Meeting SummaryThe Portfolio Committee and the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities, held a public hearing to consider the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The submissions looked at progress made in implementation; challenges to implementation: and recommendations of mechanisms to aid implementation. The recurring theme through all submissions was the ‘levelling of the playing ground’ to ensure inclusion of disabled persons and the need for government policies to align with implementation.
Oral Submissions for the first day of the hearing were as follows: Access for Broad Based Black Disability Economic Empowerment – Submission by SADECO Quantum Consulting; Disability Studies and Occupational Therapy – Dr Thereza Lorenzo and Prof Harsha Kathard; Submission by the Transport User’s Group – Mr Zukile Ngobo; Education and Training for Empowerment – Ms Bongi Zuma; Down Syndrome South Africa – Ms Vanessa Dos Santos; Empowerment Programme: Children with Disabilities & their Families. Experience of implementation of UN CRPD in Orange Farm, Gauteng – Ms Louise Bick; Violence against Women with Intellectual Disabilities and Women with Psychosocial Disabilities; Promoting Access to Justice – Dr Helen Combrinck; Protecting the Most Vulnerable: Children with Disabilities in KwaZulu Natal – Ms Rehana Mahomed and Ms Upasna Ramballi; Submission by the South African Human Rights Commission – Commissioner Bokankatla Malatji and Ms Judith Cohen; Right to Education for Children with Disabilities (R2E CWD) – Ms Robyn Bath; Early Childhood Development (ECD): Subgroup on the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities (R2E CWD) – Ms Sue PhilPott; Submission by the KwaNothemba Workshop for the Disabled – Ms Nolwandle Qhaba; and Individual Submissions by Mr Patrick Diedericks and Ms Michele Tonks.
SADECO Quantum Consulting focused on access to financial services for people with disabilities in order to promote entrepreneurship. Occupational therapists from UCT Health Sciences Faculty said that rehabilitation needed to be made part of the Primary Healthcare System. The Transport User’s Group said Parliament had to ensure that the provisions of Acts catering to the needs of People with Disabilities were in fact implemented. CREATE spoke about community leaders struggling to understand about the rights of people with disabilities and some government officials having no interest in learning about the Convention. Down Syndrome South Africa suggested protective workshops should be turned into skills development centres and all staff should be trained as job coaches so that people with intellectual disabilities could be employed in the open labour market. Mr Patrick Diedericks related his personal experiences as a person living with disability and the need for the implementation of the Convention.
Ms Louise Bick, a public interest lawyer, presented on the challenges of implementing the Convention in Orange Farm, Gauteng. There was a prevalence of sexual abuse amongst children living with disabilities in Orange Farm. All reported cases had not yet led to any convictions. In every case where the rape was reported, the perpetrator had been seen back in Orange Farm by the victim. The Centre for Disability Law of the University of Western Cape spoke about the Cape Mental Health Society’s Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment (SAVE) programme that had ensured successful convictions of offenders sexually assaulting women with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. A social worker in KZN suggested that the Departments of Education, Health and Social Development should develop a partnership to monitor and evaluate the number of children receiving a grant, being educated, stimulated and receiving medical care. If a register or record was kept of these children, monitoring for abuse and neglect could be detected and addressed more efficiently. Ms Michele Tonks, the mother of a profoundly deaf child, highlighted issues which the deaf were faced with on a daily basis. The South African Human Rights Commission recommended that Parliament through its powers of oversight ensure that South Africa complied with its reporting obligations, as reporting helped to reflect on past achievements and future goals as a country. Further, in conjunction with Article 33(2) of the Convention, it was necessary to create a framework that ensured adequate monitoring as signatory states had an obligation to designate focal points. It was thus necessary to establish an independent body for monitoring and this was yet to be designated in South Africa. R2E CWD’s National Campaign, comprising a number of organisations, promoted the right to education for children with disabilities, with particular reference to the implementation of Article 24. It recommended that strategies conceptualised at a national level need to be implemented at provincial and district level. The Disability Action Research Team looked at the implementation of the Convention through the lens of early childhood development for children with disabilities. It recommended prioritising early learning for children with disabilities as part of the right to education. A worker from the KwaNothemba Workshop for the Disabled in Khayelitsha spoke about the progress made by the workshop and the challenges it faced.
