Introduction Globally, legal and policy provisions recommends reasonable accommodation for persons with disability. These provisions are endorsed by international human rights policy provisions and the country specific disability and mental health legislations. However, persons with mental disability continue to face significant limitations to employment in East Africa. Imprecise definitions of mental disability and reasonable accommodation have been blamed for non-implementation of the policy and legal provisions.
Methods The disability laws, human rights legislations and mental health laws of 18 East African countries were reviewed using the WHO MiNDbank and in relation to article 27 of the United Nations Convention on Rights for persons with disabilities(CRPD).
Results We found that although 14 (78%) of the countries have ratified the CRPD only 12 (67%) have explicit definition of mental illness as a disability. Only 11 (62%) have explicit laws mandating employers to provide reasonable accommodation for persons with mental disability. It is unclear whether the policy and legal provisions perceive reasonable accommodation as a progressive or immediate obligation of the countries.
Discussion The UN CRPD defines persons with disabilities to include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on equal basis with others Both the CRPD and Sustainable Development(SDG) Goals recommends inclusive employment for persons with all forms of disabilities. In spite of the availability of these legislations, opportunities of employment for persons with mental disabilities remain dismal on account of cultural and social stereotypes about mental illness in addition to absence of actionable points in policies and legislations. There is lack of clear and specific definition of reasonable accommodation in the examined laws and concerted action by all state parties is required for improved employment for persons with mental disability.