Today marks the International Day of People with Disabilities, a United Nations sanctioned day that "aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being".
People with disabilities constitute the world's largest minority. However, they continue to face significant barriers in terms of integration in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
This is certainly true in South Africa, where the community of people with disabilities still face serious challenges in terms of their equal and integrated access to education, employment, accessibility and social security.
The majority of people with disabilities in South Africa are unemployed. Amongst the deaf, the incidence of unemployment is as high as 65%. Access to job opportunities is also restricted amongst a significant proportion of the community of people with disabilities with 10.5% of the disabled population having no education.
It is therefore very concerning that poor financial management and inappropriate spending priorities have become the defining characteristic of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) who should be at the forefront of creating an enabling environment for people with disabilities to live a valuable life.
Since its establishment in 2009, the DWCPD has routinely failed to spend the budgets in its "Rights of Persons with Disabilities" programme whilst maintaining massive over-expenditure on salaries and travel. This Department should be driving the dialogue and actively build networks to create educational and skills opportunities for people living with disabilities.
Speaking at an awareness event in Ceres today, I will be highlighting the need for strengthening networks of NGOs and civil society, actively working to improve employment and skills opportunities for people living with disabilities.
The DA will continue to raise awareness around the plight of people with disabilities. As the Department responsible for promoting, facilitating, coordinating and monitoring the realisation of the rights of women, children and people with disabilities, we will demand that Minister Xingwana assumes the crucial role of ensuring that people living with disabilities have access to the resources needed to improve their quality of life.
Helen Lamoela, Shadow Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities