File photo: Etienne Creux

Johannesburg - People with disabilities are less likely to be educated, and more likely to be jobless, unhealthy and unhappy.

When they have jobs, they earn less than their able-bodied colleagues, and without social grants, almost 80 percent would live below the poverty line.

These are some of the findings of a new study by the Centre for Social Development in Africa, entitled “Poverty and Disability in South Africa”, released on Wednesday.

“It is necessary that people with disabilities are recognised as a particularly vulnerable group,” said Lauren Graham, one of the study’s authors. Only 10 percent of disabled people receive the disability grant and 68 percent of people with disabilities have never looked for a job, because they assume there will be no work for them.

Graham said although policies were correct, the implementation of these was lacking. As a result, progress on getting more disabled people into the workplace was “minimal and slow”.

Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) spokesman Olwethu Sipuka said disabled people did not want handouts, but wanted to work and be independent. “What we want is to be able to work, to buy our own houses, to feed our own families and to live a fulfilling life,” said Sipuka.

On Thursday, DPSA members were to march to the Union Buildings to hand over a memorandum demanding that the disability sector be removed from the Social Development Department and placed under the Presidency, as it was in the 1990s.

“We don’t want to be put in the welfare state,” said Sipuka. “That perpetuates the stereotype that all we must get is grants.” Sipuka said that, as long as there was no political will, disability remained an issue for rhetoric.

But the study also made some positive findings. Graham said the most surprising result had been the closing of the education barrier. Sipuka agreed, saying that in 2002 only 0.3 percent of disabled people had achieved a degree, whereas now it was between 1 and 2 percent.

The study also found disabled people are playing a crucial role in households. “The strong family and household relationships are a huge source of support and often replace state support,” said Graham.

But Graham emphasises that it’s not a one-sided system – disabled people are also playing an integral role, supporting families with grants or income.

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The Star