Members remarked that despite the availability of policies protecting the rights of people with disabilities, there was a dearth regarding the issue of implementation. It had become necessary that Parliament used its powers of oversight to ensure implementation. Members noted that it had become pertinent to probe why NGOs such as Down Syndrome South Africa had no state-funded support. Members remarked that without the appropriate skills and knowledge it was impractical to insist that the labour market, particularly on managerial level, employ a fixed percentage of people with disabilities. In light of this, it was suggested that to tackle the lack of availability of skilled disabled persons, 4% of learnerships should go to persons with disabilities. Critical skills such as finance and sciences must be made available to people with disabilities. The Committee decried the shortage of occupational and physio-therapists in the Primary Healthcare System. Members reiterated the need for Parliament to ensure implementation of policies protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
The Co Chairperson, Ms D Ramodibe (ANC), gave a brief background on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the progress had made so far in its implementation in South Africa. The Convention was signed and ratified in 2007 by South Africa and it signed the Optional Protocol. There were currently 153 Member States as signatories to the Convention. South Africa agreed to be one of the pilot countries and committed itself to the treaty obligations. South Africa was however yet to deliver on its initial country report which was due in May 2010. Parliament played a key role in ensuring respect of persons living with disability and in using its power of oversight to ascertain implementation of the provisions of the Convention.
SADECO Quantum Consulting submission
Mr Andre Ward’s submission to the Committee centred on the lack of and need to provide innovative financing solutions for disabled persons. He highlighted the abysmal statistics of access to services including financial services for people with disabilities. South Africa had a range of Financial Service Charters targeted at people with disabilities, particularly black disabled/disadvantaged persons. Although these Charters had good intentions, there had been poor implementation to date.
In particular, Article 27 of the Convention dealt with issues of work and employment as a right for persons living with disabilities. The Convention argued for the government to create capacity for employment. This included persons with disabilities creating their own enterprises through entrepreneurship. In doing this there must be a self-sustainable Disability Capital Base from which to support not only private citizens with disabilities, but the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) or Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs). Also, access to Finance for Disabled People (AFDP) Mechanisms must be set up over five to ten years for them to become economically viable, and the necessary protocols developed between public institutions and private sector role players to establish the Access to Finance for Disabled People Mechanisms.
The challenge of the Financial Service Sector particularly with regard to persons living with disabilities included the presence of very few large institutions. Many of the smaller and foreign institutions had exited the market in recent years. There were low levels of black participation, especially of black women, with people with disabilities practically non-existent, in meaningful ownership or management in high-level skilled positions in the sector. There was an inadequate response by the sector to the increasing demand for access to financial services by 4.8 million disabled people. There was ineffective provision of credit to entrepreneurs, particularly black businesses, more so for businesses owned and managed by disabled people.
Recommendations from the submission included: Adoption by government of innovative and specific target models for financial services for people with disabilities. This meant advising the Ministers of Finance, Trade and Industry, Public Enterprises, Economic Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, Women, Children and Person with Disabilities and National Planning Commission to coordinate mechanism providing Access to Finance for Disabled Persons (AFDP); ensure proper implementation of provisions of the Financial Service Charters; provision of timelines and report back mechanisms to the Committee every three and five years.
Disability Studies and Occupational Therapy: UCT Health Sciences Faculty submission
Dr Theresa Lorenzo, Programme Convenor: Disability Studies and Occupational Therapy, gave a background into the studies carried out so far. A total of 985 youths were involved in the study: 53% were disabled and 47% non-disabled. The results from the study indicated that both groups had equal access to health facilities and personnel as well as a similar amount of support from families. There was a significant difference in building social and intimate relationships between both groups, with people with disabilities being at a disadvantage. People with disabilities highlighted sporting facilities and transportation as specific infrastructure challenges. The majority of people with disabilities were unable to complete school and had little or no access to further studies at higher institutions. People with disabilities relied heavily on social welfare grants. There was little knowledge about disability information and sensitivity for both groups.
Recommendations included greater use of all forms of media to disseminate information; formation of public private partnerships to cater for accessible disability transportation in particular; government learning to be accountable to its partners to encourage sustainability; provision of sport facilities for people with disabilities; higher institutions to adapt exposure mechanisms and models to disabled students; disabled persons representation on key government decision-making boards; increased financial support and provision of bursaries targeted at people with disabilities wanting to attend higher education institutions.
