South Africa observes Disability Month in November, where the daily challenges faced by people living with disabilities are thrust into the spotlight.
Masike highlighted the need for the department to take stock of all the services needed to provide for persons with disabilities and close the gaps where those in need are not being reached.
“We have over the years consistently distributed hearing aids, Braille material and walking sticks to persons with disabilities to make their lives more bearable… Let us make sure we have covered all of our brothers and sisters, especially those in rural areas that we sometimes tend to forget.”
The MEC said an integrated approach between the Departments of Home Affairs; Social Development; Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities; Justice and South African Social Security Agency was vital if the country were to improve its track record in meeting the needs of people with disabilities.
He commended persons with disabilities for establishing forums to assist government to speak with one voice, noting that such initiatives have helped in accessing people with disabilities and ensuring that government brought services closer to them.
Secretary General of the Disabled People South Africa, Andrew Madella, commended Masike’s call, saying people with disabilities also have talent and expertise which they can contribute to the country. But they found it hard to be accommodated in the workplace due to negative perceptions.
“Government has progressive policies like Employment Equity Act, which speaks to the reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities … but the problem is with implementation.
“We would like to see government adding in key performance area outcomes from each department and the mainstreaming and empowering of people with disabilities. In that way, people with disabilities will also be able to live a better life,” said Madella.
Presenting her department’s budget vote in June, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, announced that the department would develop and implement the National Accessibility Campaign.
The campaign is meant to focus on things such as reasonable accommodation in the work place, accessibility of buildings where government services are provided, promotion of Braille, sign language and other accessible communication formats.
“This campaign will be aimed at promoting the equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities,” Xingwana said at the time.
Some of the programmes the North West Health Department will be embarking on include the training of frontline staff at health facilities on sign language and providing hearing aids and wheelchairs to people with disabilities.
Nationally, both private and government are failing to meet the 2% employment rate of people with disabilities. In 2010, the employment rate was 0.9%.
The last report of the Employment Equity Commission showed that government was trailing behind the private sector with regard to employment of persons with disabilities. The State’s employment rate was 0.6%, while the private sector was at 1%.
Xingwana said they would ensure that each government department committed to clear milestones towards the attainment of the 2% employment equity for people with disabilities by holding every sphere of government accountable to the target.
She also stressed the need to work towards the attainment of the 4% target for skills development and 5% for procurement that needs to benefit people with disabilities.