For the first time in Egypt, the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities comprehensively would cover several rights for different health conditions and looks to make great advances in aspects that were previously overlooked.
The bill that is currently being discussed in parliament includes new articles emphasising social protection, political and economic rights, participation in trade unions, cultural and sports engagement, entertainment, legal protection, and treatment in cases of criminal law. The law has been anticipated—for more than 40 years—to improve the social status of a group that has suffered greatly in previous periods and the bill would guarantee their rights to jobs, transportation, and university education.
On Monday, parliament continued, in a plenary session, discussing the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, drafted earlier by the cabinet.
In conjunction with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), on 3 December, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal preliminarily approved the law, and discussed with members of various committees its 22 articles. Similarly, Hisham El-Sherif, the minister of local development, approved the disbursement of LE 110,360 to the Department of Disabled Persons in Beni Suef to facilitate its work and meet its needs.
“We are keen to join the United Nations and the world in celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” said Abdul Aal during Sunday’s plenary session, adding that Egypt was one of the first countries to sign the agreements sponsoring the rights of persons with disabilities. He also said that the constitution acknowledges the rights of this special group, with full appreciation and respect.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) issued a report, also in celebration of the international day, stating that 10.67% of persons aged five years and above have functional difficulties from simple to absolute, 10.99% for males and 10.34% for females, and 12.22% in urban areas compared to 9.71% in rural ones.
The report further cites the total ratio in governorates, reporting the highest percentage of those suffering severe disabilities as 3.14% in Minya governorate, followed by 3.05% in Cairo, 2.86% in Assiut, 2.85% in Kafr El Sheikh, 2.83% in Alexandria, 2.77% in Beheira, and 2.73% in Beni Suef and Sharkia governorates. The percentage in the remaining provinces range from 1.36% to 2.61%.
Members of parliament’s Social Solidarity Committee, along with others, have supported the new bill, in addition to public figures viewing it as a breakthrough for the rights granted to disabled individuals. The law is the first of its kind addressing about 15 million people with different disabilities, granting them dozens of benefits.
Also, MP Nashwa al-Husseini said that the disability law has been long awaited, as it meets the basic needs of 15 million families, stressing the urgency of activating it on the ground and not only on paper.
Egypt’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marwan said that the new law creates the right environment for persons with disabilities to exercise their rights in all areas, including entertainment, as well as protecting them against negligence and violations. He also added that on another note, the law reflects the fruitful cooperation between parliament and the cabinet, which he looks forward to maximising in the coming period.
Head of the Social Solidarity Committee MP Abdul Hadi El-Qasabi said that the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is consistent with the provisions of the constitution and with the international conventions signed by Egypt.
The government believes in the important role of persons with disabilities and the need to promote their rights without discrimination, El-Qasabi added.
He also said that the committee hosted 576 people, delegated from 243 entities representing disabled individuals, to listen to their views.
Following the conclusion of discussing the law, the percentage required to approve the bill will be two-thirds of parliamentary members, according to the constitution.
Why is the law a breakthrough?
Mahmoud El-Naggar, member of Al-Hassan Foundation for Differently Abled Inclusion, who attended the parliament discussion, told Daily News Egypt that the law is very well crafted and that, for the first time in Egypt, the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has existed in the country since 1957, grants a number of advantages to this category of people who suffered greatly during previous periods.
He explained that the law is granting privileges for persons with disabilities, such as combining pension and salary, as in the case of a person working with a fixed salary, but can still receive their parents’ pension.
It also included other persons with different health conditions such as quadriplegia, short stature and atrophy of the muscles, as they were not among conditions previously addressed by the law, El-Naggar said, adding that the bill decreases taxes on buying cars designed for people with special needs.
Moreover, parliament’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities said that the new law guarantees a 50% reduction on transportation, 5% on housing units, 5% on educational integration schools and universities, and 5% representation in public, private, and business sectors, in addition to the combination of salary and pension.
Regrading pension, the bill also granted one person to receive more than one pension, without limitation.
El-Naggar said that among the comments presented to the parliament, which was not considered, is increasing the representation quota of these groups in the public and private sectors.
He gave an example that a person with a disability can receive much less than the minimum wage, as in the case of individuals working in the public sector who can sometimes be offered salaries of EGP 200 or less, while in the private sector they offer a range of EGP 600 to EGP 700.
The bill also emphasised the health and educational rights of persons with disabilities and the role of the Ministries of Health, Population, Education, and Higher Education in this regard. The bill also stressed the independence of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities technically, financially, and administratively.
There are articles in the new bill that stipulate increasing the representation in unions and parties, offering a health insurance system, sports rewards, and reduction of taxes and fees on cars for the disabled, in addition to obligating enterprises to apply the ergonomic code, whether in public or private facilities, to be ready for receiving persons with disabilities, and a deadline for old facilities to adjust their conditions.
MP Maha Shabaan also said that the new law was keen to organise lawsuits and fining policies against anyone who fails to comply with the appointment of persons with disabilities in accordance with the law. It also stipulates the issuance of a “card of proof” for every disabled person to be renewed every seven years, similarly to ID cards. This card includes information about the disabled person to enable him to obtain benefits.
Article 22 in the law includes some tax exemptions, as persons with disabilities or those who employ or care for them will receive an additional 50% exemption, while employers who hire more than the required 5% would increase their percentage of exemption. El-Naggar explained that if a company employed more than the 5% quota, it can receive a higher percentage of tax exemption.
Article 19 stipulates that “skills development and training institutions shall be required to provide qualification trainings approved by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, free of charge to persons with disabilities who have been rehabilitated. In case the person has been found ineligible, the training shall be given to his guardian or legal representative.”
Debates among parliament members over defining bill
Sunday session witnessed debates over the name of the law, as the Committees of Ssocial Solidarity, Family, and Persons with Disabilities named the bill the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs.
However, another name was suggested by MP Ismail Nasr El-Din, particularly the Bill on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Dwarves, but it was rejected.
El-Qasabi said that first name is consistent with constitution, and that the bill covers different health conditions, apart from dwarves, adding that that is a group among others defined in the law.
MP Alaa Abed said that he rejects the name “people with disabilities”, and said that they are “distinct abilities”, clarifying that they are winning more tournaments than their “health” counterparts, making achievements, and representing Egypt abroad.