With first-hand knowledge of the challenges that people living with disabilities have to overcome,
no one is better placed to ensure that they have access to justice than Dr Praveena Sukhraj-Ely.
The advocate, who works for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD), was born with partial sight and by the age of 12 she had lost her sight completely.
But despite the setbacks, Dr Praveena Sukhraj-Ely’s determination shone through and she now heads the newly established Directorate of Persons with Disabilities at the DOJ&CD.
Ensuring access to justice Her unit places special focus on children, women and older per sons with disabilities and on the kind of services they receive at courts.
Dr Sukhraj-Ely says her responsibilities include ensuring that all courts
and justice service points across the country are accessible and user-friendly for persons with disabilities.
Currently, victims and persons with disabilities experience severe challenges in obtaining sign language interpreters, documents in braille,
intermediaries, access to court preparation officers and physical access to court and justice services buildings, she adds.
“I am proud to be at the forefront of initiatives that help persons with disabilities.”
Persons with disabilities still face many challenges, she notes.
“Society still harbours negative attitudes, misperceptions and stereotypical beliefs about persons with disabilities. Society is not inclusive in their outlook and development.
“There are various problems with universal access, designs of buildings and the physicalenvironment.”
In addition, persons with disabilities often struggle to find employment, she adds.
“Government departments must ensure that their relevant statutes protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities and courts must be made accessible to persons with disabilities.”
Dr Sukhraj-Ely adds that there needs to be continuous awareness campaigns about society’s role in including persons with disabilities in communities.
“Every member of society should lead by example by including persons with disabilities in families, schools and the workplace.
There is a need for a change in attitudes, further training, awareness and advocacy.”
The road to success Dr Sukhraj-Ely recalls the hardships she had to overcome to pursue her dreams.
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