Prof Harsha Kathard, Director: Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, focused on the issues of Rehabilitation and Habilitation as prescribed in Article 26 of the Convention. The high burden of disease in South Africa increased the prevalence of disabilities in South Africa. Certain illnesses predisposed patients to disabilities such as physical and muscular complications arising from strokes, and HIV/TB leading to an increase in the number of children with hearing loss. Rehabilitation was necessary in schools, homes and the community at large. Rehabilitation therapists- occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech-language therapists, audiologists – were among the health professionals who work as a team with other health professionals - nurses, doctors and community workers and the families to achieve optimum rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation supported persons living with Disabilities (PWD) to be reintegrated into the work place. Children with disability who attend mainstream classrooms in poor communities who had difficulties with speaking, perceptual problems, motor coordination and learning disability - did not benefit from rehabilitation – compromising their academic success. Rehabilitation therefore was not only the responsibility of Department of Health but the collective responsibility of all sectors to ensure successful re-integration. Unfortunately, the greater population of the community did not have access to rehabilitation services: 80% of the services were in privately owned health facilities which only about 20% of the population could access. The patient to therapist ratio in South Africa was 1:25,000 whereas in countries such as the United Kingdom it stood at 1:4,000. Therapists were trained in South Africa but unfortunately were not retained in the Public Health Sector, hence the need arose for them to seek ‘greener pastures’ outside the country. This in effect was a great disservice as resources - fiscal and otherwise - went into the training of the therapist and there was no corresponding dividend when they remained unemployed by the State. Further, therapists did not feature in the district healthcare system alongside other health care professionals such as nurses and doctors. The re-engineering of the health care system was an opportunity to ensure that therapist featured within the district health care system.
Recommendations included: Rehabilitation should be regarded as a right; Rehabilitation Service provision should be a priority – there must be high level intervention by the joint actions of the Ministries of Health Education, Social Development and Women, Children and People with Disabilities to accelerate this process. Service provision through the Department of Health must be implemented in the re-engineering of Primary Healthcare System. Increase the number of therapists and support workers; Develop a strategy to prevent disability; Employ therapists and other support workers to deliver services from acute care to home care and facilitate reintegration; Essential political action is necessary and our collective partnerships can make a difference.
Transport User’s Group submission
Mr Zukile Ngobo, a person living with disability, highlighted with practical examples, the fact that the provisions of the Constitution, the Employment Equity Act and the Black Economic Empowerment Act which secured the rights of PWD were not being honoured by departments nationwide. There was only one library for the blind, which was situated in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape - blind persons in other provinces had no access to libraries.
His recommendations included: the need for South Africans to inculcate a culture of respect for PWDs; equal employment opportunities for all; Parliament must ensure that the provisions of Acts catering to the needs of PWDs were in fact implemented; non disabled persons on boards or in management of organisations/institutes catering for people with disabilities who were not performing at optimal capacities should be redeployed; the judiciary should take up the challenge to ensure that rights of PWDs were adequately protected from violation of any kind.
CBR Education and Training for Empowerment (CREATE) submission
Ms Bongi Zuma, Advocacy Officer for the non-government organization, CBR Education and Training for Empowerment (CREATE), based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal made a submission detailing CREATE’s progress, challenges and recommendations on the Convention.
On it progress, CREATE had translated the Convention up to Article 30 into isiZulu in 2008, although the translation needed proof reading, which would be done when the funds were available. CREATE had designed a picture version of the Convention for illiterate people and had translated a child-friendly version of the Convention into Afrikaans and isiZulu. CREATE had run workshops to raise awareness of the Convention for people with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, traditional leaders, municipal officials, district focal persons, child and youth care workers, and Community Rehabilitation Facilitators. Through funding from the Foundation of Human Rights four persons were trained as photojournalists (two youths with disabilities, one adult with a disability and a parent of a child with a disability). The photos taken were used to make banners on Articles 5, 7, 19,24, 26 and 27 of the Convention. CREATE had worked together with the Legal Resources Centre to fashion a training manual on the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA). The manual was available in English and isiZulu. Thus far approximately 100 human rights activists (mainly people with disabilities) from five districts in KwaZulu Natal had been trained about the Equality Courts and PEPUDA. During the run up to the national elections in 2009, CREATE invited political parties to address people with disabilities about their manifestos. As a result, a number of people with disabilities were motivated to register to vote for the first time. During elections people with disabilities were employed by the IEC in most local municipalities in uMgungundlovu and uThukela Districts. In 2010, when South Africa was due to report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CREATE together with the Umgungundlovu Disability Forum (which was made up of non government organizations and disabled people’s organizations) drew up a shadow report on implementation of the CRPD in its district. This shadow report was submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the section on Article 24, with the case study, was read out at the Conference of State Parties in September 2010, by the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, Mr Shuaib Chalklen.
