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Launch of the Disability Rights Awareness Month Speech

Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas on the occasion of the launch of the Disability Rights Awareness Month, 03 November 2013, Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre.

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Programme Director
The Honourable Deputy Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Miss Hendrietta Bogopane Zulu,
The MEC for social Development in the Eastern Cape Miss. Penny Majodina,
Honourable MEC’s present,
The Executive Mayor of Sol Plaatje Municipality, Ms Agnes Ntlangula
Leaders of the different faith based organisations,
Persons with Disabilities,
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and privilege to be part of this important gathering to launch the 2013 Disability Awareness Month as we prepare to engage in a constructive dialogue to respond to the issues that continue to confront people with disabilities.

We are coming together as nation to mark the National Disability Rights Month and further affirm government’s commitment to provide a better life for all, including people with disabilities, who are among the most disadvantaged people of our country and still excluded from all aspect of societal life such as health, education, employment opportunities etc.

The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

Correctly so, this dialogue takes place under theme “Break barriers, open doors to realise an inclusive society for all”. This theme calls upon us to act in order to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. We must thus act with vigour to improve their quality of life. We must act to break down the barriers that prevent them from achieving their full potential. During this Disability Month we ought to act in a manner that shows our true commitment to every initiative that is aimed at supporting people living with disabilities.

Programme Director, people living with disabilities continues to inspire us to appreciate life, regardless of its challenges. In most instances they do remarkable things which many able-bodied people cannot do. In spite of the limitation of the necessary resources to make things simple for them, they still strive to succeed, at times without the assistance of other people. We should always understand that no person ever chose to live with disability and it will be wrong to judge any person because of his or her disability.

We must not only care about people with disabilities because it is Disability Month. But we should forever know that caring for those who need our utmost assistance cannot be replaced or postponed. We must be available to help people with disability without expecting any reward. Those who volunteer their services in various centers are true heroes who deserve words of appreciation and admiration. We are indebted to such people for they go an extra step in supporting people living with disability.

The Government we are privileged to lead is a caring government, eternally dedicated to the betterment of all citizens, we recognized the challenge faced by disabled persons and made the commitment to elevate their concerns into the top priority of the government’s agenda of reconstruction and development.

One of the first actions of the democratic government was to place the issues, concerns and affairs of disabled persons in the Office of the Premier. We are also blessed because we have a Minister and a Deputy Minister that is responsible for women children and people with disabilities in our country to demonstrate our commitment and seriousness to respond to the plight of people with disabilities.

As a government, our caring attitude to disabled persons is underpinned by our commitment to society and our Constitution that values human dignity, equality and the development to full capacity of all citizens, including disabled persons.

We believe that disabled persons must also enjoy the prosperity, a better life and all the opportunities that our freedom and democracy have availed.

Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

Today I have come to pledge our government’s overarching message of Support and solidarity with the disabled persons all over the world on this launch of Disability awareness month.

But the solidarity we pledge must be expressed in action, not just empty words. During this month, we will be raising awareness through practical action to educate our people about norms and standards that guide processes that are aimed at improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities. And through such standards we should be in a good position to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in various sectors of the society.

Working hand in tandem with the Department of Public Works, government is paying attention to transforming public buildings, among other things, to improve access for disabled persons.

We need to ensure, among other things, that buildings have proper signage, that lifts have proper sensors and speakers and that we have buildings that are generally sensitive to the needs of the disabled persons.

We must work very hard to ensure the active involvement and participation of people with disabilities in the mainstream of the economy. Furthermore, we made a commitment as government that disabled persons must have equal access to work opportunities in the public service and the private sector. This, and others, is a challenge that we address daily through various works that are underway.

We are talking here of transforming the whole society and even the environment, to ensure that it successfully addresses the challenges of service delivery to the disabled communities.

In doing so, I wish to reaffirm our commitment as the Government to building a society that cares and values our disabled persons. We believe disabled persons are special people.

I take this opportunity to encourage all of us here today to continue doing the best we can to contribute in the effort of creating a better life for people with disabilities, especially those in the rural areas of our country. Our environments are created by us and we can change them.  This dialogue must change me, not the other person.  If everybody makes a difference by changing his attitude towards others, this world will be a better place.  The society we dream of can only be created by ourselves.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, open and frank discussions, in this dialogue can make a change, be open and raise your concerns and find solutions.  

I thank you

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