News & Views - Integration of people with disabilities

I wish to focus on the integration into the wider community of people with disabilities and the development of integration during the past 13 years. Already in 1993, the International Community started putting pressure on the South African government to accept people with disabilities as equally valuable members of the community. This was done with a document of 23 Standard Guidelines that would become an important framework for policy regarding disability in South Africa.

The South African Constitution (1996) gave hope to millions of people with disabilities. It contains the Bill of Human Rights which spells out every detail of the rights and obligations acknowledged as the fundamental rights of each member of South African society. This Bill forms an important foundation for democracy and prohibits discrimination against any person on the grounds of his or her disability.

After thorough discussions and negotiations with the government, this well- known White Paper on Integration of People with Disabilities was tabled in 1997. This document contains values that express the inherent human needs of people with disabilities.

In spite of all the rights that now protect the disabled, changing the negative mindset of the public is a lengthy process. For this reason, the Code of Good Conduct was developed as a result of the Bill on Employment Equity, No. 55 of 1998. The Code is not a summary of the Bill, and no additional rights are given to people with disabilities either. The document should, however, be read and interpreted in conjunction with legislation.

To encourage further integration of the disabled, the Department of Labour (in December 2003) developed a Technical Guideline for the employment of disabled people. This policy document supports existing legislation and should clarify issues about fair and equitable treatment of the disabled in the workplace.

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