Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane wishes to signal the launch of Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM) 2021, under the theme: The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke – Create and Realise an Inclusive Society Upholding Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The United Nations (UN) has declared the theme for 2021 International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) as “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.”
The DRAM 2021 Campaign is observed from 3 November 2021 to 3 December 2021 and the campaign culminates on 3 December 2021 which is International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The launch of DRAM 2021 coincides with Local Government Elections week, and so, unlike previous years, the launch will be heralded through media engagements during the week to draw attention to work being done by government throughout the year to further the interests and rights of persons with disabilities.
The Local Government Elections allows all citizens to exercise their right to vote, and to have their interests represented in governance structures. This is especially important for persons with disabilities who often feel their interests are neglected or ignored.
DRAM 2021 will focus on the following sub-themes which are intended to focus conversations on priority areas identified with the disability sector and also linked to the seven priorities of government:
Accelerating human dignity and learning environments for persons with disabilities at all levels
Inclusive socio-economic empowerment of persons with disabilities
Improved COVID-19 services inclusive of persons with disabilities at all spheres of life
Realising and celebrating the importance of disability rights, women empowerment and gender equality and elimination of GBVF
While our country has made some strides since the advent of democracy, persons with disabilities continue to experience a number of interrelated challenges in accessing their rights, which include the following:
Social barriers such as lack of awareness on the different types of disabilities amongst society, which results in lack of acceptance of persons with disabilities within communities; negative attitudes resulting from ignorance, misunderstanding and prejudice which keeps society from appreciating and experiencing the full potential persons with disabilities can achieve.
Psychological barriers which are mainly informed by fears for their personal safety.
Structural barriers such as accessibility to facilities and infrastructure, the lack of support services or technology, the lack of availability of information in accessible formats and the lack of reasonable accommodation in schools and work places.
The continuing existence of discrimination and prejudice denies persons with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis with others, and to pursue opportunities such as those identified in the NDP.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane calls on government, civil society and other sectors of our society to observe the DRAM 2021 campaign by highlighting efforts made to move persons with disabilities from the periphery by maximizing access and effortless participation into the formal education system, mainstream economy, breaking down communication and related barriers therefore fostering inclusivity of persons with Disabilities in all spheres of life.
The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has since launched the Impact of COVID-19 on Persons with Disabilities Research Report on 11 October 2021. The report looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Persons with Disabilities in South Africa.
The research study highlights experiences of persons with disabilities in relation to the following thematic areas: access to information, education, health, social services, safety and security, economic opportunities (employment and economic relief measures), transport, consultation and participation, quarantine and isolation sites.