Despite the strides made by the country to tackle issues affecting people living with disabilities, a lot is yet to be done.
Disabled people are still being treated differently. They are neglected, often overlooked when it comes to job placement with limited access to workplaces and public transport.
These were some of the challenges raised on Friday December 1, during the annual general meeting of Sonwabile Disabled People’s Association at Zolani Centre, when the provincial Department of Social Development marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities, commemorated annually on December 3.
Speaking to Vukani, secretary of the organisation, Nyameko Mpulu, shared some of the challenges faced by disabled people. He said more should be done to address their challenges to improve their lives.
Mr Mpulu said disabled people still struggled for small things such as access to buildings and transportation. He blamed this on rhetoric from the government.
“We are far from being happy. The government has targets but could not achieve them. They say things over and over, especially during disability (awareness) months. Disabled people are not getting work opportunities they deserve,” he said.
Mr Mpulu said the country was made up of selfish people who mistreated and disrespected disabled people.
“Locally disabled people are not involved in local activities. In churches they are discriminated against. There are people who today do not go to churches because of the treatment meted out to them. There is also an issue of transport, minibus taxis do not pick us up along the roads. If they see people in wheelchairs they do not bother. These are just some of the issues the society needs to deal with and correct,” said Mr Mpulu.
Group member Sudi Kapangura said there was “very slow” progress from the government in assisting the disabled.
He commended the country for having good policies but said they were not implemented.
He said employed disabled people in government departments in the province amounted to about 2% of the workplace.
Mr Kapangura said they are still not being consulted about things that concern them.
“An example is when there are upgrades in our own offices, we are not being consulted. We have offices at the Zolani Centre but most of us cannot access it. It is not disabled-friendly,” he said.
He said a lot of awareness still needed to be done and next year the plan is to speak to taxi owners and a forum of churches in Nyanga.
“We do not want to be treated specially or differently, all we want is to be treated as normal citizens. People forget one thing – that one day they might become disabled too,” he said.
In a statement issued to the media, the provincial Department of Social Development said it has continued to render quality services to disabled people.
The department said as part of its ongoing commitment and ever-expanding services to people living with disabilities, it has drastically increased spending this financial year to R163.7-million (an increase of R15.7-million).
Over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework period an additional R138.9million has been invested, bringing total spending to just over R512million. It said the increase had allowed the department to assist 80 284 persons, so far this year.
The department said its focus was not only on improving access, but also extending socio-economic opportunities to especially disabled youth, and increasing services for people with intellectual disabilities.
Social Development MEC, Albert Fritz, called on the private sector and government to lead the way in hiring people with disabilities, improving their access to the economy. He said people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everybody else, and DSD is committed to working with all its partners to expand services and opportunity.
“People with disabilities are just as capable, if not better employees in many cases”, said Mr Fritz.