Integrated National Disability Strategy White Paper Office of the Deputy President November 1997
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, its 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 fullfilment 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.
T M MBEKI
To read the full white paper visit: Integrated National Disability Strategy