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Integrated National Disability Strategy
Office of the President
CHAPTER TWO: NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
National and International Scenario
WORLD PROGRAMME OF ACTION CONCERNING DISABLED PERSONS
1981 was declared the International Year of Disabled Persons by the United Nations. This year was not recognised by the South African government. It was, nevertheless, promoted by the NGO sector whose adopted theme was 'Full Participation and Equality'.
It was this that gave rise to the development of a disability rights movement in this country.
The most important outcome of the International Year of Disabled Persons was the adoption of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons during the UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1993). The purpose of the World Programme of Action was to promote effective measures for the prevention of disability, rehabilitation and the realisation of equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.
1986: NATIONAL YEAR OF DISABLED PERSONS
1986, the International Year of Peace, was also not recognised by the South African government which, apparently in an attempt to divert attention from the violence raging in the country at the time, declared a National Year of the Disabled.
Investigations carried out on the circumstances of disabled people by NGOs (including the DPSA and the Government) revealed the complete absence of any workable policy on disability. Gross discrepancies in the few existing services were also revealed, in terms of both racial and rural/urban distribution.
Following the 1986 investigation, an Interdepartmental Co-ordinating Committee for the Care of the Disabled (ICCD), involving state departments and the NGO sector, was established. Its role was to implement the various recommendations arising out of the 1986 investigation. Because, by the end of 1991, it had not succeeded in implementing a single one of its tasks, it was disbanded and a restructured South African Federal Council on the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (SAFCD) was given responsibility for policy development.
In doing so, it was to build on the experience and creative interaction between service providers and representatives of organisations of disabled people over the preceding seven years.
It was also decided that the Federal Council should interface with the political negotiating process rather than the government of the day. However, this structure also struggled due to lack of capacity and other factors.
STANDARD RULES ON THE EQUALISATION OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
The UN facilitated the drafting of the Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Disabled Persons to provide governments with clearer guidelines on actions to be taken. The Standard Rules were adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993.
Aims of the Standard Rules
The aims of the standard rules are as follows:
Objectives of the Standard Rules
- They imply a strong moral and political commitment by the State to take action for the equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities.
- They offer an instrument for policy-making and action. The purpose is to ensure that all persons with disabilities may exercise the same rights and obligations as other citizens.
- They outline crucial aspects of social policies in the disability field, and provide models for the political decision-making process required for the attainment of equal opportunities.
- They propose national mechanisms for close collaboration between the State, organs of the UN, NGOs and DPOs. (Footnote 1)
The objectives of the Standard Rules are to:
Political and Moral Foundation
- stress that all action in the field of disability presupposes adequate knowledge and experience of the conditions and special needs of persons with disabilities;
- emphasise that the process through which every aspect of the organisation of society is made accessible to all is a basic objective of socio-economic development;
- outline crucial aspects of social policies in the field of disability, including, as appropriate, the active encouragement of technical and economic co-operation;
- provide models for the political decision-making process required for the attainment of equal opportunities, bearing in mind: widely differing technical and economic levels; the fact that the process must reflect keen understanding of the cultural context within which it takes place, and the crucial role of persons with disabilities in it, and
- propose national mechanisms for close collaboration among states, the organs of the UN system, other intergovernmental bodies and organisations of persons with disabilities.
The international Bill of Human Rights comprises the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. It constitutes the political and moral foundation for the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
DISABILITY RIGHTS CHARTERS
The following disability rights charters are pertinent.
The Disability Rights Charter of South Africa During 1991, the Disability Rights Unit of Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), together with DPSA, began working on a charter of demands of disabled people in South Africa.
The development of a draft charter involved a lengthy process of consultation with many organisations of disabled people throughout the country. The demands of disabled people were collected in this process. The final charter, after various processes of ratification, was finally adopted by the DPSA Council in December 1992.
The Disability Rights Charter of South Africa reflects demands from disabled people. The aim is to promote equal opportunities for all disabled people. It is a document which asserts the right of all disabled people to live independently in a safe environment and in a society free from all forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse.
SPECIFIC DISABILITY-RELATED CHARTERS
In order to address the more specific needs of people with different disabilities, various sectors within the disabled community have been involved in developing charters. These express the specific demands and rights of different sectors of the disabled community. These charters are important in highlighting the fact that people with different disabilities experience discrimination in different ways, and thus reflect the importance of a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing disability issues in South Africa. (Footnote 2)
Another important development for the disabled community in South Africa took place when the 1996 Constitution came into effect.
Chapter 2 of the 1996 Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens. It includes, in Section 9, the equality clause, and the right to freedom from discrimination based on a number of social criteria. Discrimination based on disability is specifically mentioned and disabled people are thus guaranteed the right to be treated equally and to enjoy the same rights as all other citizens.
The inclusion of this provision in the Constitution has far-reaching implications for preventing discrimination against disabled people in our society. It now requires practical implementation.
Provision is also made for affirmative action. Persons with disabilities have clearly been disadvantaged in the past, and should benefit from this clause.
The Right to Franchise, however, excludes from voting people with mental disabilities confined to institutions.
