Andrew Louw MPL
DA Northern Cape Premier Candidate
Note: These are remarks made by DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader and Premier Candidate, Andrew Louw MPL, during a handover of a Braille version of the DA manifesto to the Ivy Cross Centre for the Blind in Kimberley, today.
It is wonderful to be able to visit the Ivy Cross Centre for the Blind today.
The Ivy Cross gives people hope and creates opportunity for visually impaired people. On behalf of the DA, I therefore wish to thank you for your hard work and dedication. The work this organization does is life changing for the visually impaired adults who pass through its doors.
I am especially pleased to be handing over the DA’s Braille version of the 2014 manifesto, “Together for Change, Together for Jobs”, to the Ivy Cross today.
Our national leader, Helen Zille, launched the Braille version of the manifesto in March. This is the first time ever that a political party in South Africa has championed such an initiative.
The DA believes a Braille version of the manifesto is important in order to allow visually impaired South Africans to fully engage in political processes.
The blind community is still largely sidelined. This is unacceptable. It is no longer enough to simply say the right thing. For visually impaired people, Braille is literacy and therefore provision must be made for them.
Braille literacy is an integral part of the DA’s vision of the “Open, Opportunity Society for All”. If we believe that every person should have the means to take advantage of the opportunities and freedoms enshrined within our Constitution, then Braille literacy is an essential component, just as sign language is for deaf people.
In an Opportunity Society, no one should be confined by the circumstances of their birth.
People with disabilities are entitled to the same rights as the rest of society. This includes the rights to dignity and respect, as well as the freedom to reach for their dreams.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often still sidelined at school, at work, with regards to access to public services and even within their social lives. This is unfair.
Ladies and gentleman, there is a strong statistical correlation between the ability to read Braille and employment.
In South Africa, the majority of people with disabilities are unemployed.
We need to empathize with people with disabilities so that we can understand what challenges they face. Only then can we start to set things right in order to give them a chance at a better life.
We all need to stand together to prioritize Braille literacy.
Interventions to include people with disabilities within the economy are critical.
We need to encourage innovation within the workplace so that more opportunities are created for people with disabilities.
Where the DA governs, we have been working hard to remove the barriers for people with disabilities.
We have dedicated and ring-fenced budgets in each Western Cape government department for people with disabilities.
There are 19 471 learners in 75 specialist schools in the Western Cape.
There are currently also 47 social service organizations for disability awareness in the Western Cape.
Together, these programmes assist 23 222 people with disabilities and their families.
In this regard, the Northern Cape compares poorly with the Western Cape. There is thus still much work to be done in the Northern Cape, under a new government.
Through handing over this Braille manifesto to the Ivy Cross today, the DA commits itself to building a truly inclusive South Africa, free from barriers and with many more opportunities for people with disabilities to participate fully.