Friday, March 9, 2012

Court approached to declare Courts Inaccessible in Kenya



Dear Colleagues,

The physical access to public buildings is a major area of concern world over. While many governments have started taking pro-active measures, few are waiting for somebody- generally user groups or NGOs to point out to them that the buildings are inaccessible. While there are less pro-active measures from the governments, the stakeholders are forced to approach various advocacy mechanisms to claim their legitimate right.

The fortunate part is that the Law and the Courts stand by them.  The recent case of Kenya is one good example of how activists and persons with disabilities should use the platform of Courts to move ahead if accessibility is not on the priority list of governments!

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights, India


An organisation has filed a case seeking to compel the Judiciary to build ramps to allow people with physical disabilities access courtrooms.

The executive director of Kenya Paraplegic Organisation Timothy Wetangula and a police officer who was crippled by a road accident filed the case accusing the Judiciary of failing to recognise the needs of physically disabled litigants.

They want the High Court to declare that the new Milimani Law Courtrooms and The Supreme Court Building in Nairobi are not accessible to persons with disabilities because they only have concrete barriers, stairs and elevations.

Mr Wetangula and Mr Paul Anupa want an order directing that all the courts in Kenya be fitted with ramps to facilitate access for all persons with disabilities.

They contend that they cannot attend the hearing of Mr Anupa's petition as there is no ramp at the Milimani building, making it impossible for persons on wheelchairs or crutches to get to the courtrooms.

As an interim measure, Justice David Majanja of the High Court said he will make administrative arrangements to ensure that Mr Wetangula and Mr Anupa attend the hearing on Wednesday.

The judge gave the directions after lawyer John Chigiti, who is representing the two, told him that the petitioners want to attend the hearing but they cannot access the courtroom.

Mr Anupa has filed a case through the Kenyan Paraplegic Organisation challenging the decision by the Police Commissioner to send him on retirement on medical grounds in 2009.


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