There is still a need for more data and statistics on the situation of persons with disabilities in South Africa
On 03 December the world commemorates International Day of Persons living with disabilities. The purpose of this day is to promote awareness of the rights of people living with disabilities and to integrate them in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.
As the world commemorates this important day, the Commission is of the view that there is still a dire need for more data and statistics on the situation of persons with disabilities in South Africa. To give effect to this the Commission hopes that Census 2011 has been designed in a manner that will capture this information accurately so that the public and private sector can begin to be much more responsive in their services to accommodate this group.
It is critical that the whole government machinery adopts an approach that sees its people including those with disabilities as bearers of rights. It is important that in celebrating this day which foregrounds the diversity of human experience that every South African commits to transforming their mindsets to be more embracive towards citizens living with disabilities.
The Commission also notes with concern the recent incident where four boys living with disabilities were burnt to death under suspicious circumstances when their dormitory at a North West school for the blind caught fire. The Commission will engage with the relevant government departments to get full clarification and indeed that an investigation is conducted to ascertain what led to this mysterious fire.
Meanwhile, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides an impetus and unique platform for the advancement of the international disability rights agenda in development. While the Millennium and Development Goals cannot be fully achieved without the inclusion of persons with disabilities, the Commission’s Public Hearings on Millennium and Development Goals illustrated that to a greater extent that people with disabilities are excluded and the MDDG’s primarily provide quantitative measures as opposed to qualitative ones.
For example, many can argue that getting children with disabilities of school-going age into schools would be an achievement, however, for those who are already in the schooling system there are challenges of social stigma, relevant teacher-training, appropriate resources and the supporting role that the Department of Health and Transport respectively play to ensure that the full potential of the learner is realised.
The Commission will be commemorating this day together with the Limpopo Provincial Government in Gawula Village, Giyani tomorrow. In addition to this, the Commission will also participate in the Disability Awards function which is taking place tomorrow at the Astrotech Conference Centre in Parktown. The awards will honour contributions made by people living with disabilities within the insurance sector.
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