Challenges faced by CREATE in the implementation of the Convention included community leaders struggling to understand the issue of rights of people with disabilities; some government officials had no interest in learning about the Convention; training manuals and the newsletters were not useful to people who were illiterate or blind and limited funding had restricted the provision of Braille or cassette alternatives.
Recommendations included: enlightening government officials and community leaders who could be shown that the Convention was not extra work - all that was needed was to ensure their programmes were in line with the Convention; encouraging self–resubmission of people with disabilities at ward level; community radio submissions; translate information on the Convention and its implementation into indigenous languages; implementation of the Convention should not be only for people with disabilities but every community or government structure must play a role.
Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA) submission
Ms Vanesa Dos Santos, DSSA National Executive Director, said DSSA was committed to finding ways to improve the quality of life of all persons with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, promoting the fact that they had the right to live with independence, dignity and security as valued adults and full citizens. DSSA had a strong ethos about inclusion - every child could achieve his true and full potential through inclusion. This implied inclusion from birth through all aspects of life and ultimately achieving full citizenship as adults. Children with Down syndrome were immediately put at a disadvantage because of the characteristic distinguishing facial features associated with the syndrome. In reality, there was very little support or services for people with intellectual disabilities and this was even more evident in the rural and poorer areas in South Africa.
Community leaders and members did not have the necessary knowledge about the disability. They had negative attitudes and stereotyped beliefs about people with disabilities. There was a high prevalence of sexual abuse of persons with intellectual disabilities. These cases of abuse often went unreported due to the fact that in some instances people with Down syndrome or other intellectual disabilities were not aware of the fact that they were being abused. The majority of reports of discrimination related to children being denied access to education. Very often for those who did manage to get into regular schools, many were told to leave soon thereafter. Due to the discrimination faced at regular schools, parents were left with no choice but to leave their child at home or place them in special schools. DSSA strongly felt the curriculum in special schools was not suitable and did not sufficiently prepare people with intellectual disabilities for inclusive and meaningful employment. Access to services remained an area of concern such as health care and early intervention programmes especially in the rural and poorer areas. Health care professionals were not sufficiently knowledgeable on certain conditions such as Down syndrome- the parents were blamed for the child’s condition
Specific recommendations were made by Ms Dos Santos, focusing on the following articles in the Convention in order to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities:
Article 8 – Awareness raising: increase awareness around the various intellectual disabilities;
Article 12 – Equal recognition before the law: people with intellectual disabilities must be seen as equal and therefore able to explore their rights;
Article 16 – Freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse: ensure safety and security for people with intellectual disabilities;
Article 19 – Living independently and being included in the community - protective workshops should be turned into skills development centres and all staff should be trained as job coaches so that people with intellectual disabilities could be employed in the open labour market; Small homes for people with intellectual disabilities to ensure independent living in the community;
Article 24 – Education: All schools should be totally inclusive and special schools should only accept children who were severely and profoundly intellectually disabled;
Article 25 – Health: Improve health care and access for people with intellectual disabilities. Reduce mortality rates of babies and children with Down syndrome,
Article 27 – Work and employment: Focus on employment for people with intellectual disabilities in the open labour market.
Ms Louise Bick submission
A public interest lawyer, Ms Louise Bick, presented on the challenges and experiences of implementation of the Convention in Orange Farm, Gauteng and made recommendations.
