We’re all in this together

As the country celebrated Human Rights month, a large portion of society remained deeply concerned about the apparent disregard for their vulnerability

This disregard was shown by the government department responsible for the only source of income and economic stability known to them, namely the social grant beneficiaries… By now most of us are aware of the situation that the Department of Social Development and the Social Security Agency of South Africa have created with the non-renewal of the contract of the service provider tasked with paying social grants. It doesn’t affect all of us to the same extent, but because it affects the human beings with whom we share our world, is it important for us to look at this uncomfortable topic.

People with disabilities are historically classed as a marginalised group and are thus often more likely than others to experience poverty. When a person has a legacy of affluence, it is it easier to negotiate life’s barriers, but, when faced with some form of impairment, it’s much more difficult to overcome them. People with disabilities face economic, environmental and cultural barriers in their lives such as inaccessible education, information and communication systems, working environments, inadequate disability benefits, discriminatory health and social support services, and inaccessible transport, houses and public buildings. They also tend to be negatively portrayed in the media, notes UK researcher, Professor Colin Barnes.

The preamble of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) publication of the UN says, “We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.” This statement effectively urges governments and society in general to look for ways to deal with poverty. The most logical method would be to address the barriers to growth and ensure inclusivity for all.

Coincidentally, South Africa’s own White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD) assures us that, “The WPRPD is aligned with the disability-inclusive Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. This WPRPD is intended to accelerate transformation and redress with regard to full inclusion, integration and equality for persons with disabilities. We call on all stakeholders to take responsibility for ensuring that the policy directives of this WPRPD are implemented.”

With this in mind, I trust that the responsible department will ensure that debacles like the one we have just experienced do not happen again.

Raven Benny is the chairperson of QASA. He has been a C5, 6 and 7 quadriplegic since 2000. He is married with five children, is mad about wheelchair rugby and represented South Africa in 2003 and 2005. He also plays for Maties. email: rbenny@pgwc.gov.za

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