Government Action on Disability Policy
A Global Survey
Part II - Government Replies as Country Profiles

South Africa

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© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

Ministry in the Office of the President (13 March 1996)
Compare with the following Country Report(s): ILSMH, WFD

General policy

There is no officially recognized disability policy yet, but by October 1996 a discussion document like a policy was adopted by the Government. The policy proposals emphasize both prevention, rehabilitation, individual support, accessibility measures and anti-discrimination.

Since the adoption of the Rules no campaign has been initiated by the Government to convey the message of full participation but the Government has the intention to initiate such a campaign.


At present there is no legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. However, the Government is investigating a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. In addition, the disability assembly made a submission to the Constitutional Assembly, a body charged with the new Constitution for the country, to entrench clauses in the new Constitution on equality in relation to disability. A proposal for a Commission on Disability Equality and for a Public Protector and Human Rights Commission in South Africa also regards the judicial/non-judicial mechanisms to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Few benefits are guaranteed by law in South Africa. Medical care exists in towns and big cities. Most rural areas have poor or no facilities. Income is guaranteed by means of a disability grant, subject to means test.

No legislation concerning disability has been enacted since the adoption of the Rules.


There are laws and regulations ensuring accessibility of the build environment requiring that public places, the outdoor environment, land, sea and air transportation are made accessible. No responsible body exists for observing accessibility in the build environment. The following measures have been promoted to facilitate accessibility in the build environment: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, ensuring access to public places. There are no special transport arrangements for persons with disabilities. When planning to build accessible environments the most difficult obstacles are: attitudinal factors, lack of knowledge research and information, and lack of enforcement mechanisms. There is no disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.

Sign language for deaf people has no officially recognized status, neither used as the first language in education of deaf people nor recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. There are no Government measures for encouraging media and other forms of public information to make their services accessible. The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and others: Literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille, sign language interpretation, available for major events.

Organizations of persons with disabilities

There is a national umbrella organization. There are no legal provisions mandating the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making or to work with Governmental institutions. Organizations are often consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. Consultations take place at the national level. No support is given by the Government to existing or new organizations. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in Government, legislature, political parties and NGOs. The disabled persons' organizations have the role to advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, contribute to public awareness, and promote/organize income generating activities.

Co-ordination of work

The national co-ordinating committee is reporting to the Ministry in the Office of the President. The committee includes representatives of the Ministries of Health and Social Affairs, Employment, Transport, Housing, Education, Planning, and representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities, and from other NGOs. The Government expects the national co-ordinating committee to participate in policy development but not to perform other tasks. The establishment of the co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes in the disability field, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more accurate planning, and improved promotion of public awareness.

The adoption of the Rules has led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy.

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Compare with the following Country Report(s): ILSMH, WFD