There was a prevalence of sexual abuse amongst children living with disabilities (CWD) in Orange Farm. Sexual abuse was underreported and increasingly difficult to report. The capacity of CWD to report sexual abuse and correctly recall and relay details of such abuse as witnesses was not sufficiently recognized and limited as no accommodation was specifically made by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for this. All reported cases had not yet led to convictions. In every case where the rape was reported, the perpetrator had been seen back in Orange Farm by the victim. Bail was set very low and there was little to no communication of bail conditions to the complainant. Family members of the perpetrator or the general community intimidated the victims. Information on any form of public assistance, support services or facilities provided by government departments remained very difficult to access by persons with disabilities or families of CWD. Child protection agencies were under resourced and faced similar challenges and there was a lack of proactivity and urgency by the State authorities in carrying out their legislated role of protecting children in potential danger by the authorities. There was a lack of CWD-specific protection and advocacy training within organizations dealing with child abuse. There was a general disregard of cases that happened a while ago, or that had lost physical evidence or of cases of sexual abuse that did not involve penetration and a general sense of acceptance and complacency of the situation. Parents and caregivers fail to adequately protect their children, report abuse or follow up on cases that were reported.
The majority of CWD living at Orange Farm were denied access to education. Local schools were not inclusive and sending CWD to school cost much more than sending children to mainstream local schools in the community. Schools were far away, and transportation was a financial and
logistic barrier. CWD were turned away from local mainstream schools when their families first tried to admit them or were excluded from local crèches or day-care from when they were very young on the basis of their disability. CWD were unable to find a school placement to start school. There was a lack of information for families of CWD about how to apply for school. The Department of Health failed to facilitate assessment for young children under six years old who were likely to have special education needs. There was the prevalence of abuse or poor treatment in schools, day-care or on the transport to get to school and general negative attitudes towards CWD.
Recommendations included: Expanding empowerment and participation of CWD and their families to be equal beneficiaries of Government services as per Article 9 of the Convention; Better collaboration and focused attention on CWD between health, social development, justice and education systems as per Article 33 of the Convention; Training to promote disability rights and combat disabling attitudinal and environmental barriers across the criminal justice and education systems as per Article 4(1)(i) of the Convention; the provision of a dedicated special school/ training centre in Orange Farm in addition to the roll-out of full-service schools and accessible transport solutions as per Article 24(2)(b) of the Convention.
Mr Patrick Diedericks submission
Mr Patrick Diedericks related his personal experiences as a person living with disability and the need for the implementation of the Convention. Although not born with a disability, he was involved in an accident which left him disabled. After recuperation at hospital, he made several fruitless attempts to secure a job and was repeatedly rejected because of his disability. Consequently, he hid his disability and applied for a job with a private firm. He was employed but on discovery that he was disabled, he was retrenched. Eventually, he was employed by the Department of Correctional Services where he works to date. As a PWD he highlighted some of the day to day challenges of PWDs. Public transportation, especially taxis, taxi ranks, trains and train stations were not suitable for use by disabled persons. Specialized schools were situated far away from the reach of those living with disabilities and when the schools were within reach there were long waiting lists, hence pupils could not access education easily. Parents therefore did not send their children to school. Most working disabled persons work in inhumane conditions. There were no specific guidelines to cover sick leave for people with disabilities.
Centre for Disability Law and Policy, University of the Western Cape submission
Dr Helen Combrinck, Senior Researcher Centre for Disability Law and Policy, University of the Western Cape, highlighted Articles 5, 6, 13 and 16 as the basis for promoting access to justice for women with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities under the Convention. The major barriers to accessing justice for women with disabilities in South Africa had been identified as: physical (access to police stations, police stations not equipped for disabled persons), communicational, procedural and evidentiary.
The Centre for Disability Law of the University of Western Cape in conjunction with Cape Mental Health Society and the Gender, Health & Justice Unit of the University of Cape Town had embarked on a project targeted at tackling violence against women with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities. The project spanned across the provinces of Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Gauteng. So far, 55 interviews had been conducted both with direct and indirect service providers. Although the project was still ongoing, preliminary impressions suggested that the Cape Mental Health’s Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment (SAVE) programme was responsible for the difference between the victims in the Western Cape and other provinces. It was evident that SAVE had been very successful and had assisted in ensuring successful convictions of offenders. In the other provinces, there had been no dedicated programmes for victims, hardly any reports on cases of sexual assault of victims going to court and no successful cases in court.
Recommendations included: Expanding the SAVE programme beyond the Western Cape and beyond intellectual disability and providing adequate funding as the SAVE program was currently not funded by the government; training of criminal justice personnel; forming partnership between government and civil society.
Association for Physically Challenged with Disabilities submission
Ms Rehana Mahomed, Social Work Manager, presented a review of the challenges that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) experience when dealing with children needing statutory intervention. Different case studies were reviewed to arrive at the conclusions on the challenges currently faced and recommendations on needs to be met by the Convention.
