“We cannot rest if even a single one of our citizens is a victim of discrimination and prejudice on account of having a disability.” This is the message from President Cyril Ramaphosa on International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Delivering his message on Thursday, President Ramaphosa warned that there can be no sustainable growth and development in any society if there are members who are excluded from being active citizens on account of disability.

The President said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the difficulties people with disabilities face in a number of sectors – from accessing healthcare to using public transportation and seeking employment.

“In line with our commitment to building towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world, we must ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind.

“The social, economic and political inclusion of persons with disabilities is included in the UN Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as our own National Development Plan (NDP). Now that we are in the final decade of implementation of both the NDP and Agenda 2030, we must increase the pace of change,” President Ramaphosa said.

Presidential Working Group on Disability

The President said through the work of the Presidential Working Group on Disability, government is making sure disability is mainstreamed in all government plans and programmes, along with the necessary budgets.

“Disability has been included in the work streams of the National Coronavirus Command Council. We are striving to ensure that the legal, social, economic, health care and containment work streams include disability in their work.

“A process is underway to finalise a report on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on persons with disabilities, which will guide not only our approach to disability in the economic recovery plan, but also our preparation for future crises of this nature,” he said.

As government works to implement the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, it is making sure that people with disabilities are prioritised when it comes to job opportunities under the Presidential Employment Stimulus, and that businesses owned and managed by people with disabilities have access to opportunities in the key growth sectors.

End gender-based violence against disabled people

As South Africa marks 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, President Ramaphosa challenged every citizen to work to end gender-based violence (GBV) against persons with disabilities, and ensure that survivors get the necessary support.

“According to numerous studies, women with disabilities are more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of partners. Women and children with cognitive disabilities may be taken advantage of due to their perceived inability to report the crime,” the President said.

Disability Rights Awareness Month 2020

The International Day for Persons with Disabilities is observed annually on 3 December to promote the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and the economy, and to take action for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development.

The United Nations has themed this year’s commemoration ‘Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

The International Day for Persons with Disabilities also brings to a close government’s Disability Rights Awareness Month 2020 (DRAM 2020).

The DRAM, which run from 3 November to3 December 2020, aims to raise awareness to the harmful effects stigmatisation, prejudice and stereotypes have on the disability sector. The campaign also aims to celebrate individuals who have overcome prejudice, societal barriers, and hardship to excel in their chosen fields.