As the nation marks 22 years of freedom today, Wednesday April 27, Tafelsig resident and Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) provincial secretary, Anthony George, believes a lot is still to be done for disabled people to ensure they enjoy the same constitutional freedoms as other citizens.
The 43-year-old paraplegic says a lot of inroads have been made by the government over the past 21 years in different sectors, but little progress has been made for the emancipation of disabled people.
“As disabled people we feel we are still marginalised, particularly in housing, jobs, transport and the economy. We are only free politically,” said Mr George.
His sentiments are borne out by Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, who said during Disability Rights Awareness Month (November 3 to December 3) last year that the staggering unemployment and poverty rates among persons with disabilities is a reminder of how much work still needs to be done to protect this sector of society. She said people with disabilities still face incredible challenges when it comes to obtaining employment and becoming financially stable.
However, Mr George stressed though that disabled people do not want special treatment, rather they want to be fully integrated into society.
“When the government is doing its budget for disabled people it must be bigger because we have special needs. We need bigger houses with enough space to move around. They must also be accessible,” he said.
“But if you look at the houses that are built by the government they don’t accommodate us.”
Mr George praised government policies, but questioned their implementation. He said the government should monitor all the funds it allocates to disabled people to ensure it served the right purpose.
He lambasted politicians for playing political games instead of serving disabled people. “About 99% of disabled people in the country are unemployed, and the disability grant alone cannot alleviate poverty,” Mr George said.
He said there were still people and family members who discriminate against disabled people.
“There are many disabled people in Mitchell’s Plain and some of them you only see during social grant payouts because their families lock them inside, while others are staying in old age homes,” he said.
He urged government to raise awareness to educate disable people. “We need to be educated to build our self-esteem, to change our mindset about ourselves. While some people are lazy, only relying on the grant, we also need to be recognised and be part of leadership in our communities,” he said.
Charles Murray, 60, co-founder of the The Greater Bullls Sports Club, urged disabled people to unite so that they could be heard. He said they were still being discriminated against because of their disabilities.
“Even if you ask for a job, people judge you on your appearance. People undermine us – they don’t see us as human beings,” said Mr Murray.
* Mr George can be contacted on 072 705 2596 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org