Disabilities in South Africa.
Indeed, when I read back, I wonder how we have put up with some of these transgressions, and allow them to happen without taking action. Remember,there is the Equality Act that we must use whenever we can.
Some transgressions have included:
- poor and undignified treatment of passengers with disabilities who need to use the passenger aid unit on the airlines.
- lack of access to public transport for people with mobility impairments
- an increasing number of young players catastrophically injured through rugby in South Africa.
On the positive side of the scales there have been a number of initiatives in the last few months that address some of the inadequacies, and which should help serve the disability sector. Hopefully these will help improve services, and make a difference:
- QASA, the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities and SA National Council for the Blind were commissioned by Swissport to train their staff who work on the passenger aid unit at airports. Also included in this training were staff from other handling companies at the five major airports.
Disability sensitisation was dealt with, together with issues of meeting and greeting, hygiene, transfers and equipment use. Hopefully those of you who use the passenger aid units will see an improvement by the staff. Unfortunately, all the airports suffer from a lack of equipment at the moment and we are pressing hard for an improvement.
- The Department of Transport is embarking on a 12 city tour with members of the disability sector to ensure that the forthcoming Bus Rapid Transit system will be integrated and accessible.
I have personally witnessed the commitment of some of the cities to be disabled friendly, and am confident that we will see an accessible transport system in the cities. This will take some time, but the intentions are definitely there. You can be assured that we have taken a non-compromising approach to our needs.
- On the third issue that I mentioned, we can be pleased that SA Rugby have appointed a specialist in prevention and wellness. Although there have been a number of catastrophic injuries this year already through rugby, planning and implementation is going ahead for a holistic prevention and wellness programme for rugby. May it never happen again that, in one season, 19 young boys are catastrophically injured through the wonderful game of Rugby.
- The National Treasury is workshopping a document, from the disability sector, on tax relief issues for people with disabilities. AT LAST! I have a good feeling about this and their intentions.
I have strong feelings about paying VAT on mobility aids and assistant devices. Just the same for paying VAT on medications and healthcare. Surely, the government should be embarrassed to take revenue from people with disabilities, and people who are not well, in the form of VAT.
Well, here is our chance to make our point.
Congratulations to all those athletes chosen for the Paralympics. Go and make us proud!
To end, I thought I would include something interesting which I read on the 4th June:
“Humility often requires courage. We assume people will think poorly of us if we admit we don’t know all the facts. But often just the opposite is true. Be honest and roll up your sleeves to learn.”