DISABILITY IN BRIEF
In South Africa, people living with disabilities continue to suffer indignities resulting from the lack of accommodation of their special needs – although the Constitution specifically enshrines the right to achievement of equality (Article 1), and equal treatment for people with disabilities under Article 9(3). Discriminatory practices against people with disabilities are often the result of institutionalised cultural and social norms or just ignorance. The problem is worse in rural areas where the stigma of disability is most acute and government support structures are lacking. Disability-based discrimination has been particularly severe in education, employment, housing, transport, cultural life and access to public amenities. The Government is yet to finalise a National Disability Policy. The Minister for Women, Children and People with Disability, Lulu Xingwana, has said the policy will include an audit of all existing legislation and policies measured against the articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)1. Furthermore, enforcement of any disability-related legislation would be ensured. Legislation around the rights set out in the Disability Rights Charter of South Africa has yet to be developed. The rights of people with disabilities are included in several acts but there is no single law governing these rights.
Despite the release of the White Paper on an Integrated National Disability Strategy in 1997, and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol in 2007, progress is slow. Among the reasons Xingwana lists are: "On-going discriminatory and stereotypical beliefs towards persons with disabilities which detracts from the mainstreaming of disability considerations at all levels; hostile built environments and communication systems which continue to exclude persons with disabilities from mainstream society."
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