Council empowers people with disabilities on their consumer rights

30/06/2010 16:24

The Consumer Council of Fiji in partnership with the Fiji Disabled Peoples Association (FDPA) is holding a half- day workshop to empower people with disabilities on their consumer rights. The workshop, “Empowering People with Disabilities on their Consumer Rights” was held today at the FDPA Headquarters at 3 Brown Street from 9am and was attended by members from 9 FDPA affiliates.

The purpose of this workshop was to provide a forum for addressing disability issues in the context of consumer rights to develop a more “inclusive” society to create greater awareness of the needs of those special people living with disabilities. The idea is to identify priority areas for action to dismantle barriers hindering the full participation of people who are physically challenged in the social and economic life of Fiji.

The Council assured participants that consumers with a disability have similar rights to every other consumer without a disability. The definition of a consumer is inclusive of consumers living with a disability and not excluding disable people. In Councils view disabled consumers are more in need of consumer Council services because they are vulnerable and do not have the means to complain. 

People with disabilities face a lot of problems in the area of consumer rights and some of these plights include:

  • Access to premises - Most of the shops are not disabled-person friendly as ramps are not created and in some cases where there are steps around the shops, railings are not provided to enable a person using crutches to get into the shop.
  • Education & Vocational Training - Children and adults with disabilities are often excluded from a training school or from attending normal schools. As far as possible disable people should be given an opportunity just like any other persons.
  • Provision of goods and services – Some consumers have faced problems with misrepresentation of goods and services where they have been mislead and cheated. An issue relating to this was highlighted a few weeks ago involving a visually impaired person who got into a taxi for a short route and gave $10 to the driver who gave back $2 in change when the meter read something else. There was another case where a disabled person on a wheelchair was asked to leave a restaurant because he was holding up a lot of people who wanted to use the same service.
  • Public transport – Disability persons on wheelchairs cannot access buses and so are left with no choice but to catch a taxi, which for some, has proved to be costly affair in the long run combined with other cost of living.
  • Medication/Health access – For those who rely on regular medication, often it is difficult to obtain these medications due to its high cost. According to the interviews conducted between the Council and those with disabilities, in most cases the medications are only supplied by commercial pharmacies which mean the cost must be met by someone. 
  • Insurance – many are victims of motor vehicle accidents and the CTPI laws and policies fail to compensate them in most cases despite they have suffered through no fault of theirs. They are left to fend for themselves or are left at the mercy of family or relatives. Those who can afford to hire a lawyer, the long wait for compensation is a frustrating experience. Some seep into the psychological stress. The Council is there to assist you to make insurance claim.

Furthermore, this workshop also complements the aim of Council’s European Union funded project “Strengthening Consumer Rights in Fiji through Advocacy and Enforcement of Consumer Protections Law”, where the objective is to educate and inform consumers, regulators, business communities and other stakeholders on the importance of consumer rights, regardless of anyone’s background or whether they are able or disabled.

These rights are the essential elements to inculcate consumer empowerment in Fiji and the workshop was a platform to mobilize consumers with disabilities, to create awareness on the national laws and policies that are designed to protect consumers’ rights and recognize consumers with disabilities as a group that is critical to our economic progress, growth and development.

We all have the same rights in theory. But in our society there are clear needs for extra legal protection and recognition of rights for people with disabilities, and for more action in our society to make those rights a reality.

The Council is looking forward to contributing to further positive work on how to build consumer rights protections that are more than just words, and help the government to take more effective responsibility for practical results for people with disabilities.