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Individuals living with disabilities seek better access to government services, representation in the workplace

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“People get to underestimate our capabilities due to lack of awareness, we are often made to feel as objects while we can do things by ourselves,” says one activist.

Political Analysis South Africa (PASA) spoke to Benny Palime, who is the Director of Special Programmes at the Department of Social Development, having shifted with the directorate from Office of Presidency to Social Development, and is visually impaired. We spoke to him on Tuesday morning, 9 April 2019, at 07:00 am, and he said with confidence that he reports for duty at 06:00 am every day.

“We have made a number of amendments to the Labour Relations Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Equity Act. There are matters before the Presidential Working Group, the President is aware and shall give feedback before the 8th of May 2019,” said Palime.

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Calvin Tshetla is the Gauteng Spokesperson for South African Blind Youth Organisation (SABYO), an advocacy vehicle for people who are visually impaired. Tshetla says that they marched to the Union Buildings on 8 June 2018 and submitted their memorandum with a number of grievances, but they are not happy as their grievances are yet to be addressed.

“Employers at times employ us just to meet government requirements, we are not [being] provided with facilities and resources which enable us to be competitive where we have been assigned. There is a computer software for us, it’s called JAWS, and there is no blind individual who will operate a computer without such a software, but the employers are not having those kind of resources,” said Tshetla.

Tshetla further says that the rebates are only accorded to government employees who are allowed to take their invoice to South African Revenue Service (SARS) so that they can be refunded by government for buying JAWS, walking sticks, wheelchairs and/or any other equipment for people living with disabilities. Tshetla believes that the Department of Social Development should be helping even those who are unemployed to access these and other equipment, which will make their lives much easier.

There are less than five members of parliament living with disabilities. Advocate Michael Masutha and Kebby Maphatsoe are among those at executive levels and are both from the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Opposition parties are behind the ANC in terms of the number of representatives drawn from people living with a disability.

SABYO also complained that political parties do not translate their manifestos into a Braille format so that they can read them for themselves, and aso argued that the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) take their time to avail crucial information such as the annual budget speech delivered by the finance ministry.

Palime, however, says that the IEC will for the first time avail ballot paper in a Braille format, which will ensure that there is no foul play, as was not the case in the past five democratic elections as they had to rely on those who can see to assist them with casting their votes.

Kenneth Mokgatlhe
[email protected]

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