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The acronym PEPUDA has such powerful implications for us as people with disabilities in South Africa. Does everyone know what it means? What does it stand for?

All readers of Rolling Inspiration should know it well, especially with Human Rights Day still fresh in our minds.

PEPUDA is the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000. Many of us call it the Equality Act.

In Chapter 2 the Act states: “No person may unfairly discriminate against any person on the ground of disability, including:

  1. denying or removing from any person who has a disability, any supporting or enabling facility necessary for their functioning in society;
  2. contravening the code of practice or regulations of the South African Bureau of Standards that govern environmental accessibility;
  3. failing to eliminate obstacles that unfairly limit or restrict persons with disabilities from enjoying equal opportunities or failing to take steps to reasonably accommodate the needs of such persons.”

That is indeed powerful stuff! It really does enable our fraternity; it is a breath of freedom; it gives us equality.

But what have we done about it? Have we used it to our advantage? The answers are: very little; and certainly not nearly enough.

Human Rights Day came and went almost un-noticed and, when you read this, Workers’ Day will have just passed.

Regrettably for most people with disabilities and those around them, these public holidays are virtually meaningless. With no work, what is the benefit of having a Workers’ Day holiday? With very few rights (of access) where’s the win for us on Human Rights Day?

Why don’t we change all that? Perhaps the time has come to dust off the Equality Act and see if it really has teeth. Let’s get PEPUDA working for us as it should do!

There has, over time, been a few cases which have been successful, but none have really been precedent setting; with judgements that will go on to have a great impact on people with disabilities in our country. So, let’s change that. Let’s lodge a dozen claims against buildings which are not accessible, let’s have a further dozen against employers who have discriminated against our folk, and another dozen against Municipalities or Councils which have dragged their heels in delivering services for people with disabilities.

Surely, this way we can get the attention of the media, the public, the employers, the government and municipalities, the developers and the service providers.

Isn’t this actually the process of creating really equal opportunities for people with disabilities or am I just dreaming? Symbolically, this is a Paralympic year – so why don’t we go out and get some Gold Medals through the Equality Act for the people with disabilities who don’t necessarily excel in sport? Let’s aim now to make sure Human Rights Day gives us something to celebrate in 2009, let’s work towards many more of our people enjoying the real meaning of Workers’ Day the next time around.

Let’s show everyone in this country what PEPUDA means. It’s our Right!

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