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Empowering people with disabilities

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Old 16-03-2012, 02:42 PM   #1
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Slow progress in empowering people with disabilities

Boksburg – Minister Lulu Xingwana has called for more rigorous effort to be put into leveling the playing field for people with disabilities.

“Let us ask ourselves why we live or work in a building that does not provide universal access to all South Africans; why do we tolerate discrimination? We must strive to create a society that protects and develops the human potential of its children, a society … where people with disabilities enjoy the same rights as their fellow citizens and where all citizens and institutions share equal responsibility of creating such a society,” Xingwana said.

Speaking at the National Disability Summit in Birchwood Conference Centre on Friday, the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities challenged delegates to find areas where they could play a more active role in improving the lives of people, particularly children, with disabilities.

She noted that part of the problem confronting people with disabilities was the on-going discriminatory and stereotypical beliefs towards persons with disabilities, which hampered efforts to mainstream disability issues across all facets of society.

Built environments that did not adequately meet the needs of people with disabilities; communication systems which continue to exclude people with disabilities from mainstream society and the lack of capacity within the disability sector are some of the factors the minister said contributed to the marginalization of people with disabilities.

Xingwana said it was time to put into action the progressive legislation and policies South Africa had put into place.

“The time has come that we translate many promises and commitments into action that we move beyond words and statements.”

The two-day summit was called by the department for government and its social partners to reach consensus on how to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They will also thrash out key aspects of the National Disability Policy.

Japanese Ambassador Yutaka Yoshizawa, who attended the summit, welcomed the renewed focus on issues of disability.

“Efforts from all stakeholders will bring new insights into the issue,” Yoshizawa said, noting that the MDGs could not be achieved if people with disabilities were not included in the development process.

He also commended South Africa for the many developments in addressing disability matters, such as the establishment of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, noting that Japan still had challenges including human resources and inclusive education for people with disabilities. However, he said, his country was working hard to provide better free transportation for people with disabilities.

Chairperson of the Secretariat for the Africa Decade of Persons with Disabilities, Rosewater Mudarikwa, said she was touched by the activities conducted in the country, acknowledging the role played by the South African government - especially the department.

“It’s heartening to acknowledge the role that the South African government played in advancing people with disabilities … and to avail [yourselves] to do the good work… we are with you,” she said. - BuaNews
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