“Inclusion matters: Access and empowerment for people of ALL abilities.” This is the theme that will be endorsed on Thursday, 3 December to observe this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The theme was launched by the United Nations for 2015 to draw attention on the situation of persons with invisible disabilities, such as mental health and psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities, as well as hearing (and visual) impairments.
To give prominence to the day locally, a “Disability Resource Fair” will be held at the Bishop Lavis Rehabilitation Centre from 11h00 to 13h00 on the day, where the public can access information, products and services.
Observance of the day will be accompanied on social media with hashtag #disabilitymustbeheard
The following topics will be covered at the fair:
- Accessible environments – What are my rights? What products and assistive devices are available?
- Sexual expression and disability – What do I need to know?
- Out and About – Driving, parking and transportation for persons with disability
- Education and Training – Where can I go? What is available?
- Healthy lifestyle – Free on-site testing for hypertension; diabetes; HIV; cholesterol and basic counselling on healthy living
- Ageing with a disability – Active ageing, preventing falls and detecting elderly abuse
Some sobering facts about disability are that 20% of the world’s poor are disabled; the percentage of children with disabilities not attending school is between 65 to 85% in some African countries; the mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80% and in many low-income and middle-income countries, only 5 to 15% of people with disabilities who require assistive devices and technology such as hearing aids, have access to them (UN, 2015).
Dr Diane Bell, Director of Academic Affairs at USB Executive Development and Member of the Presidential Working Group on Disability said that the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations sanctioned day, has been celebrated since 1992 as a means to promote an understanding of people with disability and to encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being.
“The main driver is to work towards ensuring an inclusive and accessible society for all. Considering that approximately one billion people worldwide have some form of disability and are faced with many challenges which prevent them from enjoying access to society on an equal basis with others, this is an important initiative”.
“Persons with disabilities are often denied full access to education, employment, transportation as well as social and political participation. This is in essence an infringement of their basic human rights and action needs to be taken in order to correct this situation”.
“It is of critical importance that persons with disabilities must be able to fulfil their role in society and participate on an equal basis with others. Instead of focusing on the (dis)ability, society needs to embrace their abilities. Having a disability is part of the human condition and at some point in our lives we will all become disabled (either temporarily or permanently),” Dr Bell said.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities provides for three sub-themes, being making cities inclusive and accessible for all, improving disability data and statistics and to include persons with invisible disabilities (such as mental and psychosocial disabilities) in society and development.
Dr Bell said while much still need be done, there have been some recent significant advancements in South Africa in taking the disability-agenda forward. These are the:
- DHET Ministerial Committee to develop a Strategic Policy Framework on Disability that was constituted on the 12th of December 2014 under the leadership of Dr Anlia Pretorius. The committee was mandated to develop a Strategic Policy Framework on Disability for Colleges, Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges, and Higher Educational Institutions of all types within 6 months.
- Presidential Working Group on Disability (PWGD), constituted during October 2015 and consisting of 35 disability sector representatives. It provides a strategic platform for decision-makers in government and civil society to discuss the sustainable integration of persons with disabilities into society and acceleration of the realisation of the socio-economic rights of persons with disabilities.
- Higher Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA): HEDSA, an NPO, was formed in 2006 with the core mandate of working towards ensuring equal opportunities for all students with disabilities in higher and further education.
“These are important initiatives which are serving the needs of persons with disabilities, working towards building an inclusive and accessible society for all,” Dr Bell said.
In light of International Day of People living with Disability, Dr Diane Bell was interviewed by Pippa Hudson, from Cape Talk, on 2 December 2015. The topic discussed was: how well or how badly South Africa does when it comes to inclusivity, and to draw attention to some of the key issues that need to be considered
Listen to the podcast here
Dr Diane Bell is also Executive Member of Higher Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA) and Trustee of Carel du Toit Centre (Where Deaf Children Learn to Speak)