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Keeping persons with disabilities safe during COVID-19

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Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, has appealed to South Africans to create a partnership that can work towards the protection and safety of persons with disabilities.

Nkoana-Mashabane made this special appeal during a webinar focusing on upholding the rights of persons with disabilities hosted by the department on Friday.

Held under the theme, Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 South Africa, the webinar aimed to conduct an interface dialogue as a direct result of the disability-specific interventions undertaken by government across services and infrastructure within the COVID-19 government and civil society responses.

In her address, Nkoana-Mashabane pointed out a need for the government to put persons with disabilities at the centre of its response to COVID-19.

“Persons with disabilities are more likely to be affected by poverty, experience a higher rate of violence, neglect and abuse during this time. All recovering effort needs to include engagement and consultation with the sector,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

The Minister also stressed the importance of allowing persons with disabilities to have a voice in all decision making processes that directly affect them.

She said the department will utilise the vulnerable experience offers by persons with disabilities in order to be applied during COVID-19 and the lockdown period.

“I believe that looking to the future we have a unique opportunity to define and implement a more inclusive and accessible society to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When we secure the right of persons with disabilities, we are investing in our common teaches [and] we can make sure that we leave no one behind, working together,” the Minister said.

Nkoana-Mashabane said that she believed that government interventions, the policy and legislation which included the implementation of reasonable accommodation measures for the protection and safety of persons with disabilities during the national state of disaster, may go beyond the duration of lockdown period.

The key intervention, she said, includes the provision of services access to information and communication, provision of essential good such as sanitary pads, protective equipment, and food parcels in various sectors across the country.

The Minister said she has instructed employees within the department to ensure proper and immediate consultation with persons with disabilities when it is necessary.

Accurate data

Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize noted a need for an accurate, aggregate, and localised data progress for persons with disabilities on different aspects.

“Once we have accurate data, we can, for instance, look at our education system and say that it has completely opened its doors of learning, each and every child is at school at the right age of entry, teachers are equipped to manage and support each learner, and a learner has a right assistance budget.

However, Mkhize added that if access to the school building and scholar transport is still a challenge, then the department will need to isolate stumbling blocks.

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