According to STATSSA the national disability prevalence rate is 7,5% in South Africa. Disability is more prevalent among females compared to males (8,3% and 6,5% respectively). There is also a higher prevalence of disability as people age. More than half (53,2%) of persons aged 85+ are reported as having a disability.

Prevalence according to a specific type of disability, it shows that 11% of persons aged five years and older had visual difficulties, 4,2% had cognitive impairments, 3,6% had hearing impairments, and about 2% had communication, self-care and mobility impairments. In addition, there is evidence that persons with severe disabilities experience difficulty in accessing education and employment opportunities.

Households headed by persons with disabilities were found to have less access to basic services compared to households headed by persons without disabilities. There were also disparities in terms of access to assistive devices across population groups and geographically.

As we live in “the new normal” due to the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens all members of society, persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted due to attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers that are reproduced because of the COVID-19 responses.

Many persons with disabilities have pre-existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to contracting the virus, experiencing more severe symptoms upon infection, leading to elevated levels of death. This results in them passing away in disproportionate numbers. We have directly experienced the passing away of many of our own due to the COVID-19 virus. Notably the passing of Dan Kekana the Gauteng Provincial Chairperson of DPSA and Wonderboy Qaji the National Chairperson for Disabled Youth South Africa.

3 Persons with disabilities also continue to face discrimination and other barriers in accessing livelihood and income support, participating in online forms of education, and seeking protection from violence. Groups of persons with disabilities have a negative connotation that extends beyond its definition, which includes impairments, activity limits, and participation restrictions. Disabled people’s attitudes and the degree of social exclusion they experience are manifested in actions that vary greatly depending on the kind of impairment and various social, community, and familial factors. The impact of an individual’s position, as well as the type and degree of his or her impairment, and his or her gender, are of tremendous proportions.

The skills of individuals with disabilities are generally undervalued in society. In our country, disabled individuals are mainly caught in a cycle of poverty and social marginalization. They begin to question their own talents because they are underestimated and devalued by others, and the image of the disabled person as a passive victim becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In our development work as a trust, we create an inclusive approach, which is interwoven with awareness to disability issues in our programmes. We connect our fundamental goal of marginalized people’s empowerment by framing it as a “cross-cutting problem” that necessitates a multilateral approach to better the lives of our people.

A person’s capacity to earn a living is greatly impacted by disability. People with impairments have challenges in finding work that pays well. This is largely due to negative stereotypes, societal prejudice and stigma, as well as a widespread unfavorable perception that individuals with disabilities are either unable to work or cannot be accommodated at work. The Trust has offered individuals and groups of persons with disabilities with self-employment opportunities through skills development programmes such as Driver training, Enterprise Development, Cleaning and Hygiene, Employment life skills and many other programmes to enable them to establish a decent living for themselves. I would like to acknowledge management for their hard work and dedication during a particularly challenging time due to the Covid 19 pandemic. They were able to achieve remarkable progress in service delivery whilst negotiating the ravages of the pandemic. 4

Most importantly, I would like to acknowledge the leadership of our partners both in government and the private sector as well as in the NGO sector for their commitment in increasing the quality and quantity of physical activity opportunities for persons with disabilities. Their proactive attitude enables us to move beyond the obstacles to find and implement adequate solutions. They lead the way. May everyone follow their lead.

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