Impact of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act: hearings

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


17 October 2006

Jointly chaired by: Ms M Morutoa (ANC) and Ms Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC)

Documents handed out:
DeafSA briefing
Blind SA briefing
Intellectual Disability Western Cape briefing
AIDS Law Court briefing
Quadriplegic Association of South Africa briefing

During this second day of the public hearings on the impact of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Discrimation Act (Number 4 of 2000), there were submissions by five organisations representing people with disabilities and HIV/AIDS. The hearings were likely to continue on Wednesday 18 October and possibly also on Thursday 19 October 2006.

DeafSA raised issues of discrimination. These included inequality in the education received in deaf schools, and that the latest technology was not accessible to the deaf community. The ensuing discussion raised that the sign language used by the public broadcaster was not easily understood by the deaf.

Blind SA then presented that opportunities for blind people’s employment were limited. Accessibility to technology and education for the blind was also discussed. Tape Aids for the Blind should be made more accessible. Braille documents were costly to produce and so funding was needed to ensure university students could further their education.

The Intellectual Disability Organisation of the Western Cape then raised that there were no subsidies from the Department of Education for any intellectually disadvantaged children in learning centres. The following discussion revealed that such children were receiving a small subsidy from the Department of Health, but none from the Department of Education.

The AIDS Law Court then submitted details of the special vulnerability of those with HIV/AIDS, particularly regarding discrimination in the workplace and by medical aid schemes and life insurers.

The Quadriplegic Association of South Africa (QASA) then presented on access to buildings and transport, as well as the Equality Court. The following discussion focused mainly on the transport system and the re-capitalisation of the taxi industry. Physically disabled persons needed to be considered when planning the new transport system.

Ms Morutoa (ANC) explained that this was the second day of public hearings. The Department of Justice had been involved the day before. The Act had last been reviewed in 2000. It directly impact on the Department of Justice, women and children, as well as people with disabilities. All stakeholders would have a chance to give submissions on Wednesday 18 October and possibly also on Thursday 19 October 2006.

DeafSA briefing
Mr Druchen (DeafSA National Director) gave a background to the organisation and its main objectives. His focus was on the barriers that had been faced by the deaf community for a long time. The second issue was discrimination faced by the deaf with regard to employment opportunities and education. The national broadcaster had also not been compliant in providing adequate television services for deaf people.

Education at schools for the deaf was not on par with the mainstream schooling, and extra support needed to be provided for those with hearing disabilities. The present curriculum was not accessible for the deaf and the tertiary institutions were also not providing interpreting services, which meant that the deaf did not enjoy equal rights.

On SABC TV, subtitles were not available on the most important programmes. The SABC had not consulted widely so the interpreters were not using the standard South African sign language. Arbitrary signs were used that the deaf community could not understand. No response had been received from the public broadcaster for a long time. The Integrated National Disability Strategy needed to be reviewed and implemented.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked if deaf schools interacted with other schools at all. Statistics would be helpful to take things forward. It was unacceptable that there had been no response from the SABC and it would be helpful to have the letters that were sent.

Ms H Weber (DA) agreed that it was unfortunate that nothing had been done about the letters written. On a recent trip to Kenya, she had found sign language interpreters on the aeroplane useful.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) replied that she could not understand how the sign language used by the SABC included ‘arbitrary signs’. She had thought that standard signs were used all over the world.

Ms Niewoudt-Druchen (ANC) replied that it seemed too expensive to employ a qualified interpreter. A strong recommendation needed to be made by the Committee.

Mr Druchen replied that there were 47 schools for the deaf. There were also continuing problems with Statistics SA - the last statistics received were in 1992. DeafSA had boxes of the letters that had been sent, and these could be made available to Members.

Letters had also been written to the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA). It was mentioned that British Airways had sign language interpreters. There were basic sign language skills that needed to be developed, as well as reception skills. Sign language had a separate structure from any other language. News about former Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been misinterpreted by the deaf community as the sign language on the news channels was not of a high enough standard.

Teachers needed to be trained in sign language, and deaf assistants should be employed to help teachers to understand pupils in the school system.