Despite comprehensive policy on empowering, protecting and promoting the rights of people with disabilities, the case studies presented revealed a discrepancy and inadequacy within actual government structures. Kwa-Zulu Natal currently had no ‘place of safety’ which specifically accommodated children with disabilities. Existing ‘Places of Safety’ were not accessible and staff had not been trained or sensitised to care for children with disabilities. Another alarming concern was the period of time that it took the NGOs to secure placement of children with disabilities. Medical personnel and support staff were not trained effectively or sensitised to the needs of children with disability. Healthcare staff were unable to detect or report suspected abuse to relevant authorities. There was limited funding to homes catering for children with special needs; The Police were not sensitised to work with children who had disabilities. There was a lack of appropriate court systems in place to accommodate the abused child with a disability that inhibited his/her ability to communicate; Often homes subjected to severe poverty deprived children with disabilities an opportunity to attend school. There was limited funding provided to NGOs initiating protection and life skills programmes for children with special needs, and limited support, training and funding provided to schools to begin inclusive education. There was inaccessible transport for children with special needs to access schools, stimulation centres and crèches. Lack of programmes to capacitate or employ caregivers for children with disabilities impacted on the appropriate usage of the grant as many homes living in poverty utilised the grant for survival.
Recommendations included: Social workers and other professionals involved in the care and protection of children with disabilities should be sensitised and trained on disability. Specific training should be done on the South African Sign Language; Funding for statutory workers in the field of disability should be created and subsidised by the Department of Social Development; A resource directory should be developed, updated and circulated by the Department of Social Development to all organisations undertaking statutory work for children with disabilities; Immediate action should be undertaken by the Department of Social Development to make facilities particularly places of safety and children’s homes accessible and available in KwaZulu Natal to children with disabilities; Facilities already accommodating children with disabilities should be given an increase in subsidy as children with special needs require more resources; The Department of Social Development should make programme funding available to initiate education and awareness programmes that focus on the rights of people with disabilities and resources available to them; The Departments of Education, Health and Social Development should develop a partnership to monitor and evaluate the number of children receiving a grant, being educated, stimulated and receiving medical care. If a register or record was kept of these children, monitoring for abuse and neglect could be detected and addressed more efficiently; Accessible transport should be made available specifically for children with disabilities needing to attend school, crèche or stimulation centres; The Department of Justice need to be sensitised to the needs of caregivers and children with disabilities in court. Efforts should be made to protect the child from secondary abuse of the current court system.
Ms Upasna Ramballi, Social Worker, updated the Committee on the work done so far as regards children living with disabilities in KZN, particularly the KZN Deaf Association. The NGOs within the field of disability had established the Durban Disability Forum. This forum met regularly to address gaps in service delivery and challenges experienced within the sector. The forum included representatives from relevant Government Departments. One of the major challenges facing the sector had been the statutory placement of children with disabilities in KwaZulu Natal. The Department of Social Development had approached the Forum about this challenge and proposed that a pilot project be initiated to transform places of safety within Ethekwini. A task team was formed through the Disability Forum to undertake a formal research study to explore the challenges faced when placing children with disabilities at each place of safety. The results were analysed and a research report was completed and presented to the Department of Social Development. The findings of the study were well received and two tasks teams emerged. The first task team (Resubmission from the Disability Forum) was mandated to draw up a business plan that considered the recommendations and highlighted issues of training and sensitisation amongst staff within the places of safety. The second task team (Resubmission from Department of Social Development) was mandated to address recommendations that highlighted issues of structural adaptations and human resources. A business plan had been submitted to the Department of Social Development. The Department of Social Development had requested that the project be extended to an additional three places of safety within KwaZulu Natal. The forum was still waiting for a written approval of the business plan. The Department of Social Development task team had trained staff within places of safety on legislation and policy on disability but had not provided feedback on any of the other issues.
Recommendations included: The Convention should be workshopped with all Government Departments; Internal policies and funding should be aligned to and prioritised to the relevant Articles of the Convention; Partnerships should be sustained and developed between organisations working with disability and government; Inter and Intra government collaboration needed to be a priority in making the Convention a reality for South Africa.
