Swarts calls for inclusion of people with disabilities in built environment

Thursday, December 7, 2023
Deputy Minister Swarts.

Public Works and Infrastructure Deputy Minister, Bernice Swarts, has called on the department’s entities to play their part in ensuring that people with disabilities are trained and get work and business opportunities in the built environment.

“Often people living with disabilities are overlooked in built industry work and business opportunities because of the assumption that they would not be able to do physical duties associated with the industry,” Swarts said.

Swarts was speaking at the inaugural Council for the Built Environment (CBE) colloquium on persons with disability in the built environment, held this week in Boksburg, Gauteng.

Held under the theme “Co-creation of spaces which entrench universal access”, the conference aimed to consolidate and accelerate the rights of people with disabilities.

Swarts noted some of the challenges still facing people with disabilities in the built environment, including physical access to many buildings which do not have ramps, hand rails, heavy doors that are hard to open and close, narrow doorways and hallways, and poor signage that does not cater for the visually impaired. 

The Deputy Minister called for people with disabilities to be offered job opportunities in project management and owning businesses in the built industry. 

She also called on the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to ensure that people with disabilities receive training in built industry qualifications in order for them to be more employable in the sector.

The DHET's Strategic Policy Framework on Disability for the Post-School Education and Training System is one instrument that aims to create an enabling environment for inclusion and mainstreaming of people with disabilities in the post-school education and training system, which seeks to ensure that disability-related policies and guidelines are implemented and monitored.

“While there have been positive gains in the fight for the inclusivity of people with disabilities in the country, like the inclusion of the South African Sign Language as the 12th official language, the country is still lagging in reaching minimum targets for the employment of people with disabilities,” the Deputy Minister said.

Swarts also advised the CBE to invite stakeholders outside the built industry sector to next year’s colloquium, including education stakeholders, in order to have a more holistic approach in resolving the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the built industry.

Built Environment Recognition Awards

Meanwhile, Swarts will this evening deliver a keynote address at the Built Environment Recognition Awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements of individuals and organisations, who are shaping the future of the built environment. 

The awards recognise outstanding contributions to the industry and encourages professional registration.

The inaugural awards -- hosted by the CBE -- will take place in Durban. – SAnews.gov.za