Activism for change

We pushed ourselves to the brink of activism and it seems to have worked. In one area the raising of awareness has achieved real progress. In another, we are just beginning. Always, though, there is much still to be done. It is great to report achievement. In our last issue we recorded our distress at the attitude of a particular airline towards passengers with disabilities (remember, they insisted on disabled travellers being accompanied by escorts). Since then this airline has changed its policy to line up with the rest of the carriers in South Africa – and quite probably have avoided themselves the inconvenience of active protest against them. There’s more: we’re thrilled to report that strong presentations to the travel suppliers by the full disabled community have achieved breakthroughs in communication. As we write, the first meetings will be taking place in three new and important formal structures:

There’s an ACSA Forum; an Airline Forum; and the CAA Guidelines Forum.

Each of these will address the practical requirements, the do’s and the don’ts of airline travel, for the mobility impaired. Indeed, through the CAA Forum, our community will be tabling input which will re-define and greatly enhance the guidelines on air travel for our sector into the future. Certainly here is evidence to us all that we can, indeed ring the changes. Another important signal comes out of this: In our community we can and do bring about change with the right pressure – but we must never relax our vigilance. We cannot ever rest...Most immediately, we are now bringing strong focus onto the crop of unnecessary injuries that flows from one of our country’s favourite pastimes – rugby.

Here’s the horrifying statistic:

11 people – nine of them boys playing under 20, and one of them a 40-year-old, have received serious, disabling injuries while playing rugby since the beginning of the 2006 season. Three have succumbed, and died. It is no exaggeration to call this a crisis, and we are in process of demanding a response from the SA Rugby Union. That body must actively – and quickly – addresses the problems at their root; and implement changes immediately.

Nobody can allow this to continue. We know, and we recognise and support, the robust and good work being done by the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund. The death from rugby injuries of Chris Burger sparked the launching of this initiative which collects funds to assist rugby victims, after the event. But, by donating money to this excellent initiative, the SA Rugby Union cannot step back from its real responsibility which is to create the mechanism of prevention of these ghastly calamities. Apart from us calling for SARU to create completely comprehensive overall insurance protection for all players at all times; we also urge them to probe measures which can be implemented to prevent the damage in the fi rst place. In professional rugby, where the elite perform, a large amount of resource is indeed focused on injury prevention, post-injury care, and rehabilitation. In the amateur game, this is not the case. Are our referees properly trained and drilled to blow Rule 3.9 when they notice players “not coping” with the vigour and pace of the action? Are parents and teachers advised on the dangers of over expectation to perform often placed on the young athletes taking part? Too often we hear of peer pressure being vigorously applied – to the point when those 80 minutes of sparkling rugby can become the fulcrum for paralysis or even death.

SARU must look at the 2006 statistics, now revealed. They must react: this has to change.

Columnist Photos