People with disabilities need to be treated with dignity and respect.
This was the key message that came out of an event held at the Desmond Tutu Hall in Makhaza last Friday.
It was organised by the provincial Department of Social Development and various community organisations to mark Disability Rights Awareness Month, held annually from November 3 to December 3, which is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and is also celebrated as National Disability Rights Awareness Day.
It was important to raise public awareness about the challenges faced by those with disabilities, said Siphiwo Mbewu, an official from the provincial Department of Social Development.
He said some negative perceptions of disabilities were fuelled by myths that they were the result of bewitchment.
The government, he added, had also not done enough to include the disabled when discussing issues that affected them.
“We want to inculcate a culture where we are all advocates of people living with disabilities. The reality of the matter is that people living with disabilities did not invite disability.
“We must understand that it could happen to anyone.”
It was also important to have regular discussions about disability and not just on awareness days, he said.
“It should be a daily thing until the message reaches everyone. We are appealing to all stakeholders to work together so that people living with disabilities can feel loved and not different from us.”
Mr Mbewu said people with disabilities should be supported so that they did not view themselves as outcasts.
Sibongile Soko, from the Sibongile Day and Night Care Centre, which takes care of severely disabled children, said it was critical for organisations to join hands to preach the same message.
He called on families not to hide relatives with disabilities but to seek help.