Disability Rights Awareness Month - Overcoming the 1%
November 23 2017 By Beth Cook
Theme for Disability Rights Awareness Month 2017: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.
Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM) takes place annually from the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December. The 3rd of December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, also celebrated as National Disability Rights Awareness Day.
This month is an important and exciting one for Progression as it allows us to spread awareness and educate society around disability. In addition, it provides us with the opportunity to drive the inclusion and advancement of persons with disabilities, both in the corporate world and society. DRAM aims to promote an understanding of disability, the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.
These are all goals that Progression works towards throughout the year. However, Disability Rights Awareness Month provides an opportunity for corporates and society to mobilise action to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in all aspects of life by persons with disabilities.
There is an estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide. In South Africa, 10% of our population are living with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is leading disability worldwide, with the number of people being diagnosed with depression steadily on the rise. Poverty is one of the main factors that can lead to depression. This is of great concern considering that 55% of the South African population live below the poverty line.
Historically, three main segments of the South African population were, and in some instances still are, subject to severe discrimination. This includes people of colour, women and persons with disabilities. Although we are striving to empower these individuals and ensure the fair and equal treatment and participation of all, people with disabilities are still being pushed aside.
The skewed emphasis placed on certain public holidays and awareness days is evidence of this. Every year women are celebrated through Women's' Day. A day that is celebrated by means of a public holiday and a craze of "Women's' Day Specials". We celebrate our culture and history on Heritage Day. People dress in their traditional attire, hundreds of braai's are lit and social media is flooded with people in colourful dresses, animal skins, beads, hijabs etc.
Did you know that from the 3rd of November to the 3rd of December marks Disability Rights Awareness Month? A month dedicated to bringing awareness to and celebrating people with disabilities. There is no public holiday, no workplace celebrations and no trends on social on media. As 10% of the South African population, people with disabilities need to be given a chance to tell their stories and battles, and we, as fellow South Africans, need to be listening. Disability Rights Awareness Month is the opportune time to do this.
The majority of people with disabilities face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation, all basic human rights.
The shocking statistics are evidence of this. According to our stats, a mere 5% of people with disabilities have a Grade 12. In addition, persons with disabilities make up less than 1% of the reported workforce. It is estimated that around 95% of persons with disabilities are unemployed.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to these statistics and the resulting discrimination of persons with disabilities in the work and public sphere. Negative attitudes, stigma and a lack of knowledge and awareness are some of the largest barriers that prevent or hinder people with disabilities in fully and equally participating in society. The working environment is no different, and presents its own set of barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to enter or succeed in the workplace.
Join the discussion and break down the barriers.
Overcoming many of these barriers starts with a simple conversation. One of the best ways to effectively remove the stigma that surrounds disability is to openly discuss this "taboo topic". It is important to note that disability is part of normal human experience.
As the late Nelson Mandela stated: "Education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world." Through educating our workforce and society about disability it will, in turn, empower people with disabilities and create real opportunities for an inclusive and accepting society. When people are empowered, they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.