IFP Calls for Greater Action and Commitment
The IFP pays tribute to all the brave and courageous individuals living with disabilities today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Proclaimed by the United Nations 20 years ago, this day is commemorated across the world, highlighting the plight and the difficulties faced by those living with disabilities.
South Africa is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Yet recent public hearings by the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities made it clear that we still have a long and difficult road to travel in order to meet the obligations of the Convention.
The IFP's Spokesperson on the Committee, Ms Liezl van der Merwe MP, said, "People with disabilities face all the challenges of unemployment and poverty, but with less chance of overcoming. It is difficult to judge whether we have made any strides in ensuring a better life for people with disabilities. In fact, I was shocked to learn that a large chunk of the budget of the Public Works Department, set aside to create disabled-friendly facilities at governments institutions, has not been spent over many years because the Department lacks the skills to do so. The IFP has therefore challenged Government to fulfil its accepted obligations."
Van der Merwe said many other critical challenges remain. "When members of the Portfolio Committee recently engaged the Department of Arts and Culture, it wasn't clear what progress has been made in ensuring that sign language becomes South Africa's 12th official language. Sign language is used by a substantial number of South Africans to communicate. In many instances, without access to sign language interpreters, South Africans with hearing disabilities will not be able to access their basic human rights, such as justice or healthcare. The status of the mooted Disability Legislation is unclear," said van der Merwe.
The IFP believes that many people with disabilities can inspire able-bodied South Africans through their message of perseverance and courage. These South Africans should be celebrated as well as assisted. "They have an overcoming spirit," said van der Merwe, "The IFP would like to encourage people with disabilities to live positively. They cannot allow their disability to prevent them from living their lives to the fullest and achieving their goals and dreams".
On this day, the IFP urges all South Africans not to discriminate against people with disabilities. They are not inferior in any way, but are a great asset to our nation.