White paper on disabled persons rights heads to Cabinet

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pretoria – The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is to be submitted to Cabinet this month for consideration, says Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Once approved, Minister Dlamini says the white paper will commit authorities to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities by accepting full responsibility and accountability for delivering services to all South Africans, including able-bodied and disabled, men and women.

“It will also strengthen recourse for persons with disabilities and their families if this does not happen,” said Minister Dlamini on Tuesday.

The Minister launched the 2015 national Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM) at Optima College, one of the few colleges in Southern Africa that caters exclusively for blind and partially sighted people.

Observed between 3 November and 3 December, DRAM aims to increase awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities as equal citizens in society in general. It also campaigns for speeding up equal access to socio-economic opportunities for them by making information available and accessible.

It also provides South Africa with an opportunity to inspire hope and confidence in the ability of South Africans and the State machinery to work together in addressing the common challenges facing people with disabilities and society in general.

The 2015 DRAM campaign is celebrating 60 years of the Freedom Charter under the theme: South Africa – a free and just society inclusive of all persons with disabilities as equal citizens.

Minister Dlamini said government continues to listen to the concerns of people with disabilities over the slow pace of progress and of the need to focus on groups which are less vocal and often invisible.

“The absence of accessibility or the denial of access is the loss of opportunities to take part in the community on an equal basis with others,” Minister Dlamini said.

She said people with disabilities must be empowered as they can and do contribute to the development of their communities, schools, work places and to the country as tax payers.

“Empowerment is identified as a core cross-cutting theme for enabling persons with disabilities to avail of and access all socio-economic development opportunities and rights that exist.”

She further called on parents, disability right activists, councillors and communities to ensure that all children with disabilities and between the ages of seven and 15 years of age are enrolled in school in 2016.

“If a school principal refuses a child with a disability access to a school, the parent can appeal to the MEC of Education and if this still does not help, to the South African Human Rights Commission and even Equality Courts.”

National Executive Director for the South African National Council for the Blind, Antonius Spek, said there is an estimated 97% unemployment rate among visually impaired persons.

Chairperson of the SRC at Optima College, James Ngwenya, thanked the Minister for launching DRAM at the school.

“I never thought that one day I would be using a computer and type at this speed but since we came to the college, we’ve learned a lot. Sometimes, when we talk amongst ourselves, we always say we are blessed to have such a disability as it has changed our lives for the better,” said Ngwenya. – SAnews.gov.za

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