THE RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
The RDP White Paper
The White Paper of the Ministry without Portfolio in the Office of the President commits itself to the following:
'The Government will design, in consultation with disabled people, a comprehensive programme for the disabled which will enhance their engagement in society and remove discriminatory practices against them, especially in the workplace. Government will also discuss means to reintegrate mentally and physically disabled people into their communities . . .'
Despite this significant commitment by the Government of National Unity, it is also important that the needs of disabled people be integrated into all components of the RDP. In this regard, the Government has acknowledged that the first RDP White Paper did not address disability in an integrated manner.
As a consequence, a Disability Programme was established in the Office of the Minister Without Portfolio in the Office of the President to facilitate the full integration of disability into the RDP. With the closure of the Ministry, the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons was formally established in the Office of the Deputy President.
Implementation of the RDP to Date
The importance of integrating disability issues into all areas of policy development and strategic planning, and the weaknesses inherent in programmes where this does not take place, is demonstrable. An evaluation of the implementation of the Presidential Lead Projects (PLPs) thus far, and their capacity to meet the needs of disabled people, showed that:
- Free health care for children under six years old has not always automatically been extended to include rehabilitation and the provision of assistive devices.
- The Primary School Nutrition Scheme has not reached the majority of disabled children as they are not presently in schools.
- The National Literacy Campaign may fail to reach the majority of disabled adults, particularly those who are Deaf and/or blind, due to inaccessible communication and teaching methods. Physically disabled adults may also be excluded as a result of inaccessible public transport and centres of learning.
- Schools and classrooms built or renovated under the Culture of Learning Programme are, generally, in contravention of the National Building Regulations of 1986 and therefore tend to be inaccessible to wheelchair users.
An Integrated National Disability Strategy
VISION: A SOCIETY FOR ALL
In a society for all, the needs of all citizens constitute the basis for planning and policy, and the general systems and institutions of society are accessible to all.
By accommodating the structures of society so that they function in a way that meets the needs of all, society mobilises the potential of all its citizens and, consequently, strengthens its developmental potential.
People with disabilities are a natural and integral part of society as a whole, and should have opportunities to contribute their experience, talents and capabilities to national and international development.
The concept of a society for all, encompassing human diversity and the development of all human potential, captures the spirit of the human rights instruments of the United Nations.
Defining and translating the human rights of disabled persons into specific measures and programmes, however, remains the major challenge. The Standard Rules are the main instrument guiding public policy in the direction of ensuring the human rights of disabled persons. They will also assist Government in creating an enabling environment that will lead to the full participation and equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities at all levels of societyãduring and after the period of reconstruction and development. This includes the right of disabled people to assume full responsibility as members of society.
The objectives of the 'Integrated National Disability Strategy' include:
- the facilitation of the integration of disability issues into government developmental strategies, planning and programmes;
- the development of an integrated management system for the co-ordination of disability planning, implementation and monitoring in the various line functions at all spheres of government;
- the development of capacity building strategies that will enhance Government's ability at all levels to implement recommendations contained in the 'Integrated National Disability Strategy'.
- a programme of public education and awareness raising aimed at changing fundamental prejudices in South African society.
Principles upon which the Strategy is based include:
A People-Driven Process
A fundamental principle which informs the outlook of the disability rights movement in South Africa and internationally is the right to self-representation. This means that the collective determination of disabled people must be used to inform the strategies of the government.
In recognising this principle, the Government acknowledges the advisory role of organisations of persons with disabilities and their representatives in the decision-making processes.
The right to equality guaranteed in the 1996 Constitution must include social and political equality at all levels. This means that disabled people should enjoy equal access to fundamental rights, even if the exercise of these rights involves removing barriers and creating enabling mechanism. For example:
Integration and Sustainability
- the right to vote is restricted by inaccessible polling booths and voting material;
- the right of access to public information is restricted as a result of inaccessible public media;
- failure to recognise Sign Language prevents Deaf people from enjoying access to full participation in the social, political and economic life of the country.
Historically, disability issues have been addressed in a piecemeal, fragmented way. This has been one of the key factors contributing to the marginalisation of disabled people and the dire poverty of the circumstances in which the majority find themselves.
If the needs of disabled people are to be effectively addressed and the objectives of the RDP are to be met, disability must be fully integrated into the principles, strategies and framework of the programme. This will ensure that the effects of apartheid as they have affected disabled people will be eradicated in a sustainable process of reconstruction.
The development of the 'Integrated National Disability Strategy' needs to take place within a coherent programme of reconstruction and development and must be planned and implemented in terms of strategic guidelines.
The pursuit of goals of freedom from want, hunger, deprivation, ignorance, oppression and exclusion should underpin strategies for disability planning.
The funding of the 'Integrated National Disability Strategy' as part of reconstruction and development should link up with potential sources of finance and related policies, whether from the public or private sector.
All disability programmes should be carried out with appropriate consultation and facilitation, and should include the necessary monitoring mechanisms.
The Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons and the Disability Rights Charters will be the guiding documents in developing, implementing and monitoring the 'Integrated National Disability Strategy'.
CHAPTER TWO: NOTES
(2) The SA Blind Workers Organisation (SABWO) drafted a Charter of Demands for Persons with Visual Disabilities that has subsequently been endorsed by the SANCB's Council as representative of the views of persons with visual disabilities. The Deaf community initiated a process of listing their specific demands in response to the Disability Rights Charter of South Africa.