Broader representation for people with disabilities

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pretoria – The representation and participation of people with disabilities across government demonstrates the changes in attitudes within the most important offices of the country, the 20 Year Review: South Africa 1994 – 2014 says.

The Review, released on Tuesday by President Jacob Zuma, notes that in post-apartheid South Africa, the Disability Rights Charter of 1992 was the turning point in establishing the minimum demands of people with disabilities.

“The Charter culminated in the inclusion of disability in the non-discrimination and equality clause (section 9) in the Constitution of South Africa of 1996, followed by the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy (INDS),” says the Review.

However, as South Africa moved into the new millennium, several White Papers were developed and served to inform legislation reform. This phase, according to the report, also put focus on the development of policy guides, strategies and programmes to guide the implementation of legislation already in place.

Integrated National Disability Strategy

The main vision of the INDS was “a society for all, one in which people with disabilities are actively involved in the process of transformation”.

“Even though the understanding of disability at the policy level was moving beyond a health and welfare construct, the residual effects of apartheid still had to be addressed within the health, social development, education and employment sectors, which are the core areas of service delivery for persons with disabilities,” the Review states.

Special schools were required to ensure that all policies were developed in line with national policies, including admissions, language, curriculum etc. The Review notes that a comprehensive audit of all special schools conducted in 2002, found that the majority of special schools did not transform at the institutional level.

“Monitoring and holding principals accountable to transformation within special schools was needed at district and provincial levels, as well as by parent bodies and communities which they serve,” the Review states. 

Persons with disabilities represent the interests of the disability sector on a number of other public institutions, including the National Youth Development Agency; Public Service Commission; the National Economic Development and Labour Council; National Lotteries Board and its distributing agencies; the Commission on Employment Equity; National Development Agency; Pan South African Language Board, National Skills Authority and South African National Aids Council.

At the level of community and society, organisations of disabled persons and for disabled persons were differentiated at grassroots, with the former primarily mobilising for advocacy and change, and the latter aiming to meet needs through service delivery.

“These gains in South Africa positively influenced development on the African continent, with 1999-2009 being declared the African Decade of Disabled Persons,” the Review states.

Improving equity in access to services

In 2002, the Free Health Care Policy for pregnant women and children under the age of six years was extended to persons with disabilities to facilitate access to healthcare, rehabilitation and assistive devices.

Access to disability grants and care dependency grants grew steadily with the revised means test and criteria relaxed on assessments where a panel of team members other than doctors are now able to approve.

National Treasury made additional funds available in 2006-2011. This followed an audit of all special schools in 2002, which found that 60% of districts in the country had no special schools.

This was aimed at the improvement of the most neglected special schools, training of teachers and provision of assistive devices and specialised equipment. More schools were built as part of this programme in light of inequitable distribution of special schools in the country.

In 2007, South Africa ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol without reservation.

“This final phase in the journey since 1994 also observed important legislation and policies that still needed to address disability within its core mandate,” notes the Review.

From 2002-2011 more public special schools were built, increasing from 375 to 423, according to Country Report, 2013.

In pursuing the principle of achieving equity in access, the Country Report, as quoted in the Review, noted certain provinces took the decision to build more special schools on the basis that access to special schools was denied to the majority of the population.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has recently entered into consultations on the Green Paper for Post-school Education and Training. The Green Paper acknowledges the need to develop an enabling and empowering environment across the system for staff and students with disabilities.

Representation in the workforce

Government, through the Department of Public Service Administration, is aiming to meet the 2% employment equity target, set in 2005, for the employment of persons with disabilities.

The employment of people with disabilities in the public service improved from 0.16% in 2005 to 0.32 % in 2010/11 and 0.36% in 2011/12.

The 20 Year Review notes that while this is still below the actual target, the gradual increase in the employment of persons with disabilities in the public sector shows that several initiatives to address compliance were resulting in an upward trend for employment targets.

These include JobACCESS Strategic Framework for Recruitment, Employment and Retention of Persons with Disabilities in the Public Service Workplace (2009) and the development of an accredited training course in Disability Management in 2011 by the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA).

A total of 5 133 out of 9 541 of enrolled learners with disabilities, who were registered in learning programmes across 15 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), successfully completed their learnerships during 2008-2011, with 45% successfully gaining employment after completing their learnerships.

These outcomes would not have been possible without the active role of business in extending opportunities for employment by persons with disabilities, says the Review.

Empowering persons with disabilities

The launch of the Medunsa Organisation for Disabled Entrepreneurs has enabled 532 persons with disabilities to establish their own income-generating micro-enterprises over the past five years. It also created 900 jobs.

The establishment of the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities has also served to increase awareness of disability rights and to strengthen coordinated and strategic direction to integrate and mainstream disability across the sectors.

In the National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2012-2016, persons with disabilities are recognised specifically as a vulnerable group and their particular needs are taken into account in the objectives and interventions detailed in the document.

The NSP insists that HIV screening and testing facilities must be physically accessible as well as using accessible communication, in order to facilitate the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The large disparities inherited between the different race groups, geographical locations, and between men and women, the Review says, resulted in extremely uneven starting points when identifying needs, especially for persons with disabilities.

“The allocation of resources based on need and demands by society is a complex situation for South Africa, as the democratic changes resulted in conflicting relations between communities and service providers and more especially between the disabled community and policy makers - relating to wants/needs and demand/supply issues.

“Despite positive trends in participation rates and access to services, intended outcomes for the majority of persons with disabilities in South Arica have not been achieved within the timeframes and targets set, especially regarding education and employment,” the Review notes. – 


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