Disability empowerment

There are limited employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Fortunately, with some skills and knowledge, they can be more attractive to potential employers. Rustim Ariefdien explains

People with disabilities remain a marginalised group in South Africa when it comes to economic empowerment. Only 1,1 percent of those included in the working

1,1 percent of those included in the working population are formally employed compared to a target stipulated in the Employment Equity Act of 7,5 percent. There are no real entrepreneurship figures to go by; but, it is safe to say that there aren’t significant opportunities in this regard either.

So, what does an aspiring person with a disability do? How do you best prepare yourself for the challenges presented by the world of work? How do you take advantage of the programmes that are out there? Who do you network with? How do you access the resources to best guide you?

From an employment perspective, you need to understand why employers have a need to employ people with disabilities. Ideally, they need to achieve a 7,5 percent disability employment equity target. If they want to score on their BBBEE scorecard and maximise their disability points, they need to achieve a two percent black disability employment target and 0,3 percent skills spend.

To take advantage of the employment opportunities, it is imperative that you improve your skill level through formal education, such as accredited courses, or informal training and studies. Institutions of further and higher education offer many funding opportunities, for example, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) or corporate bursaries.

A learnership is a good example of acquiring a qualification while earning a stipend. There are many opportunities for persons with disabilities who have a Grade 9 or higher. There is a demand especially for learners with a Matric. If you are younger than 30, you have a better chance of finding learnerships as employers can claim such learners for the Employment Tax Incentive.

It would be useful to understand the Employment Equity Act’s Code of Good Practice on Disability and the Technical Assistance Guide as they will give you clarity on how employers benefit from employing a person with a disability.

If you find these documents too onerous, there are experts who can explain it in simpler terms. This can give you a distinct advantage in your application. If possible, see if you can get onto a Work Readiness Programme. QASA offers a very good programme that prepares you for the world of work.

For those persons with disabilities who wish to become an entrepreneur, consider what the Development Funding Institutions have to offer. These include the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Provincial and Local Government Departments. They assist in the improvement of the skills required on your entrepreneurial journey, and funding.

Economic empowerment for persons with disabilities is challenging. Seek the knowledge to equip yourself on your empowerment journey, network with friends, disability organisations and various businesses. In this way, you will best equip yourself for economic empowerment.


Rustim Ariefdien is a disability expert extraordinaire who assists businesses to “let the Ability of disAbility enAble their profitAbility” through BBBEE, skills development, employment equity and socio-economic development. His purpose is the economic empowerment of persons with disability in Africa. As a person with a disability himself, he has extensive experience in the development and empowerment of persons with disability.

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