire also ordered Information, Publicity and Broadcasting
Services Minister Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa, Health and Child Care
Minister Hon. Obadiah Moyo and Public Service, Labour and Social
Welfare Minister Hon. Paul Mavima, who were cited as respondents to
the application, to immediately cause the production of pamphlets in
Braille and large text with information about coronavirus including
information about the disease itself, how to prevent contracting it,
how and where to access healthcare facilities and emergency contact
details.

Mutsvangwa, Moyo and Mavima, the Judge said, should distribute the
information on coronavirus to visually impaired persons throughout
Zimbabwe including by providing it to Centre for Disability and
Development Trust and Zimbabwe National League of the Blind and any
other organisations representing the interests of visually impaired
and blind persons registered in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour
and Social Welfare’s database and providing the same at all health
care centres.

Mutsvangwa, Moyo and Mavima were ordered to immediately ensure that
all written information related to coronavirus provided by government,
including daily updates, is also made available in formats accessible
to blind and partially sighted persons, including audio recordings of
the content distributable by WhatsApp, and/or readable digital text,
and distributed to the blind and visually impaired persons including
by providing it to Centre for Disability and Development Trust and
Zimbabwe National League of the Blind and organisations representing
the interests of blind and visually impaired persons registered with
the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare’s database.

Moyo, the Health and Child Care Minister, was ordered to ensure that
his ministry’s coronavirus hotlines and centres are staffed with
persons who are equipped to deal with the unique needs of persons with
disabilities including how and where they can receive information
about coronavirus in a format accessible to them.

Mutsvangwa was ordered to immediately issue a statement urging private
entities, including mass media and hospitals, to ensure that any
services they provide to the public relating to coronavirus are
accessible to persons with disabilities including, but not limited to,
urging all private healthcare facilities to provide accessible
information and all news outlets to disseminate information about how
and where persons with disabilities can access information, testing
and treatment for coronavirus.

The Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister was also
ordered to give ZBC sufficient notice of any intended announcements by
government pertaining to coronavirus.