More than one billion people with physical and mental disabilities in the world must overcome daily challenges.
One of those challenges is encountering other people. As a society, we are all different and must recognise the importance of acceptance.
Disability awareness is vital when it comes to breaking stereotypes and overcoming preconceived ideas about disabilities. Thankfully, many people are interested in getting involved with disability awareness and often wonder how they can take part in making a change.
Why is Disability Awareness Important?
Millions of people with disabilities are likely to spend a lifetime of unemployment and dependency, and about 7.5% of people have some type of physical disability in South Africa. Despite an annual increase in the number of people with disabilities in SA, society remains filled with prejudice and stereotypes towards disabled people.
Learning about disabilities, the acts that have been formulated and implemented, and taking part in awareness activities and events are steps towards breaking these barriers and promoting change.
What Does Disability Awareness Mean?
It is not enough to understand that disability discrimination is unlawful. At least a third of people entering the workforce today will become disabled by the time they retire.
Disability Awareness means to educate people about disabilities, as well as provide them with the knowledge about how to carry out tasks regarding limitations. People can learn about disability awareness through classes, training courses, or even from disabled people. Learning acceptance is important, but employers, businesses, and organisations must also understand compliance with the relevant acts. Ultimately as an employer, it is essential to differentiate between what is good practice and what is not.
How to Promote Disability Awareness
The first step in promoting disability awareness is education. Unfortunately, there is a preconception in our society about disability. Sometimes there is avoidance, fear or discomfort that surrounds it.
South Africa celebrates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December. 3 December is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as well as the National Disability Rights Awareness Day. These annual awareness dates aim to promote disabilities and educate people about them and the rights of persons with disabilities.
Though it’s a great idea to get involved with awareness activities on these days, rather aim to promote disability awareness year-round. You can organise a disability awareness event at your school that educates students about disabilities. There are also many organisations and groups worth getting involved with that promote disability awareness. Several organisations already assist in reshaping the attitudes of people with disabilities so that there is inclusion for everyone.
How to Teach Disability Awareness
More and more educators and trainers are working disability awareness into their teaching curriculums and their in-service training plans. It’s crucial that those teaching about disabilities and the laws also understand them. Additionally, parents are also educating their kids about people with disabilities.
How can we make sure we are providing students and children with the right information? The main things we need to teach them is the importance of inclusion, understanding, and acceptance. Not everyone is the same.
Employers, too, must understand the laws surrounding disabilities. Disability discrimination is unlawful, and employers and companies need to understand this. Various Employment Acts highlight which employment practices they cover under the acts, who is protected, and who is covered. Employers can educate themselves by researching and reading this portion of the Disabilities Act, but also take classes and training about it.
Taking the time to research, participate and enrol in courses about disability awareness not only promotes education, but also allows people to share their understanding about disabilities, the laws, and importance of acceptance.
“Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.”
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996