‘People with disabilities have rights too’

Zane Price from Ottery, writes that better jobs for people with disabilities should be addressed.

Epilepsy South Africa acknowledged Human Rights Day (March 21) with an awareness programme to inform people with disabilities that they, too, are entitled to their human rights.

Last Friday, March 23, the Lansdowne-based organisation’s social worker, Janine Basson, explained that all human beings are entitled to human rights and that people with disabilities should not be frowned upon or treated differently in the workplace.

“The right to food, housing, freedom of religion, freedom from torture, to be able to speak out, have social support from the state, are all things that we have rights to. These are the guidelines for when we go out and how we treat other people. We also have the right to be treated as equals as well as children with disabilities, but of course every right comes with a responsibility,” she said.

Pupils who are currently part of a learnership at the organisation attended the programme where they were able to discuss rights and responsibilities for disabled people as well as highlight challenges they face.

Social worker Aviwe Ndyokolo said government needs to implement workshops or programmes which will educate others about people with disabilities.

“If people know about them and their challenges they won’t pity them but be educated about it. Today we want to showcase their talent in sport as well with a 5-a-side soccer match so that they can enjoy themselves and have fun,” he said.

Razaan Achmat from Hanover Park is part of the learnership. She was diagnosed with Transverse myelitis when she was one-and-a-half-years-old. Transverse myelitis is the inflammation of both sides of one section of the spine. The neurological disorder often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibres. The condition interrupts the messages that the nerves in the spine send throughout the body.

She said that the workshop reminded her about her rights as a person with a disability.

“If you have a disability you have to work harder to accomplish something. Knowing your rights helps you a little bit more. There are a lot of things that I am not able to do but there are so many things that I’ve been able to accomplish,” she said.

At the event pupils were given the opportunity to write down one of the human rights they feel is most important or should be addressed on a white chart. Pupils wrote down human rights which related to among others housing, employment, medical services, medication, education, transport, and a proper support system.

Gavin Maggot, national job coach at the Disability Workshop Development Enterprise, a disability employment support service addressing learning and employment opportunities for South Africans with disabilities to become integrated into the workforce, said it is important for everyone to know their rights so that it is not infringed upon.

“If you are not sure, check online and find out what your rights are. The access for disabled pupils at schools have become better but it is still something we have to pressurise government to increase,” he said.

Mr Maggot also said that when accessing emergency services it is important to let the person know that you suffer from a disability.

“When applying for jobs it is always good to have at least one year of experience so learnerships like these are important so that you can add it to your CV and apply for a job in the field of your choice.”

He encouraged pupils to have a positive attitude and a good work ethic when they seek employment.

“Use the opportunities that are available to you. Gain experience and apply for better things with a higher pay grade. Disabled people can also make the best of the opportunities given to them,” he said.

“Companies will see you and recognise your talent. Work hard and don’t give up,” he added.