Highlighting the challenges faced by the disabled

Clients of the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled picketed in Jakes Gerwel Drive to highlight the plight of disabled people.

Members of the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled (CTAPD) took to the streets to highlight disability awareness.

The group, who are all clients of the Bridgetown-based non-profit organisation, picketed in Jakes Gerwel Drive, near Vangate Mall, on Thursday October 27, to promote the interests of people with disabilities.

Wilfred Diedricks, the CTAPD chief executive officer, said their clients, mainly people with locomotor disabilities, felt strongly that their plight and human rights are not taken seriously and wanted to raise awareness about this.

“Being that it is in line with our organisational mission, we pledged our support. When people are not directly affected, they are not interested. That is why it is important to raise awareness through events such as these. However, anybody can become disabled at any time, so the rights of people with disabilities should be everybody’s concern,” Mr Diedricks said.

The demonstrators, many who either use wheelchairs or crutches for mobility, carried placards which were held aloft every time cars passed by. Some people with visual impairments also stood in solidarity to make their voices heard. Some of the placards read, “We want jobs”, “Stop abuse”, We want access to buildings”, “Access to housing”, and “Nothing about us without us”.

Mr Diedricks said he was pleased by the support they received from the passers-by, especially since protests at this current time is receiving a lot of negative reaction. “The demonstration was conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner and a good spirit of camaraderie was enjoyed,” he added.

Shaun Williams, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, said people with disabilities need jobs so that they too can provide for their families.

He described how he has to pay someone to carry him up and down the stairs in his maisonnette where he lives in Manenberg. “Providing accessible single-storey housing for similar people would be helpful,” he said.

Vincent Daniels, who has a visual impairment, is a renowned activist for the rights of people with disabilities. He is also the awareness officer at Cape Town Society for the Blind and highlighted that unemployment among people with disabilities is a huge problem.

He added that people with disabilities are discriminated against because many people think that when a person has a disability, they don’t have the capacity to think logically and reasonably.

“People with disabilities want to, and can be part of the economy, like every other citizen who has a right to employment. Some people with disabilities need assistive devices to help them do the job,” Mr Daniels said.

Belinda Lewendal, a senior supervisor at CTAPD and organiser of the event, reiterated that the demonstration had been held in response to urgent requests from clients to highlight their challenges.

Mr Diedricks said they were thrilled to have had the support of other organisations at the picket and thanked Cape Town Society for the Blind, Disabled Children’s Action Group, Turfhall Cheshire Home and Langa Cheshire Home for their support. “We are approaching International Day for Persons with Disabilities, which is commemorated worldwide on December 3.

“South Africa commemorates Disability Rights Awareness Month, from November 3 to December 3 annually, hence this event was an ideal way to kick-off the awareness campaign,” he said.

Elaborating on the challenges faced by the disabled, Mr Diedricks added: “A few of the biggest challenges for people with disabilities are the lack of available job opportunities. National government has set a target for employers to employ at least 2 percent of people with disabilities as a total of their workforce. We as a country is not close to that goal and some statisticians are claiming that the figure for employing people with disabilities is more in the region of 0.6 percent. Accessible transport for people with disabilities is an ongoing problem and an enormous challenge. This is something that we have not yet been able to get right in our city. We don’t have enough capacity from a public transport point of view.

“There are still public buildings which do not comply with legislation to accommodate people with disabilities. I, however, need to give credit to the City of Cape Town’s transport department for conducting access audits in the built environment to identify structures along roads and sidewalks which do not comply.

“All is not doom and gloom however, because national government has listened to the activists who advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. This has culminated in cabinet approving the White Paper on the Rights of People with Disabilities on Wednesday December 9, 2015. We now have a tool to give stronger voice to the plight of the marginalised and disadvantaged groups in society.”