Tetra Tech Project Raises Awareness of Disability Rights in Côte d’Ivoire
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Justice Sector Support Program (ProJustice), Tetra Tech has been supporting the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to improve the functioning of the courts and increase access to justice since 2013. Additional funding from USAID in 2015 led to the launch the ProJustice Handicap project component, which works to advance the rights of people with disabilities.
While acknowledging that there are many barriers to accessing justice (e.g., legal, economic, psychological, social), ProJustice decided to address physical accessibility early in its work. The project is providing ramps for its 11 pilot courts to ensure that litigants and other court users can enter the court with dignity. ProJustice is preparing Braille signboards to orient blind and sight-impaired court users within the court complexes. The project also is training sign language interpreters in legal terminology.
In tandem with the effort to physically improve access to justice institutions, ProJustice has been working to raise awareness among court staff, the public, and disabled persons about the rights of people with disabilities and the obligations of government officials to respect and protect those rights.
The impact of the campaigns has been far-reaching. In September 2016, Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection established the Allo Handicap toll-free hotline for people to call and report instances of abuse, violence, or other infractions against the disabled. This is a small but significant step toward greater equality for people with disabilities in Côte d’Ivoire.
ProJustice’s disability activities have not only sensitized court staff and the public to accessibility issues; they also opened the minds of ProJustice’s own staff. When it came time for the ProJustice project to change offices, ProJustice Handicap Manager Alice Zadi Massa had the new premises surveyed for accessibility before renovation work began.
"It was clear to me that our new offices had to be completely accessible – not just because disabled stakeholders will come to meetings at our offices, but because it is the right thing to do,” she said.