The Zambia Deaf Youth and Women is hopeful the COVID-19 pandemic will not affect the hearing of their petition in the High Court against the Road Transport and Safety Agency over their refusal to issue its members with driving licenses.
The organization which represents over 20,000 deaf people, have tried for years to engage RTSA and the government on the issue and as a last resort, on 15th November 2019, filed a constitutional petition in the High Court against the RTSA.
The Petitioners argue that RTSA unfairly discriminates against deaf people by denying them the opportunity to obtain drivers’ licenses.
The Petitioners state that there is no reasonable justification for prohibiting deaf people from driving because deafness in no way interferes with the ability to drive safely.
Several countries in the region like South Africa and Namibia allow deaf people to obtain drivers’ licenses and the Petitioners have asked the Court to order RTSA to start issuing, extending, and renewing drivers’ licenses to deaf people on an equal basis with others.
The RTSA is opposing the Petitioners’ case and claims that it is reasonable and justifiable to have a blanket prohibition against driving by deaf persons.
The case is set down for hearing on 19th May 2020, a date Frankson Musukwa, the Organisation Executive Director says the deaf community desperately hopes will not be affected by the impact of COVID-19 on court activities. The case raises important issues.
Mr Musukwa said the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012 is specifically aimed at promoting “the participation of persons with disabilities with equal opportunities in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres”.
He said in a statement that developing practices which exclude persons based on unfounded perceptions runs contrary to this aim.
Mr Musukwa has lamented that deaf persons have lost their means of income after being denied drivers’ licenses and have lost large amounts of money in trying to get a license only to be eventually denied because they are deaf, and have been insulted and demeaned in the process by RTSA officers.
He said the situation is degrading, humiliating, arbitrary and discriminatory and it violates deaf peoples’ rights under the Constitution and under the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012.