The Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria (UP) hosted its 7th Annual Disability Rights Conference at the Southern Sun Hotel, OR Tambo International Airport, on November 11 and 12. More than 250 scholars, disability rights activists, lawyers, policymakers and self-advocates from various African countries converged to exchange experiences and knowledge on the right of people with disabilities to live in the community.
In his welcoming address, Bokankatla Joseph Malatji from the South African Human Rights Commission stated that the right to live in the community is about “enabling people to live their lives to the fullest within society”. He emphasised that comprehensive de-institutionalisation strategies should be established that acknowledge the right to live independently in the community.
Nkatha Murungi, assistant director of the Centre for Human Rights, said the conference provides a platform for sharing experiences that will shape the discourse while providing an opportunity to learn from one another.
Professor Elsabe Schoeman, the newly appointed dean of the Faculty of Law at UP, reminded participants that the aim of the conference is to provide a critical appraisal of the relevant laws, policies and practices, but also to make suggestions for reform.
One of the suggestions made by Professor Frans Viljoen, the director of the Centre for Human Rights, was to advocate for African states to ratify the African Disability Rights Protocol, which in Article 14 provides for the right to live in the community.
Sessions on the first day were dedicated to discussing the meaning of the right to live in the community, and addressing this right as it relates to people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. The final session was about the place of family and other caregivers in promoting the right to living in the community.