It is great to be part of the modern day South Africa, the South Africa of the future. Our future, yes I say our future, because I see myself as an activist for inclusion. To be included into everything and anything pertaining to being human in this day and age is essential for all of us. Each individual should be able to decide for him or herself if they want to partake, or not in whatever activity, or action it may be. I recently became very conscious of the different awareness drives that pop up onto our calendars.
These events that get splashed in the media that needs to be observed, or celebrated. And I do not refer to the many public holidays that we celebrate because the Public Holidays Act (act no 36 of 1994) is clear enough about this. I refer to when Transport month, Mental Health Awareness month, Marine month and Social Development month; all falls over the same period, October. And what really stood out for me is the various significant days that gets observed within this period. And I see the irony in some of them. Early in the month of October is World Habitat Day (1st), World Teacher’s Day (5th) and World Mental Health Day (10th) to name a few. These are all issues that affect most people, but so much more people with disabilities because of the unequal opportunities we have to face and the stigma associated to it.
What also amused me a bit was something that affects me personally: National Obesity Week, which is observed from 15 to 19 October, includes World Food day on the 16th. Now it is important that every member of our society should be considered when these days are determined and their needs to be consulted widely when the themes and focus are established to maximise the impact that these days will have on us all. Another alarming fact that stood out for me was that World Spine Day and World Trauma Day is commemorated on the same day, 17thOctober, and I thought of how trauma to my spine caused my disability!
These coincidental similarities got me thinking of how, in the preparations for the period of disability awareness, all spheres of government departments, business and the general public should become more aware of the significance of the period 3 November to 3 December, which is Disability month. Many aspects of various disabilities have had their prominence in the previous month, like World Sight Day (11 October), World Bone and Joint Week (12 – 20 October), World Arthritis Day (12th), National Down Syndrome Day (20th), World Polio Day (24th) and World Stroke Day (29th). The ceremonial commemoration of these days should be focussed on in days as these but when it gets to the actual month of disabilities, and then the bread and butter issues should be faced.
Now we must ask why so many people with disabilities are still unemployed, why adequate healthcare for people with disabilities is still lacking in our rural areas and question the inaccessibility of public transport in most of our cities. So many people with disabilities have inadequate housing; many are still abused and discriminated against. Even the fortunate few who have employment are being treated unfairly and exposed to intimidation. We have in actual fact very little to celebrate on the International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December) because many people with disabilities are denied some of their basic human rights. It is time for change and action! Let us all unite to address these important issues as we approach Disability Month in 2012 and make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in South Africa.