KZN Government procrastinating in its response to disabled

By: Dr Imran Keeka, MPL DA KZN Spokesperson on Quality of Life At the end of this debate, after all the speakers have spoken, we must ask ourselves one fundamental question – “Have we done enough to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are met?” In asking this question of ourselves, we must in particular include the most vulnerable members of our province – the elderly, women and children. Before we enter into further discussion, I must, on a personal note voice my irritation – and I am certain that all Members will agree – with those who park in parking bays designated for disabled persons. Recently I found the vehicle of a senior politician parked in one of these bays. The issue is particularly close to home because my mother, who is disabled, needed the parking. This is not an isolated incident. Many have witnessed and voiced the concern that policemen, politicians and government workers feel they are entitled to rob disabled persons of their right and privilege to ease of access. Last night the Hon Tambo’s car could not use the designated bay at the hotel we stayed at, because an able bodied person was selfish and inconsiderate enough to occupy it. This says much about the society we live in, when in some instances, some leaders lead the wrong way. How do we know that these vehicles belong or don’t to persons with disabilities? Because permits are issued are displayed on windscreens. Madam speaker and Honourable Members, decision-makers – the politicians seated here and elsewhere – need to remember that our laws and policies cannot be discriminatory. They should be the instruments of equality that enhance identical accessibility, entrench all rights, change stereotypes and remove false perceptions about disability in particular. If we strongly believe this, and believe that everybody should have the liberty and means to use these instruments of law and policies, to bring about change especially today, when we speak of people with disabilities, we move that much closer to realising an `open opportunity society for ALL`. Why should people be held back because of the circumstances of their birth? Should not ALL people be entitled to the same equal rights and freedoms and most importantly the right to dignity and respect? This includes the right to make our lives what we wish and strive for, where we are not restricted by `overzealous` legislation. We are indeed culpable if we hold back on opportunities that can be created for people with disabilities as they are created for everyone else. To demonstrate, what I mean by some of these points, ask your selves the following. Have you considered, and I am certain that I am stating the obvious, that people with various disabilities cannot do many simple tasks that so many of us take for granted? Going to the beach is just one example. Apart from the fact that it is impossible to push a wheelchair on beach sand a disabled person knows that they will also have to; * Pay a fee, * Fill in endless forms, * Await a restrictive permit, Only then is their car allowed to go onto the sand and enjoy what so many able bodied people can without this biased red tape. The Hon Edna Molewa has reconfirmed this prejudice in a response to parliamentary questions about access to our beaches under the jurisdiction of iSiMangaliso and all other beaches. If this one example is not enough to demonstrate that we have such restrictive and discriminatory laws against people with disabilities, then we need to examine the depth of empathy and compassion we have when we append our signatures to laws that restrict and rob people of their rights that so many profess to be the champions off. I also cannot omit mentioning the lack of access to the Berea Police station by the elderly and disabled, first raised by my Hon Colleague Viranna a year ago. At this police station, staff have to attend to people in their cars simply because provision has not been adequately made for them to enter the building. It remains that way! According to census 2011 of KZN’s population, 8.4% of our people have disabilities. This roughly translates to around 862,000 people. Disability may be congenital or acquired. You may be born with various disabilities such as spinal deformities or an intellectual disability or blindness. As the Quadpara Association of SA once put it: “we don’t want any more members” many members are victims of accidents. Stroke especially young stroke is becoming more prevalent as is disability from diseases such as HIV and TB as well as NCD’s such as Diabetes and High Blood pressure – to mention others Whatever the cause of disability, whether through medical negligence or as a circumstance of birth, the majority of people are dependent on the state and two particular departments more than others, these being Health and Social Development. This government has recognised and I quote; “Unemployment and social isolation, poverty forms part of the key issues that contribute to the exclusion and cumulative disadvantages experienced by People with Disabilities.” And; “Social integration becomes compromised when access to basic services is denied. For example, social integration of Deaf, Blind and Deaf-Blind People is still hampered by communication limitations between people with these disabilities and society they live in. At the same time, the formal employment of People with Disabilities, in accordance with the Employment Equity Act, is occurring at a slow and rather tedious rate. This is mainly attributed to the shortage and lack of appropriate skills and inadequate training amongst People with Disabilities, and a shortage of resources to support the employment of People with Disabilities. The situation is compounded by the inaccessibility of transport; information and the built environment, contributing to the challenges People with Disabilities face in an attempt to achieving sustainable livelihoods.”[1] Having noted this, I ask the following; How has KZN’s Health department played its role in the healthcare of people with disabilities and how have developmental services been provided by the province’s Social Development department? Challenges affecting people, other than those already highlighted above, were mentioned by the disabled themselves as delegates to parliament for People with Disabilities. They listed, cluster by cluster, those matters that that affect them and whilst government acknowledges their plight – yet again it procrastinates in response. Whilst the KZN Health department has assured us in response to parliamentary questions, that orthotic devices and devices such as canes for the blind and wheelchairs are available, the voices of people spoke volumes about whether this information is acceptable or not. The MEC needs to tell us why this disparity exists. Has this department ensured that the vulnerable and people with disabilities are prioritised when they visit our facilities? If the answer is yes, I can confidently say this is far from the truth and we need to ask why? People are stripped of the dignity, humanity are humiliated [including people with Albinism], scolded at and ignored by people who should be taking care of them when they are most in need. As the committee was informed about Madadeni Hospital and I can add the Kwa-Dukuza Home Affairs office Clearly something is amiss. Employment or rather unemployment remains a massive challenge. Other than the massive number of people who have lost their jobs since 2009, people with disabilities are specifically affected. This is emphasised by government’s failure to employ people with disabilities. I do not have the time but refer you to article 5 of the DISABILITY RIGHTS CHARTER OF SOUTH AFRICA where this demand for employment is spelt out. There must be inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and innovation is required to achieve this faster. I should like to quote the following from the Premier of the Western Cape; “The DA therefore promotes employment and skills development opportunities for all people with disabilities through the broad-based score card. We however recommend that the relevant provisions in the codes be amended to include all persons with disabilities regardless of their ‘race’. The current provisions limit recognition to black employees with disabilities. Where the DA governs, we have been working hard to remove barriers for people with disabilities. We have dedicated and ring-fenced budgets in each Western Cape government department for people with disabilities.” The reality that all of this demonstrates, other than the interventions in the WC, is one of an economy and society where people with disabilities do not have the same opportunities that everyone else has. Change lies not only in innovatively dealing with societal, health and employment challenges only, but the greater need to dismiss through the ballot box those who perpetuate this and other macro-challenges faced by our great country today. Hope, Opportunity and Excellence is the offering of the DA to South Africa. [END] ##################################################################################### Scanned by MailMarshal – M86 Security’s comprehensive email content security solution. Download a free evaluation of MailMarshal at www.m86security.com #####################################################################################