Heritage Month is an excellent time every year to reflect on our position in society, but how can we encourage even greater acceptance of people with disabilities?
In the face of recent political developments, it would be naive not to give a thought to the future of people with disabilities within the political spectrum. The current situation is that the responsibility of looking after the needs of people with a disability lies within the presidency and the operational directorate of the Department of Social Development, but we are not immune to the issues of ordinary citizens. As much as the politicians are hard at work defending their positions, it will only be fitting for ordinary members of society to rethink their own position.
How political discourses unfold is directly related to how identities are constructed under certain state forms and how these states construct regulations of rule to administer their citizens. This is vital because we have only our rights that are contained in the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD). We rely on these rights to be brought to life by us and guaranteed by organs of the state.
These rights are formulated to protect aspects of human dignity. All human beings need rights to survive hard times. Despite the noble function that rights are expected to perform in human life, violation of the same rights is experienced from all directions. Most often the violation becomes so legitimate that the rights of persons with disabilities are seen as privileges and are thus not given adequate recognition.
Disability is both a human right and a social issue. Legitimising disability for the purpose of acknowledging capabilities and limitations becomes vital. Unless someone is very sure of themselves and has formulated an adequate self-concept, the person may not be sure of their her own capabilities and limitations.
Consequences might include misconstruing rights for privileges and seeking a privilege as a right. A true positive identity should be able to distinguish the two and use the same to fight winning battles.
This is why we need to protect and defend our position. We need to know what we want and how to get it, but we are often left vulnerable in the ongoing struggle of recognition as equal partners in society. It was commendable that Casual Day was celebrated with a theme of “celebrate diversity with persons with disability” early in September.
This theme should continue. Our place in society should be reinforced by accepting the diversity of people with disabilities in all spheres. By doing this, the conversations will become a little more relaxed. The reasons for having the special measures in place for us in transport, employment, healthcare and housing will become clearer.
We have to be active role-players in all these areas. We need to circulate and be economically active; to be vocal in supporting all measures of inclusivity, mainstreaming and equal opportunities. By doing this, we will be seen as not only integrating, but also that we are not unique. We are experiencing difficulties and challenges in everyday issues, just like everyone else.
Developing a strong identity and a positive self-concept empowers a person with a disability. That is exactly what we are, who we are and where we want to be.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org