Ms Michele Tonks submission
Ms Michele Tonks, the mother of a profoundly deaf child, highlighted issues which people living with disabilities, particularly the deaf, were faced with on a daily basis and for which provision need to be made to remedy the situation. News - there were no subtitles for news casting, hence those with hearing impairments could not follow the news; Schools - there were no hearing devices in universities, teachers in mainstream schools had no knowledge of dealing with hearing impaired children, universities and colleges were not accessible to persons with hearing impairment. Banks were not accessible to persons with hearing impairment; Cinemas and theatres were not properly equipped for hearing impaired viewership. Persons with hearing impairment were usually at a loss at airports as the loud announcements, background noises and distant speakers all interfered with hearing devices. Emergency call lines did not take into account persons with hearing impairment. Hospitals, police stations, driver learning schools etc were all inaccessible to persons with hearing impairments.
South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) submission
Commissioner Bokankatla Malatji and Miss Judith Cohen briefly summarised the contents of the SAHRC submission. Commissioner Malatji noted that the theme of all the submissions so far had been the ‘levelling of the playing ground’ to ensure people with disabilities could partake in everyday normal activities like the non disabled. He stressed that it was pertinent that in implementation, citizens should be guided by the principles of equality, non discrimination and dignity.
Ms Judith Cohen recommended that Parliament through its powers of oversight ensured that South Africa complied with its reporting obligations, as reporting helped to reflect on past achievements and future goals as a country. Further, in conjunction with Article 33(2) of the Convention, it was necessary to create a framework that ensured adequate monitoring as signatory states had an obligation to designate focal points. It was thus necessary to establish an independent body for monitoring and this was yet to be designated in South Africa.
R2E CWD submission
Ms Robyn Bath, Manager presented the R2E CWD’s National Campaign, comprising a number of civil society organisations which promoted the right to education for children with disabilities, with particular reference to the implementation of Article 24 of the Convention. The submission examined progress made in terms of the implementation of Article 24, challenges to implementation and recommendations of methods to facilitate the implementation of Article 24.
On progress made, there had been the establishment of Full Service Schools across the country and an increase in the number of learners with disabilities included in ordinary public schools. The introduction of the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support Strategy (SIAS) to co-ordinate and guide the provision of support for learners with special needs. There had been court case response to educational needs of children with severe intellectual disability; and generally, examples of good inclusive practices in effect at many schools across the country.
Challenges the R2E CWD’s National Campaign experienced included: Insufficient mechanisms for early identification and intervention for children with disabilities; Lack of integrated strategies for quality learning opportunities for children with disabilities; Disproportionately large percentage of learners with disabilities were out-of-school. Only 4 to 5% of children with disabilities were attending ECD facilities; Concept of “quality” education had yet to be adequately defined by the Government; Very few schools implemented reasonable accommodations for learners with disabilities and so no learning occurred on an equal basis with peers; Very few assistive devices available for children with disabilities; No specific training of teaching personnel for teaching children with disabilities and specialised training in Braille, sign language or Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) not a requirement for teachers teaching children with disabilities.
Recommendations included: Prioritise early learning for children with disabilities as part of right to education; Strengthen habitation and rehabilitation services for children with disabilities; Implementation of White Paper 6 needed to be prioritised; Structures, processes and strategies conceptualised at a national level need to be implemented at provincial and district level; Teacher training must be seen as a critical necessity.
Disability Action Research Team (DART) submission
Ms Sue Philpott presented on the implementation of the Convention through the lens of early childhood development for children with disabilities. Progress made included the right to equal and non discriminatory education for children with disabilities as per Article 24 of the Convention; children with disabilities had equal rights with regard to family life as per Article 23(3) of the Convention. Tthese rights had further been guaranteed in the Children’s Act and a host of other legislation. As per Article 25 of the Convention, States had a responsibility to “provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities...” The improved format of the new Road to Health Booklet (Dept of Health) had a section monitoring the achievement of different developmental milestones of young children. This allowed for the possibility of early identification of developmental delays/disability as well as for referral for early intervention. Challenges discussed were: Insufficient mechanisms for early identification and intervention for children with disabilities; Lack of integrated strategies for quality learning opportunities for children with disabilities. Recommendations included: Prioritise early learning for children with disabilities as part of the right to education; Strengthen habilitation and rehabilitation services for young children with disabilities as per Article 26(10) and encourage Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) as a model.
