International Day for Persons with Disabilities: No progress made with accessible spaces
With International Day for Persons with Disabilities recognised today, Nyameko Mpulu, provincial manager at Disabled People South Africa (DPSA), urged South Africans to reflect on the lack of progress made in creating accessible spaces for PWD as well as the inaccessibility of assistive devices.
Assistive devices or technologies include any piece of technology or tool used to assist people with disabilities to better enhance functional capabilities.
Gillian Aneesa Moses, the National Programmes administrator at DPSA , said the national human rights organisation was established in 1984 with the core function of advocating and lobbying for the rights of PWD.
Moses said DPSA assists people with all categories of disabilities.
“Our vision in fact is an accessible society for all. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. We have lots of policies that DPSA has given input to.”
Mpulu said: “Our country has failed disabled people in terms of the provision of assistive devices; there are many people with disabilities that can’t access it. In the Cape metropole, there are lots of facilities where people can go to but not in your rural areas.”
“Assistive technology is there but the problem is accessing those technologies because it is quite expensive.”
With the disability grant at R1780 a month, this is not nearly enough to cover the costs of assistive devices, repairs and maintenance of these devices.
“Disabled people are saying we want to work, we want to be employed. We don’t want to be dependent on a disability grant because a disability grant is actually not helping us a lot. What can you do with R1700.”
Because of the lack of funds, many wheelchair users are forced to use wheelchairs that are not suited for their needs or body structure. Mpulu said government is struggling to employ the 2% of PWD, and with the amount increased to employing at least over 7% of PWD into the workforce, this seems an unattainable goal.
“We are supposed to celebrate Disability Day but what is there to celebrate as people with disabilities. We need to reflect on where we are now. What have we achieved if you look at a simple thing like employment of people with disabilities.”
The provincial department of Social Development said it has allocated R160.9 million for programmes and initiatives for PWD with over 220 non-profit organisations benefiting.
The department’s Sharna Fernandez said: “At present, our department provides social welfare services to people with disabilities, their families and/or caregivers and continues to grow services to people with disabilities, including services to people with moderate and high support needs (severe and profound) intellectual and physical disabilities.”@TheCapeArgus