South Africa : South Africans make strides in accommodating disabled

By Gabi Khumalo

Johannesburg - People with disabilities are contributing to the economy, says the Inter Departmental Coordinating Committee on Disability (IDCCD).

Speaking on behalf of the IDCCD and the Inter Provincial Forum on Disability, during a National Disability Summit held on Tuesday, Sithembile Lunguza said government had done much to ensure people with disabilities contribute towards making South Africa a prosperous country.

He acknowledged the role played by the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP) in the Presidency in guiding the strategic intent as outlined in government's Programme of Action.

"During this summit, persons with disabilities from different formations commended government programmes on combating poverty, provision of social services and the preservation of values based on principles of equality, dignity and freedom," Mr Lunguza said.

He said, however, that the committees would undertake to better coordinate government programmes and projects to ensure that the resources are used in a more effective and efficient manner.

They further committed to serve their communities by joining hands in ensuring that people with disabilities and their families can partake in all aspects of life in a barrier free society.

"We are more than determined to partner with civil society and other strategic partners in the promotion, protection and equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities towards realising justice and dignity for all.

"We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts by the South African Disability Alliance of ensuring that there is one voice that articulates over issues of disability," Mr Lunguza said.

The two-day summit, themed: "Justice and dignity for all", was hosted by the Presidency to discuss the implementation of Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Convention and its Protocol were adopted on 13 December 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and opened for signature on 27 October 2007.

South Africa signed the Convention on 30 November 2007, committing to protecting the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring that they enjoy equal status in society.

Speaking on accessible public transport for people with disabilities, Kibi Manana from the Department of Transport told delegates that the department's strategic vision 2007 to 2020 is to develop a partnership between government, existing operators, transport users and the Department of Labour.

"Our vision is to move from operator-controlled, commuter-based, uni-modal routes to user-friendly, publicly- controlled, fully integrated, mass rapid public transport networks," Ms Manana said.

Speaking on access and awareness from cellphone company Cell C, Shumani Gereda said that the company has a five year plan to create an enabling environment for persons with disabilities including employees and clients.

He said that as part of the five year plan, the company has conducted a sensitivity workshop to sensitise all staff members to the needs of persons with disabilities.

"We have also embarked on the process of identifying problems in physical working environments through an access audit, which resulted in the construction of ramps where they did not exist," Mr Gereda said.

Regarding employment opportunities the company has employed about 12 people with disabilities in its various departments.

"Cell C supports Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and recognize their rights to work on an equal basis with others, this includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.

"We also support the purpose of the Convention to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disability," Mr Gereda said.