Blind South Africa briefing
Mr Van Niekerk (BlindSA JOB TITLE?) complained that blind workers were increasingly being replaced by deaf people, and employment opportunities were very limited. Blindness was perceived as a sensory impairment, and the Equality Act did not specify blindness, only those with physical impairments. His second point was about the very limited access for blind people to technology.

So many pieces of legislation dealt with education that one could not be singled out as problematic. Teaching was not made properly accessible. For instance, when overhead projectors were used, teachers did not explaining the notes to the blind pupils.

Ms Chalmers asked if it was recommendable that blind children go to mainstream schools, and if there was sufficient Braille material available. She also asked if the mainstream schools would be better than the specialised schools for the blind.

Ms Niewoudt-Druchen (ANC) asked if the technology was improving or if it still lagged behind. She also asked if the latest technology was available in South Africa.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked if the Tape Aids for the Blind organisation was still running. She also asked if there were books in other languages and if the rural areas had access to that service.

Mr Van Niekerk replied that Braille documents and books were expensive. Combining schools would not be practical as the needs of the students would be different. For instance, in learning about the skeleton in a mainstream school, the children would only needed a picture, but in schools for the blind they would need a plastic model to touch.

The time for translations into Braille was very long, and the books would often get to the Braille services too late. Tape Aids for the Blind was mostly run by volunteers. Sometimes documents at university level were 50 to 100 pages long and needed to be recorded in a few days. This was not always possible.

Technology was available but the main players in software development did not provide access. Products developed also had to have their ‘scripting’ changed to work with other programmes. For an example, blind people often could not work in call centres because of inaccessible technology.

The Chairperson said that there did not seem to be public awareness of the Equality Act 2000 and it seemed that very few people knew what was going on.

Mr Druchen stated that deaf schools needed to remain to pass on the ‘culture of the deaf’, but the deaf community did not want to be isolated. In terms of SABC coverage, the useful Heartlines series had not been translated with subtitles, as was also the case with the Equality Campaign and the President’s State of the Nation Address.

Ms Niewoudt-Druchen said that there seemed to be lack of support for schools for the deaf and quality education. Deaf children often only learned to read at age 14 or 15, instead of in Grade Two.

Mr van Niekerk said that Braille was only printed on request and one book could be as long as 20-22 volumes. The post office had a responsibility to deliver but there were problems here.

Intellectual Disability Western Cape briefing
Ms T Wood, JOB TITLE?, explained that her organisation worked together with two other organisations and that there were 35 Special Care Centres. Children with Intellectual Disability (ID) usually had an IQ of less than 35.

Their subsidies came from the Health Department and not from the Department of Education. The subsidy received was also inadequate and the trainers were not accredited. Teaching for children with ID was different but still necessary. Currently some of the centres were in shacks. All children with disabilities needed special care and considerations with transport, learning and teaching staff.

Ms Niewoudt-Druchen asked whether there were any national statistics for the disability sector and also mentioned that teachers were not using sign language. When deaf and other children were combined in class, did the teachers not sign as much?

Ms Weber was concerned about the figure of R282 per child subsidy from the Department of Health, and no subsidy from the Department of Education.

Mr Gore (ID) was concerned about the special needs schools. He mentioned an international case where a child with cerebral palsy had been turned away in Ireland and there being a court case against the school.

Ms Chalmers commented that there was a general budget need for staffing of schools for special needs.

Ms Shabodein from ID Western Cape, explained that many families receiving a grant for a child with a disability, survived on that grant as so many parents were unemployed.

The Manager of a Special Care Centre, NAME?, commented that the parents were not empowered. At her own Special Care Centre, they tried to involve the parents as much as possible. Basic training in disabilities was now done for parents.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on whether the children with ID also had physical disabilities.

Ms Shabodien replied that ID was a cognitive function but motor skills were also affected. Most children with ID had physical well as other disabilities.

Adv Kerfoot, (JOB TITLE?) commented that there was currently an interdict against the government as the rights of the children with ID were not being recognised. This was a declarity ordered structured interdict that would cover the right to equality and education. It should not have been necessary to go to court.

The Chairperson asked why ID Western Cape was funded by the Department of Health, rather than the Department of Education. She also asked what other funding they received.

