Disabled people are large minority groups, starved of services and mostly ignored by society, live in isolation, segregation, poverty, charity and even pity.  Disability includes blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, loco motor disability, mental retardation and mental illness.  Due to discrimination they do not go to public places and not free to get those rights which a non-disabled person gets.  They are deprived of education and employment.

Persons with disabilities in South Africa continue to face barriers that prevent them from enjoying their full civil, political, economic, social, cultural and developmental rights.  This is largely due to lack of awareness, ignorance and prejudice in our society. It is also because some legislation fails to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

Mainstreaming and universal access for persons with disabilities are the ultimate goals of the disability movement.  This means the removal of all cultural, physical, social and other barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from equally accessing opportunities and participating fully in all aspects of life in South Africa.  Persons with disabilities lack access to employment opportunities and even if they are able to get employment they face problems such as reasonable accommodation at work, accessible public transportation to get them to work and back and discrimination and ignorance about their potential at work.

  • What is accessibility

Accessibility is strongly related to universal design when the approach involves direct access.  This is about making things accessible to all people (whether they have a disability or not).  An alternative is to provide indirect access by having the entity support to use of a person’s assistive device technology to achieve access (e.g. screen readers).

Accessibility is a term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.  Accessibility can be viewed as the ability to access and benefit from some system or entity.  Accessibility is often used to focus on people with disabilities or special needs and their right of access to entities, often through use of assistive device.

  • Types of accessibility

1.2.1      Access to information

1.2.2      Access to transport

1.2.3      Access to buildings

1.2.4      Access to Health care

  • Access to information

One dimension of accessibility is the ability to access information and services by minimizing the barriers of distance and cost as well as the accessibility and usability of the interface.  In many countries this has led to initiatives, laws and/or regulations that aim toward providing universal access to the internet and to phone systems at reasonable cost to citizens.

One of the first areas where information technology improved the quality of life for disabled individuals is the voice operated wheelchair.  Quadriplegics have the most profound disability, and the operated wheelchair technology was first developed in 1977 to provide increased mobility.  The origin version replaced the joystick system with a module that recognised eight commands.  Many other technology accommodation improvements have evolved from this initial development.

Each kind of disability requires a different kind of accommodation, and this may require analysis by a medical specialist and job analysis when the impairment requires accommodation.

1.2.2      Access to transportation

In transportation, accessibility refers to the ease of reaching destinations.  People who are in places that are highly accessible can reach many other activities or destinations quickly, people in inaccessible places can reach fewer places in the same amount of time.

Public transport is either not accessible or not enough or irregular in nature.  This includes public buses as well as taxis.  This leads to persons being late for work or children being late for school with no alternative means of travel.

  • Roads are not properly maintained and municipal workers do not clean them. Pavements and the lack of space thereof or the state that they are in make travelling difficult for cane users and wheelchair uses alike.  In some informal settlements no tarred roads are available making independent living difficult;
  • No robots that are audio projected have been installed to serve the needs of persons that are blind;
  • A lack of awareness and respect amongst bus and taxi drivers and fellow commuters are an area of concern. No assistance is provided to ensure on and off-boarding of passengers with disabilities.  You also pay more when travelling by a taxi.  Train platforms are also not accessible.
  • Access to buildings

Houses built are not accessible to persons with disabilities and disregard regulations relating to the needs of persons with physical and other disabilities.  However, there are some initiatives to change typical residential practices so that new homes incorporate basic access features such as ramps and door widths adequate for wheelchairs to pass through.

Multi –story buildings or homes can sometimes be accommodated by installing a private residential elevator, which is usually much less expensive and has fewer design and layout requirements than a full commercial elevator.

  • Access to Healthcare

The attitude of some staff especially at clinics towards persons with disabilities is problematic.  They treat persons without the necessary respect for personal dignity, privacy and make derogatory remarks especially against persons with intellectual disabilities.  This concern applies to both nurses in the employ of the municipalities as well as volunteer workers.

Persons with disabilities are also vulnerable within the context of HIV/AIDS, mainly due to possible sexual abuse and cultural myths.  Insufficient HIV/AIDS awareness and support were identified as a matter of serious concern.  HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns are not in an accessible format to persons with print disabilities.

Medical health related information is not available in accessible formats to different types of disability.  The Department of Health’s Rehabilitation for all – A National Rehabilitation Policy is not aligned with the actual services offered at clinics and persons with disabilities do not benefit in terms thereof.  Assistive devices should include those that promote the independence of a disabled person, contribute to disabled people functioning in society, facilitate communication for disabled people and improve the quality of life of disabled people.

Rehabilitation services, preventative care, early diagnosis and treatment should be provided to persons with disabilities which allegedly are not currently the case.

Specialist health professionals should be available at clinics to provide an integrated service including audiologists, psychologists, optometrists, occupational therapists, etc.  Also at the clinics there must be interpreters for the deaf and the reception area should be lower for people on wheelchairs and for short people.

Health workers are not skilled to provide support to other family members in dealing with a person with a disability.

