One of the most important pillars of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is empowering people with disabilities to take ownership of the economy
Pillar Five of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD) is the reduction of economic vulnerability and realising human capital. It states that people with disabilities should play an active role in the economy. As a result, they are enabled to access opportunities aimed at ownership of the economy. The outcomes should be as follows:
• Ensuring that people with disabilities are actively participating in key economic sectors such as mining, construction, mid-skill manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing, higher education, tourism and business services;
• People with disabilities are to benefit from infrastructure projects that contribute to growth and job creation;
• Participation of people with disabilities in all strategies to reduce the cost of living for low-income and working-class households. Such strategies should take into account the diversified needs of different segments within the population;
• Reduced cost of regulatory compliance are to be extended to businesses that are owned and managed by people with disabilities and their families;
• A larger, more effective innovation system to ensure that skills development and businesses owned by persons with disabilities are included and supported;
• Increased support for small businesses that are owned or managed by people with disabilities;
• Support for an expanded skills base that achieves the current target of four percent set in the National Skills Development Strategy, progressively increased to 15 percent by 2030 in line with the increasing number of people with disabilities;
• Strengthened financial services must be available to people with disabilities and their business enterprises to bring down cost and improve access for small and medium businesses on an equitable basis;
• The commitment to public and private procurement that fosters the growth of disability empowered business and those owned or managed by people with disabilities must be translated into practice and reported on;
• Enhanced commercial diplomatic services should position a disability as an integral component of investment and foreign policy; and
• The public procurement system is an important transformation tool and must include a minimum requirement that all goods and services procured through the public purse, comply with the principles of universal design and disability equity.
Directives to measure this strategic pillar include the adoption and implementation of a seven percent target procurement and economic opportunities for emerging small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned by people with disabilities; strengthening access to and participation in SME support programmes; and ensuring that BBBEE benefits people with disabilities.
The legislative framework is more supportive of disability employment than disability entrepreneurship. The Employment Equity Act provides a target of 7,5 percent, while the Skills Development Act provides four percent for persons with disabilities.
Only the WPRPD introduces the notion of a target for entrepreneurship of seven percent. This target needs to become a reality in the relative legislation such as the BBBEE Act.
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. He ensures that businesses are able to maximise their points on the BBBEE scorecard and become compliant with legislative requirements as stipulated in the Employment Equity and Skills Development Acts. 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.