City’s disabled demand equal opportunities

The Disability sector has unanimously rejected the stereotype that they only want hand-outs from government, they are demanding equal opportunities.

“My condition is an impairment not a disability. Disability is what society administers on me. It is through society’s doing that we [disabled people] can’t access certain government buildings, public transport and employment opportunities. Disabled people don’t want to deplete the government’s coffers through social grants,” said Dan Kekana, the Provincial Chairperson of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA).

More than 300 people from the disability sector representing different organisations across the City, convened at the Cosmo City Multi-Purpose Centre to participate in the City’s Inter-Regional Summit on Disability. The Summit was organised the by the Speaker’s Office to raise awareness and engage with the disabled residents of the City.

Among many issues raised, the following featured prominently: Lack of access to jobs, business opportunities, public transport, public spaces, housing and education. The disability sector is calling on the City to implement policies that address the plight of people with disabilities. The sector also reiterated that there should be nothing the government does in addressing their issues without first consulting and including them in the process.

“We wish the City to adopt a system whereby all the City employees go through what we call disability sensitisation. This should enable them to be sensitive when assisting people with disabilities,” said Kekana.

The Speaker of Council, Councillor Vasco Da Gama, said was it important to ensure that all building plans submitted to the City for approval comply when it comes to access for disabled people.

“As local government, we can make a huge difference in the lives of people with disabilities. In the way streets and walking paths are designed, built and kept free of obstructions, in the way building applications are approved taking access into account; through the accessibility of community facilities and service delivery. I’m very pleased that as the City of Johannesburg, we view this day of engagement with the disability sector with such importance and I trust that critical issues raised by people with disabilities have the same importance 365 days of the year when we’re making important Council decisions,” said Cllr. Vasco da Gama.

The Speaker said he was deeply concerned that, during the recent Integrated Development Planning (IDP) Regional Summits, there was a low attendance by people with disabilities, which indicated that there are serious barriers that limit the participation of disabled people in important consultation meetings. He said there were nine strategic pillars that will improve equal outcomes for people with disabilities which include: removal of barriers, access and participation, protection of the rights of disabled people. Reducing marginalisation through integration into the broader society and supporting sustainable integrated community life. Promoting and supporting the empowerment of people with disabilities, reducing economic vulnerability and releasing human capital potential by recognising skills and talent among the people with disabilities.

The Johannesburg Disability Forum (JDF) Chairperson, Nero Maseko said people without disabilities must understand and appreciate that the lives of people with disabilities are perpetual daily struggle. “All what we are saying is that we don’t special attention, but appropriate provision,” said Maseko.

The Disability sector welcomed the inaugural event by the new DA-led coalition and asked that it be an annual event. Organisations representing people with disabilities recognised Councillor Maharaj from COPE for proposing a motion for free bus transportation for PWD and the elderly during off- peak hours. They gave him an award, as a token of their appreciation saying how they welcomed the City’s unanimous support for this kind gesture and that is was a positive start to supporting people with disabilities.

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