A guide to Disability Rights Awareness Month

Yesterday marked the beginning of National Disability Rights Awareness Month as well as a month-long campaign by government to try and bring more awareness to the rights and issues of disabled people in South Africa. The government’s chosen theme for this year is “Together Building Communities Inclusive of Disability Rights”. This theme aims to deal with issues the disabled face when trying to integrate into communities and creating spaces that are inclusive for them.

Disabled people still face so many grueling barriers economically, socially and politically. There are over three million disabled people in South Africa, but most of the time they’re excluded when key decisions and changes are made within these sectors. Many of them also lack access to basic resources which should be easily available to all, and if they are able to get access, more often than not, they have to endure some form of struggle. Disabled people also fall victim to South Africa’s merciless culture of violence, as women with disabilities are twice more likely to be victims of gender-based violence.

All disabled people deserve to chase after their dreams, pursue a career and live fulfilling, dignified lives. But too often they find themselves in situations where their dignity is stripped away and they’re at the receiving end of stigma, discrimination and shame.

This month, take a look at your own prejudices towards the disabled and try to unpack them. Ask yourself where does this belief stem from? How long have I had this belief? How can I be more open minded? What can I do to help others become aware of their prejudices? This is also a great time to educate yourself on the issues disabled people face in your community and ask yourself how you can become an ally for the disabled.