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Top achievers honoured at National Disability Awards

Written by Amukelani Chauke

Sport, arts and culture

Individuals and organisations dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities were honoured at the 2nd National Disability Awards.

Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu hosted the awards in Cape Town recently.

The theme for the awards was “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology”.

The winners of various categories were given hi-tech devices for themselves or their organisations, while the Deputy Minister also assigned them to be ambassadors at a province of her choice, where they were expected to mentor a child with a disability.

The Self Help Association of Paraplegics (SHAP), a Soweto institution that rehabilitates and helps disabled persons deal with disabilities, was acknowledged in the National Business Leader Disability Award category.

The South African Disability Development Trust, which skills and empowers disabled people so that they can get jobs, was also recognised in the same category for ensuring that more than 5 000 people got employment across various sectors of the economy.

Former Human Rights Commissioner and High Court Judge Jody Kollapen and Pick n Pay boss Ray Ackerman were given certificates of recognition in the National Champion Disability Award category for their contribution to the disability struggle over the past 20 years.

The MTN Foundation was recognised in the National Company Disability Award category for sponsoring seven fully accessible computer labs for disabled children at seven schools, among others.

In the National Higher Education Institution Disability Award category, the University of Limpopo was recognised for its initiatives that make the lives of disabled persons easier. This included the construction of a residence for disabled persons and establishing an accessible computer lab.

In the National Woman Disability Achievement Award catergory, Joyce Sibeko, the founder and chairperson of Ikemiseng Association for the Blind, received an award for her work in helping elderly people who are visually impaired access economic opportunities in areas like small-scale farming.

Another recipient in the same category was Nomasonto Mazibuko, president of the Albinism Society of Southern Africa and a commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality. She was recognised for her ... contribution to people living with albinism. In the National Young Leader Disability Award catergory, Thabang Manamela was recognised for ensuring that his university’s Disability Unit rendered a quality service to students with disabilities.

Speaking after the awards, Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu said over the past 20 years there had been much progress in improving the lives of people living with disabilities through social inclusion.

“Disabled people were seen as welfare cases. They were put in institutions, denied access to education and seen as people who needed to be looked after.

“After 20 years of freedom, the South African Parliament has had more than 40 members of Parliament with disabilities, had Ministers and had deputy ministers, have disabled people employed across different spheres, have judges in the different courts,” she said.

The Minister added that the country had moved on from an era where people with disabilities were never employed and when they were subjected to receiving nothing but grants. “…but today people with disabilities, we are at 1,6 per cent in government close to our 2 per cent, and the private sector" a lot of companies have surpassed the 2 per cent intake.

“Disabled people are owning businesses, they are also getting the famous things called tenders like everybody else and they are also growing their businesses. They have access to financing for disabled entrepreneurs, which is something we never used to have,” she said.