KwaNothemba Workshop for the Disabled submission
Ms Nolwandle Qhaba, a representative of the KwaNothemba Workshop for the Disabled and a person living with disability herself, related the progress made by the workshop and the challenges it faced. The Workshop was located in Khayelitsha, Cape Town and was established to help empower people with disabilities to be self sufficient. The workshop admitted people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 60 and they were trained in vocational skills including woodwork, paper recycling, baking and sewing. The products made were sold to the community by people with disabilities. The aim was for each person trained to eventually manage their own business. Challenges currently faced included non-acceptance of their disability by people with disabilities; insufficient funds to train people with disabilities, particularly elderly disabled persons; the current facility not easily accessible; logistic challenges with transporting people with disabilities to and from the workshop.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) remarked that despite the availability of policies protecting the rights of people with disabilities, there was a dearth as regards the issue of implementation. It therefore had become necessary that Parliament use its powers of oversight to ensure implementation.
Ms Lamoela stated that it had become necessary to probe why NGOs such as Down Syndrome South Africa had no state support in terms of funding.
Mr D Kekana (ANC) remarked that without the appropriate skills and knowledge, it was impractical to insist that the labour market, particularly at managerial level, had to have a fixed percentage for people with disabilities. He asked if any of the presenters had specific information on statistic regarding training, particularly specialist training, for people with disabilities.
In response, Mr Patrick Diedericks stated that a good number of disabled persons had the required skills set but were turned down by employers because of their disabilities. He used his experiences while searching for a job as an example.
Mr Zukile Ngobo noted with concern that it was disappointing to speak about persons with disabilities as though they had no form of training whatsoever. It reflected an undermining of persons living with disabilities. He pointed out that while some persons were born with disabilities, others acquired disabilities later in life, after being extensively trained in their fields of study. He stated that as long as there remained stereotypes against disabled persons and they were regarded as ‘afterthoughts’, then there would be no progress.
Mr Kekana replied that the question was not aimed at undermining disabled persons, but to ensure that disabled persons understood the need to acquire and develop skills, particularly in areas of scarce skills such as the sciences and engineering.
Dr Theresa Lorenzo while agreeing with Mr Kekana, pointed out that from research statistics, only 1% of the 53% of disabled persons interviewed had access to higher education. Further, studies from the University of the Western Cape showed there was not any specific curriculum to address vocational skills for persons with disabilities.
Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) suggested that to tackle the issues raised by Mr Kekana, 4% of learnership opportunities should go to persons with disabilities; critical skills such as finance and sciences must be made available to people with disabilities; persons charged with implementing disability quotas who did not do so, should be fired.
Mr Kekana reiterated the need for Parliament to ensure implementation of policies protecting the rights of people with disabilities in society. He suggested that persons with disabilities who were not offered employment, despite possessing the necessary skills set, needed to present their cases before the Portfolio Committee so the Committee could take up these issues with the relevant Departments.
Mr Worth decried the shortage of occupational and physiotherapists as described by Prof Kathard in her submission. He asked if there was statistics for the number of physiotherapists the country had.
Ms Nxumalo condemned the state of affairs in Orange Farm as highlighted by Ms Bick’s submission. She stated that the Committee had been vocal with Departments over the lack of schools, non employment and abuse of people with disabilities.
The Co Chairperson, Ms Ramodibe, thanked all in attendance for a fruitful deliberation. The meeting was adjourned until the next day.
- A/Prof Theresa Lorenzo Submission
- A/Prof Theresa Lorenzo
- A/Prof Theresa Lorenzo presentation
- Disabled children in poor townships: University of Pretoria submission
- South African Human Rights Commission submision
- SADECO presentation
- Kwanothemba Workshop for the Disabled submission
- R2E CWD presentation
- Centre for Disability Law and Policy, Uuniversity of Western Cape: submission
- R2E CWD submission
- Africa Tikkun / Centre for Applied Legal Studies submission
- National Legislation Enforcing South Africa 's Convention Article 17 Obligations
- Africa Tikkun / Centre for Applied Legal Studies presentation
- Down Syndrome South Africa submission
- R2E CWD submission
- R2E CWD presentation
- Occupational Therapy: University of Cape Town submission
- CBR Education and Training for Empowerment submission
- ECD subgroup: R2E CWD submission
- Association for Physically Challenged with Disabilities submission
- Association for Physically Challenged with Disabilities appendices
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
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