Better cooperation is required with the District Health Advisory Committee to address the issues experienced.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that:

Article 9 – Accessibility

States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to:

  1. Develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public;
  2. Ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities;
  3. Provide training for stakeholders accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities;
  4. Provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand;
  5. Provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public.
  6.  MYTHS

Myths are stemming from a human need to make sense of the world and to resolve cultural dilemmas.  These dilemmas are embodied in the structure of myths, which is made up of opposites, such as good-bad, night-day.  Myths are still emerging and developing in the present day.

2.1          Who has myths?

Everybody is fighting some kind of stereotype, and people with disabilities are no exception.
The difference is that barriers people with disabilities face begin with people’s attitudes.

2.2          What causes myths?

People’ attitudes often rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings about what it’s like to live with a disability.

  • How to overcome myths
  • Encouraging participation of people with disabilities in community activities by using accessible meetings and event sites.
  • Understanding children’s curiosity about disabilities and people who have them.
  • Advocating a barrier-free environment
  • Speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about disability.
  • Accepting people with disabilities as individuals capable of the same needs and feelings as yourself, and hiring qualified disabled persons whenever possible.
  • Types of myths

All people using wheelchairs are chronically ill or sickly.  Wheelchair use is confining; people who use wheelchairs are “wheelchair bound”.  All people with hearing disability can read lips.  People who are blind acquire sixth sense.  People who are disabled are more comfortable with their own kind.  Non-disabled people are obligated to take care of people with disabilities.  Curious children should never ask people about their disabilities.

The lives of people with disabilities are totally different than the lives of people without disabilities e.g. if you are an albino you are not buried you disappear; if you see a male hunchback you see a lucky man and if you see the one who is a female is a bad luck and you must quickly touch your button.   People with disabilities cannot have sexual relationship and people with disabilities always need help.

  • Corrections

The association between wheelchair and illness may have evolved through hospitals using wheelchairs to transport sick people.  A person may use a wheelchair for a variety of reasons, none of which may have anything to do with lingering illness.  A wheelchair, like a bicycle or an automobile is a personal assistive device that enables someone to get around.

Lip reading skills very among people who use them and are never entirely reliable.  Although most people who are blind develop their remaining senses more fully, they do not have a sixth sense.  Anyone may offer assistance, but most people with disabilities prefer to be responsible for themselves.

Many children may have a natural, uninhibited curiosity and may ask questions that some adults consider embarrassing.  But scolding curious children may make them think having a disability is wrong or bad.  Most people with disabilities will not mind answering a child’s question.

People with disabilities go to school, get married, work, have families, do laundry, go to grocery shops, laugh, cry, pay taxes, get angry, have prejudices, vote, plan, dream and are buried like everyone else.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that:

Article 17 – Protecting the Integrity of the Person

Every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others.


I may say acceptance is mainstreaming which refers to the inclusion of concerns and experiences of persons with disabilities within the design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes on all political, social and economic spheres so that persons with disabilities benefit equally.  In this context mainstreaming and exclusive development is understood as processes that are not mutually exclusive as equitable inclusion also sometimes requires preferential focus.  Integration and differentiation thus evolve as complimentary systems.

3.1          Who must be accepted?

All disabled people regardless of their disabilities.

3.2          Why

To recognise the equal rights of persons with disabilities in order for persons with disabilities to reach their full potential;

To eradicate unfair discrimination against persons with disabilities;

To ensure integrated, barrier-free and comprehensive service delivery to achieve equitable service delivery for persons with disabilities;

To ensure universal access for persons with disabilities that supports the mainstreaming of this group into society;

To give particular emphasis to the most vulnerable groups within the disability sector i.e. children, youth, women and persons in rural areas with disabilities;

To involve persons with disabilities and relevant civil society organisations in the development and implementation of policies and programmes thus ensuring community participation;

To ensure inter-sectoral collaboration between the different tiers of government;

To commit to a developmental approach towards the management of disability issues that empowers persons with disabilities and does not perpetuate dependency;

To recognise the diversity of persons with disabilities and to address their unique needs.

  • How

Disability organisations, citizens with disabilities, non-government organisations and government departments will be consulted to develop a document that will pertain all issues impacting on the lives of disabled persons and service delivery.  Also by working in partnership with other role players to identify needs and barriers as well as to formulate appropriate programmes and interventions that meet the needs of various disability groupings.

Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that:

Article 19 – Living independently and being included in the Community

States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the Community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community.


Capacity Building

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) defines capacity building as the creation of an enabling environment with appropriate policy and legal frameworks, institutional development, including community participation (of women in particular), human resources development and strengthening of managerial systems.  Capacity building is a long-term, continuing process, in which all stakeholders participate (ministries, local authorities, non-governmental organisations, professional associations, academics and others).

Employment Equity Act

Persons with disabilities are designated group within the broader employment equity agenda require special attention.  The purpose of this document is to provide the strategic framework and action pal to achieve the mainstreaming of disability within the workplace and to ensure fair human resources policies and practices. People with disabilities must fully aware of this act.

Education, training and awareness amongst society

A major concern related to the fact that there is little awareness of disability issues and a lack of sensitivity amongst society and persons without disabilities.  This lack of knowledge and awareness translates into inappropriate and discriminatory behaviour.  Derogatory names and terms are still being used;

Attitudes and prejudice within society still keep persons with disabilities from securing employment making them dependent upon social grants;

Awareness raising, sensitisation, education and training on disability are thus required.


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