Calls to improve access to education for people with disabilities

Friday, November 11, 2022

As the country observes Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM), the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has emphasised the need for the allocation of resources and improved access to education for persons with disabilities.

“Imagine a South Africa where everyone can move freely and access information swiftly and effortlessly, especially persons with disabilities, and where assistive devices are easily available at a reasonable cost. An environment where organisations fully understand how to align their corporate social investments to the National Development Plan (NDP), with regards to empowering persons with disabilities,” the department said.

It said the creation of barrier-free environments requires collective and concurrent action by law and policy makers, service providers, regulatory bodies, the private sector as well as organisations of and for persons with disabilities.

Disability Rights Awareness Month 2022 was launched on 03 November 2022 under the theme “Empowering Persons with Disabilities through resourceful, sustainable and safe environments”, while the 2022 international theme is “Not all disabilities are visible”.

“This year’s theme emphasises the importance of resolving existing barriers towards disability inclusion by ensuring resourceful, sustainable and safe environments for and with persons with disabilities and also specially recognising that not all disabilities are visible,” the department said in a statement on Friday.

Article 9 of the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) emphasises that State Parties have legal obligations to ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities.

In this vein, the department said the development and implementation of national laws and policies that advance accessibility must be promoted.

“Accessibility can also be achieved by ensuring that services and information are tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities; by requiring the participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities; and by drawing attention to the most neglected groups within the spectrum of disability,” the department said.

The department highlighted six areas that need to be addressed in order to remove barriers to access and participation, and these include:

  • Changing attitudes and behaviour;
  • Access to the built environment;
  • Access to transport;
  • Access to information and communication;
  • Universal design and access; and
  • Reasonable accommodation measures.

The department emphasised that addressing all the focus areas in their own right and as a holistic solution, requires collective and concurrent action by law and policy makers, service providers, regulatory bodies, the private sector as well as rights holders and/or their representative organisations.

“Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices and services for persons with disabilities, which enable persons with disabilities and learning differences to attain independence.

“They include for example, loop systems, sub texting and alternative input for cognitive assistance and computer or electrical assistive devices. When information and communication platforms and technology are available, affordable and accessible, they significantly improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society,” the department said.

Within the context of #DRAM2022 regarding assistive technology, the department added that government’s intention is to emphasise the commitment to uphold and promote the rights of persons with disabilities by ensuring that all government departments, prioritise their responsibility towards the disability rights agenda.

“To this end, provision of assistive technology will significantly improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities in South Africa.” –