Ms Wood replied that the Minister of Education had done a tour of the centres. They also received funding from a Trust to help with school fees. There were 22 schools for children with special needs (this included those with physical disabilities).

Ms Niewoudt-Druchen then took over as Chairperson for the meeting.

AIDS Law Project briefing
Mr J Berger explained that the AIDS Law Project had initially been associated with the Witwatersrand University School of Applied Law, and was now an independent Section 21 company.

The submission dealt with the extent of HIV/AIDS, the vulnerability experienced by the HIV/AIDS community, and needed protection against unfair discrimination.

The Chairperson commented that it was easy for the employer to get away with discrimination against a person with HIV, as it could just be denied.

Mr Gore asked whether HIV/AIDS was regarded as a disability for insurance purposes.

Ms Weber asked how the problem of the disability allowance granted to a person with AIDS could be streamlined. When persons were diagnosed with a CD4-count of under 200, they were put on antiretroviral drugs (ARV), but when they were feeling better they would stop taking and get worse again.

The Chairperson asked how the medical aid schemes could pay persons living with AIDS as they had to be able to earn money to pay for the medical aid fees.

Mr Berger replied that it was very difficult in the workplace for people with HIV, and that the forms of exclusion were not covered in the current Act.

In the insurance industry widely, the person with HIV/AIDS did not receive full coverage for ARV treatment. The disease was not perceived as a disability, which did not necessarily reflect reality. The law needed to be flexible in this regard. With regard to incapacity in the workplace, the most complaints had come from underpaid professions like domestic workers and security guards. They were usually tested without consent and then were dismissed.

Social assistance programmes were usually available for those too young, too old, sick or disabled. The whole family unit usually lived on one income grant. They also needed better accessibility to treatment.

The Chairperson replied that a report was needed and that the Justice Department should play a role in the project.

Quadriplegics Association of SA briefing
Mr A NAME MISSING (QASA Director) first commented that many Members were not present for the hearings. He then explained their services and empowerment programmes, and more on new businesses run by quadriplegics. A brochure had been published by QASA called “Know your Rights” which was given to people who had just come out of hospital. A road show should be conducted educating the public on how to access rights in the Act.

A major issue was access to buildings and transport, which made integration into the normal working environment difficult. A new building in Durban was mentioned that was not accessible to wheelchairs.

He presented a document about QASA’s unsuccessful attempts to contact the Equality Courts as statistics were incorrect or staff were unavailable.

The Chairperson asked for a copy of this document about the Equality Courts. It would be helpful for QASA to obtain copies of the documents presented the day before as these applied to the current situation. He also questioned the consultation of people with physical disabilities with regard to tenders for buildings.

Ms Weber commented that the Building Act covered the accessibility factor and that the inspectors had probably not been held accountable.

An ANC Member stated that the lack of access to transport had an economic and social impact on the lives of those with disabilities. He also mentioned a Transport Indaba happening soon in Cape Town and asked whether QASA had been invited.

The Member also enquired more about a nappy factory that had been started in Umtata.

Mr Gore agreed that an integrated transport system needed to developed urgently. In the Equality Courts, only been four cases had been dealt with thus far. He complemented QASA on the booklet “Know your Rights” and thought it was a useful tool.

Ms Chalmers said it seemed most people were not aware of the Equality Courts and that more resources should be made available. It was also the responsibility of the Members to find out if the Courts were working in their constituencies.

The Chairperson asked more on the pilot project ‘Dial-a-Ride’ and said that there seemed to be a shortage of funds.

Mr A (QASA) replied that the Department of Public Works and the Department of Transport needed to collaborate on transforming the public transport sector. He had only been given a week’s notice about the Transport Indaba and that QASA could not attend at such short notice.

They were looking for were opportunities for assistance and more customers for the nappy factory, and ways to support the other business ventures of people with disabilities. The ‘Dial-a-Ride’ service failed as part of the integrated transport system. A suggestion was that the taxi and bus industry be given a date whereby they had to be compliant with the regulations. If they were not certified by that date, they should not be allowed on the road.

The Chairperson concluded that all the expressed concerns would be reflected in the November Committee Report when all the hearings had been completed.

The meeting was adjourned.


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