Businesses should support and promote empowerment through equal learning opportunities
The fourth pillar of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD) is promoting and supporting the empowerment of people with disabilities. It states: “Persons with disabilities must have access to inclusive learning opportunities throughout their lives where they learn in an inclusive barrier-free setting.”
To realise this goal, the following should be considered:
• Reasonable accommodation should focus on the specific requirements of the individual;
• Individual support should be provided in the education system to provide people with disabilities with more valuable education and social development; and
• People with disabilities should be enabled to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in their community.
Specified reasonable accommodation measures are:
• Learning braille, alternative script, augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, orientation and mobility with peer support and mentoring;
• Learning South African Sign Language (SASL) and promoting the linguistic identity of the deaf community;
• Ensuring that the education of people and children, who are blind, deaf, hearing-impaired, non-speaking autistic or deaf-blind is delivered in the most appropriate language, mode and means of communication in an environment that maximises development;
• Employing teachers, including those with disabilities, who are qualified in SASL and/or braille. Training professionals and staff who work at all levels of education, which incorporates disability awareness and the use of appropriate augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, educational techniques and materials; and
• Ensuring that people with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination by, among others, providing reasonable accommodation.
Further education and training institutions should ensure that their programmes can reasonably accommodate people with disabilities.
Learnerships are popular for the skills development of people with disabilities. About 30 percent of the learnership is a theoretical learning component and 70 percent is an experiential component of a specific qualification registered with the South African Qualifications Authority over a 12-month period. Participants are employed full-time with a stipend for the duration of the learnership. Grant funding is available through the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), some of which pay a disability grant to the lead employer and a disability allowance to the learner over and above the stipend.
Employers benefit from claimable incentives, including employee tax incentives of up to R12 000 per employee over 12 months and a tax allowance of R120 000 per learner. Education and skills development are fundamental rights. Once the environment is conducive to learning, people with disabilities can make a positive contribution to society.
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.