People with disabilities currently account for 5.1% of the population aged 5 years and older in South Africa. People with disabilities continue to lack access to adequate health and basic education, and are at risk of economic isolation with no prospect of securing employment. The sector is also particularly vulnerable to the compounded effects of discrimination and abuse.
The complaints received by the Commission highlight systemic challenges relating to the achievement of equality, particularly in relation to disability.
According to Profile of persons with disabilities in South Africa produced by Statistics South Africa after the National Census in 2011:
“The national disability prevalence rate is 7,5% in South Africa. More than half (53,2%) of persons aged 85+ reported having a disability.
Persons with severe disabilities experience difficulty in accessing education and employment opportunities.
Households headed by persons with disabilities were found to have less access to basic services compared to households headed by persons without disabilities. There are also disparities in terms of access to assistive devices across population groups and geography.”
The Human Rights Commission’s work on Equality and Disability
The complaints received by the Commission highlight systemic challenges relating to the achievement of equality, particularly in relation to disability. Complaints relating to disability accounted for the third highest number of equality-related complaints received by the Commission in 2015/6.
The work of the Disability portfolio is informed by the constitutional mandate of the Commission, relevant national legislation, and applicable international and regional instruments.
Annual Equality Report
In fulfilling its mandate, the Commission produces an Annual Equality Report provided for in section 28 (2) of PEPUDA, which assesses the extent to which discrimination on the basis of disability persists in South Africa.
In 2015 the Commission produced the Disability Toolkit on ‘Promoting the Right to Work of Persons with Disabilities” for the private sector. The Toolkit is intended to promote awareness and assist employers in the private sector to advance the right to employment for persons with disabilities.
Section 11 Committees
Section 11 Committees are advisory boards comprised of experts from different disciplines and institutions, who advise the Commission on matters and interventions relating to people with disabilities.
In July 2016, the SAHRC convened a meeting of the Section 11 Committee on Disability in the Western Cape attend by representatives of Disabled People Organisations in South Africa to discuss progress made on addressing systemic issues relating to people with disabilities. Also under discussion was the lack of provision of wheelchairs by the DSD in rural areas; the development of a Disability Act; and the Independent Monitoring Mechanisms.
The Commission initiates investigations into human rights abuses against People with Disabilities as cases arise. Different approaches are engaged to resolve disputes depending on the nature of complaints. Recent cases include Ndebele Nkosi vs BMW South Africa: GP/1516/0688, where the Commission mediated a compliant on the reasonable accommodation of a visually impaired employee at BMW. A complaint investigated by the Commission against Standard Bank, resulted in findings against Standard Bank. These findings resulted in Standard Bank putting place measures to ensure persons with disabilities could access Automatic Teller Machines with ease.
Monitoring through Site Inspections and Provincial Visits
The Commission conducts monitoring through site visits, for instance to schools for learners with special educational needs. Recent site visits include the Swana School and Assessment Centre for people with disabilities in Empangeni, the Stanger Training College and Sunfield Home School in the Ilembe/Uthungulu District Municipality, and the Verulam Day and Frail Care Centre.
Recent visits to KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape were undertaken by the Commissioner working with Persons with Disabilities portfolio to look at the protection of the rights of people living with disabilities, particularly in care facilities.
The Commission conducts Hearings on a range of issues relating to the rights of People with Disabilities. In 2016 the Commission convened the National Hearing on Unfair Discrimination in the workplace. The aim of the hearing was to generate a deeper understanding and awareness of the trends of discrimination in the workplace; the form and inter-relatedness of types of discrimination; as well as the challenges and barriers to equality faced by all stakeholders, including employees, public and private sector employers, trade union bodies and government departments. The hearing panel was made up of Commissioner Malatji, Commissioner Ameermia, and Ms Trevonica Naidu, an independent expert. The panel received submissions from several government departments including the department of labour, civil society, and trade unions.
In addition to the Equality Reports above, the Commission also publishes Reports on Findings of Hearings, for instance the Report on the Public Inquiry: Access to Healthcare Services. The report found that “Certain vulnerabilities, such a having a disability or being an undocumented migrant, place additional barriers to accessing health care services.” The same report also found: “The combination of a poorly informed population, access barriers to health care services, a lack of professionals with knowledge and skills and inadequate policy development and implementation contribute to the inadequacy in management and prevention of non-communicable disease and disability.”
International & Regional Conferences
The Commission attends regional and international conferences and other domestic platforms and engages with a range of stakeholders to ensure that its work is relevant. These strategic engagements allow the Commission to collaborate, learn, and share best practise with other stakeholders in the sector.
In March 2016 the Commission convened a National Disability Rights Summit (March 2016), in partnership with the South African Disability Alliance (SADA) and the Department of Social Development (DSD) to sustain conversations around reforms and protections of the rights of persons with Disabilities. Other collaborative interventions include participation in the Employment Equity Road shows by the Department of Labour and the Cell C, mobile phone company’s, “Take a girl child to work campaign” focussing on children with disabilities.
The Commission attended the 7th Session of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and made presentations on “National Human Rights Institutions and the CRPD: Transforming Words into Action,” which explored how National Human Rights Institutions can make CRPD a reality. In taking its resolve further, the Commission pre-tested the guideline developed by NANHRI titled Protecting, Promoting and Monitoring the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Guide for African National Human Rights Institutions on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
A project in progress involves collating the responses by government to the CRPD implementation assessment tool. The Commission will rely on this information to develop its report on implementation.
Advocacy and public education
The Commission regularly conducts advocacy initiatives and public education on issues pertaining to disability. These include, awareness raising through education, training, public information campaigns, seminars, conferences, dialogues, roundtables, web publishing and use of social media platforms.
Domestic Legislation, International And Regional Frameworks on Disability and Older Persons
In pursuit of its mandate with respect to the rights of people with disabilities the Commission monitors compliance with:
• Section 9 of the South African Constitution.
• The United Nations Convention On People With Disabilities (CRPD).
• The Promotion Of Equality And Prevention Of Unfair Discrimination Act 40 of 2000 (PEPUDA).
• The White Paper On The Rights Of People With Disabilities (2016).
- Disability Rights Summit March 2016 aimed at strengthening consensus on an accelerated programme of action to implement the WPRPD. The Commission presented on the role of Chapter 9’s in monitoring the implementation of the CRPD.
- Provincial visits to Mpumalanga in March 2016 and the Western Cape in July 2016.
Disability Rights Summit March 2016 aimed at strengthening consensus on an accelerated programme of action to implement the WPRPD. The Commission presented on the role of Chapter 9’s in monitoring the implementation of the CRPD.
Provincial visits to Mpumalanga in March 2016 and the Western Cape in July 2016