Government committed to supporting people with disabilities

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated government’s “unwavering support" for the welfare and rights of people with disabilities.

The President was delivering the opening remarks at the meeting of the Presidential Working Group on Disability at the Union Buildings on Tuesday morning.

The meeting was held as South Africa marks Human Rights Month.

President Ramaphosa laid out the tangible steps that government will take to address shortcomings in how government deals with the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

“First, we will increase funding for disability-related programmes and services. This will include funding for education, training, employment and health care services for people with disabilities.

“Second, we will strengthen disability-related policies and legislation to ensure that they are effectively implemented. We will work with disability organisations and other stakeholders to develop and implement disability-inclusive policies and programmes that promote the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities.

“Third, we will increase public awareness and understanding of disability issues through public awareness campaigns and community outreach programmes,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said that other steps that government will take include:

  • Creating accessible and inclusive environments for people with disabilities, ensuring that public facilities and services are accessible, and promoting universal design principles in the built environment.
  • Promoting the participation of people with disabilities in decision-making processes and ensure that their voices are heard in all areas of public life.

He emphasised that the role of the Presidential Working Group on Disability is critical in this regard and will provide government with the guidance needed on matters of disability, and how policy should relate to the millions of South Africans with disabilities.

“This Presidential Working Group is an important partner in the development and implementation of government policies and programmes. It makes an important contribution to our effort to leave no one behind.

“Since its establishment, this Working Group has given advisory support to government to ensure that we continue to uphold the constitutional rights of all South Africans, including people with disabilities.

“According to Statistics South Africa, around 7% of our population of over 60 million people has some form of disability. These are not just numbers. They represent human beings who have aspirations, dreams and purpose. They represent citizens whose rights to equal treatment and equal opportunity should be guaranteed and protected,” President Ramaphosa said.

He acknowledged that although government has done much work to improve the lives of people with disabilities, more can be done to break down the barriers to ensuring that the challenges they face are addressed.

“Our goal remains the attainment of a just and free society in which people with disabilities are treated as equal citizens. The commitment of the government to promoting the rights and welfare of people with disabilities is unwavering.

“However, we have not made enough progress in implementing disability-related policies and legislation. There is inadequate funding for disability-related programmes and a lack of public awareness and understanding of disability issues.

“As a government, we recognise that we have not done enough to support people with disabilities. Our vision is to create an inclusive society, where people with disabilities can live their lives to the fullest. This vision is achievable if we all work together,” he said. –