Integrated National Disability Strategy- White Paper

White Paper from the Office of the President, South Africa. Disabled people should not be seen as objects of pity but as capable individuals who are contributing immensely to the development of society. Internet publication URL:

White Paper
Office of the President

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Executive Summary


Prevalence of Disability in South Africa
Disability and Exclusion
Sectors Experiencing High Levels of Exclusion
Causes of Disability
The Medical Model
The Social Model
Existing Disability Structures


National and International Scenario
An Integrated National Disability Strategy


Public Education and Awareness Raising
Health Care
Barrier Free Access
Data, Information and Research
Human Resource Development
Social Welfare and Community Development
Social Security
Sport and Recreation


Legislation and Monitoring


Progress to Date




Appendix A: Monitoring Structures
Appendix B: Glossary of Terms
Appendix C: Glossary of Acronyms



Among the yardsticks by which to measure a society's respect for human rights, to evaluate the level of its maturity and its generosity of spirit, is by looking at the status that it accords to those members of society who are most vulnerable, disabled people, the senior citizens and its children.

The concept of a caring society is strengthened and deepened when we recognise that disabled people enjoy the same rights as we do and that we have a responsibility towards the promotion of their quality of life.

We must stop seeing disabled people as objects of pity but as capable individuals who are contributing immensely to the development of society.

We must play an active role in working with them to find joy and happiness and the fulfilment of their aspirations.

Through the establishment of the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons, in my office, our government wishes to express its unswerving commitment to the upliftment and improvement of the conditions of those members of our society who are disabled.

Research estimates that between 5 and 12% of South Africans are moderately to severely disabled. Despite this large percentage of disabled people, few services and opportunities exist for people with disabilities to participate equally in society.

Throughout the world disabled people are organising themselves to engage society on the question of their fundamental rights. The United Nations has issued two documents dealing with the concerns of people with disabilities. These are the United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons.

Both documents call for extensive changes in the environment to accommodate the diverse needs of disabled persons in society. The emphasis is on a fundamental shift in how we view disabled people, away from the individual medical perspective, to the human rights and development of disabled people.

As a government we endorse these principles.

This White Paper represents the government's thinking about what it can contribute to the development of disabled people and to the promotion and protection of their rights. We believe in a partnership with disabled people. Therefore the furtherance of our joint objectives can only be met by the involvement of people with disabilities themselves.

This document is the product of an intensive and thorough process of consultation with all the relevant organisations of and for disabled people.

We believe that this White Paper reflects the aspirations of many disabled people in our country. But this is not the end of the process.

The Integrated National Disability Strategy will kick-start a further process involving disabled people in the development of specific policies and legislation aimed at giving effect to the recommendations contained in the White Paper.

Finally, may we take this opportunity to thank the many individuals and organisations who have contributed to the development of this White Paper.

Your contributions will prove to be invaluable to the process of the creation of a truly people centred society.




The Deputy President wishes to acknowledge the contribution of all individuals and organisations who participated in the production of the White Paper. In particular he would like to acknowledge the following:

Core Group:

Charlotte McClain, Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape
Colleen Howell, Disabled People South Africa
Fadila Lagadien, National Co-ordinating Committee on Disability
Lidia Pretorius, Rural Disability Consultant
Maria Rantho MP, Chairperson, Disabled People South Africa
Philip Thompson, Chairperson, South African Federal Council on Disability.


Sue de Villiers, for her patient editing of the Draft White Paper, and numerous other tasks.
Benny Gool for providing the cover picture.
Rustica Press for the publication of the White Paper.

International support

The Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA) provided financial support for the entire process. Johan Brisman and Lotta Sylwander gave immeasurable support at critical moments in the development of the White Paper.


The critical and valued comment received from the member organisations of the South African Federal Council on Disability, especially, Disabled People South Africa, National Council for Persons with Disabilities, Deaf Federation of South Africa, National Epilepsy League, Quadriplegic Association of South Africa, and the South African National Council for the Blind.

Office of the Deputy President

Dr Essop Pahad, Deputy Minister in the Office of the Deputy President, provided guidance throughout the process of compiling the White Paper.

Reverend Frank Chikane, Director-General, and Lucille Meyer, Chief Director, Office of the Deputy President, provided technical support throughout the entire process of producing the White Paper.

Shuaib Chalklen, Director, Office on the Status of Disabled Persons, co-ordinated the overall process of producing the White Paper.

A special word of thanks to all the individuals who made the valuable submissions at the national and provincial public hearings. Your efforts are sincerely appreciated.

Executive Summary

There is a serious lack of reliable information about the nature and prevalence of disability in South Africa. A 1995 estimate puts disability prevalence in our society at 5% of the population.

People with disabilities are excluded from the mainstream of society and experience difficulty in accessing fundamental rights. There is, furthermore, a strong relationship between disability and poverty. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to disability and disability reinforces and deepens poverty. Particularly vulnerable are the traditionally disadvantaged groups in South Africa including, additionally, people with severe mental disabilities, people disabled by violence and war and people with AIDS.

Disability tends to be couched within a medical and welfare framework, identifying people with disabilities as ill, different from their non-disabled peers, and in need of care. Because the emphasis is on the medical needs of people with disabilities, there is a corresponding neglect of their wider social needs. This has resulted in severe isolation for people with disabilities and their families.

Over the past decade, disabled people's organisations all over the world have worked to reposition disability as a human rights issue. The result is a social model for disability based on the premise that if society cannot cater for people with disabilities, it is society that must change. This model requires substantial changes to the physical environment. The goal must be the right of people with disabilities to play a full, participatory role in society.

This changing ethos has taken place within an international context which finally gave rise, in 1993, to the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. A key principle of disabled people's movements throughout the world, and indeed of the social model itself, is the involvement of people with disabilities in the process of transformation.

The vision of the Integrated National Disability Strategy proposed by the White Paper is a society for all. This means that there must be an integration of disability issues in all government development strategies, planning and programmes. There must be an integrated and co-ordinated management system for planning, implementation and monitoring at all spheres of government. And, to complement the process, there must be capacity building and wide public education.

Key policy areas have been identified. These include prevention, health care, rehabilitation, public education, barrier free access, transport, communications, data collection and research, education, employment, human resource development, social welfare and community development, social security, housing and sport and recreation. The White Paper has developed policy objectives, strategies and mechanisms for each of these areas. Where necessary, different components have been identified. Recommendations highlight specific areas for action.

The right of people with disabilities are protected by the Constitution. Government departments and state bodies have a responsibility to ensure that, in each line function, concrete steps are taken to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access the same fundamental rights and responsibilities as any other South African.

To co-ordinate this activity, the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons has been established in the Office of the Deputy President. The Office on the Status of Disabled Persons will work together with, and parallel to, the various state bodies and departments in order to further the development of a disability friendly environment. It will maintain close working links with the NGO sector.

The legislative framework is crucial. There is a need to examine the need for new legislation. Existing legislation must be scrutinised and amended where necessary. Ultimately, legislation should comply with and give substance to Constitutional requirements.

Finally, in order to ensure that legislation is effective and policy implemented, research and monitoring are essential. Transformation must involve practical change at every level of our society.


National Disability Strategy Contents