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The National Disability Rights Awareness Month
in South Africa takes place from the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December.


The day is prominently known as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as well as the National Disability Rights Awareness Day.

Nosiphiwo Delubom, Head of Universal Accessibility & Disability Services at Nelson Mandela University speaks to #YouWithTheBoys about the challenges faced by disabled students. Here are a few questions asked about the struggles faced and how they are handled from a government perspective.

Why do you think people with Disabilities are still widely discriminated against?

"People with disabilities are discriminated, and the fact that there is a percentage that is required when there are adverts in the world of work proves discrimination."

"Because there should not be a percentage put forward because people with disabilities have capabilities. Secondly, there is still limited access to students with disabilities in institutions of higher learning, including universities and private colleges."

"I think by this time we're not supposed to say there must be access, there must be support, so that is discrimination to me."

When you talk about TVET colleges, most of them are owned by the government, clearly, this will be the government breaking its own laws here, how does that work?

"Yes, there are 50 TVET colleges in South Africa, but there is still very limited access, unlike the universities since there are also disability services at the universities that facilitate the integration and screening of students with disabilities."

"The TVET colleges do not have any disability service units, and there is a very small number of disabled students and luckily for me I am doing my research in the Eastern Cape and there is a very small number of disabled students there."

"It means that TEVET colleges still have a long way to go to provide support to their students, because the TVET colleges at least admit learners who have passed with a B, so those who do not qualify in universities are supposed to be able to get into TVET colleges."

We need to fix this quickly, honestly, if we have to make noise about it then let's make a noise about it. Whenever we discuss disabilities we often come up with a term or we encounter the term Invisible disabilities, talk to us about those?

"Invisible disabilities are neuro-developmental disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, Autism specific learning disabilities-dyslexia and psychosocial disabilities such as depression by bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia or dementia"

"In most cases, people who have these invisible disabilities are overlooked because they are not identified and, as a result, they miss the spot."

Now you coming out with a position here, I like that it's you who has got the information here, how do I know I got Dyslexia, it could be that I battle academically. Do I need to go to a doctor, who will then certify me with having a learning disability – Dyslexia??

"You should see an educational psychologist. They are going to conduct an assessment for you; these learning disorders are ideally identified during the primary years of a child's schooling."

"It is a concern that learners who progress up to Tertiary institutions are not aware that they have this disability since they aren't sent to the educational psychologist in primary schools."

"In rural areas, most students are not identified, parents are unaware of these issues, and even teachers do not know when a student cannot write."

The students don't know what happens to them, so these students may be thrown to other grades without the support of an identification of a disability."

"The department of basic education has a policy on identification, screening, assessment, and support, which means that these must be identified, and they should be screened."

"It won't be easy, but the learner will receive the support and the universities will understand that they have this type of disability when they apply."

Even then those who know that they have a disability tend not to talk about them because they have a fear of being stigmatised."

How can the educational system be more inclusive of persons with disabilities, maybe you can help us from the perspective of Nelson Mandela University specifically, what are you doing in this regard?

"We have a unit called universal accessibility and disabilities services, which facilitates the mainstreaming of these rights, and then we always ask for advice on matters relating to infrastructure so that it is compliant."

"As for the technology, it must be universally accessible and then upgraded as we need to understand and advise that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach."

"There are categories of disabilities, and the technology has to differ as per their categories, so teachers and lecturers should understand how to implement the conference and reasonable accordion, not to give them an unfair advantage but to support them in such a way that they can compete with their peers."

The primary need is the developmental infrastructure and the upgrading of technology."

In the short term, what would you say to parents and teachers?

"As a parent, my recommendation would be to advocate for and educate the community about disabilities."

"Since inclusive education or special needs education, which was phased out in colleges and universities, teachers need to be capacitated on how to implement inclusive practices in the classroom so that they can accommodate all learners."

The theme for 2021 is to "Create and Realize" an Inclusive Society Upholding the Rights of Persons with Disability – "The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke."

An individual with a disability may be inflicted with a physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, or developmental impairment or some combination of these impairments. Disability can occur during a person's lifetime or it can be present since birth.

In South Africa, the prevalence of disability is 7,5%. The prevalence of disability is higher among females than males (8,5% compared to 6,5%). The number of disabled individuals increases with age. The majority of persons aged 85+ (53,2%) have a disability.

Based on the prevalence of specific types of disabilities, 11% of people aged five and older had vision difficulties, 4,2% had cognitive difficulties (remembering/concentrating), 3,6% had hearing difficulties, and about 2% had communication, self-care, and walking difficulties.

Through Disability Awareness Month, we can all take concrete steps to remove these barriers and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

When it comes to people living with disabilities, the Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities (WYPD) is in charge of advocating for equity, equality, and empowerment.

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