South African marks Disability Rights Awareness Month

5 November 2015

Disability Rights Awareness Month (Dram) was launched at Optima College, which caters exclusively for blind and partially sighted people, in Pretoria on 3 November by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Dram will run for a month, from 3 November to 3 December. It aims to increase awareness of the rights of people with disabilities as equal citizens in society in general. The month-long campaign also calls for speeding up equal access to socio-economic opportunities.

This year, Dram is celebrating 60 years of the Freedom Charter under the theme: “South Africa – a free and just society inclusive of all persons with disabilities as equal citizens’.

Against all odds

Cyclist Palesa Manaleng was in a cycling accident in 2014 in which she was paralysed from her waist down. But that hasn’t stopped her from continuing her passion for riding. She will be taking part in the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge in Joburg on 15 November, during Dram.

Manaleng spent three months recovering in hospital from a dislocated spine, among other injuries. “I was lying on my bed at the Rehab Hospital and I was watching the Cycling Challenge and for the first time since my accident I was excited about something,” she recalled.

“My problem, or so I thought, was that I could no longer walk and I knew at that moment lying in that bed that I wanted the feeling of freedom that those cyclists possessed.”

She told her physiotherapist and occupational therapist she wanted to continue to cycle, but didn’t know how. “They showed me photos of Pieter du Preez on his hand-cycle and I knew then and there, I needed one,” she said.

Watch more of Manaleng’s story here:

After hearing about her story, the Cycle Challenge’s organisers decided to sponsor Manaleng with a hand-cycle, a cycling kit, training assistance and ongoing support.

“Despite this remarkable life-changing event, Palesa remains strong and committed to making the most of her new life,” said race director Tanya Harford. “She doesn’t think of herself as a victim and has no sense that her life is now over or less than it was. She’s just making the best of adapting to new challenges.

“She is the epitome of the event’s “Ride For A Purpose’ campaign.”

Government’s white paper

The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be submitted to the cabinet this month for consideration, said Minister Dlamini.

Once approved, it will commit authorities to advancing the rights of people with disabilities by accepting full responsibility and accountability for delivering services to all South Africans, including able-bodied and disabled men and women.

“It will also strengthen recourse for persons with disabilities and their families if this does not happen,” the minister said.

People with disabilities must be empowered to contribute to the development of their communities, schools, work places and to the country, she added. “Empowerment is identified as a core cross-cutting theme for enabling persons with disabilities to avail of and access all socio-economic development opportunities and rights that exist.”

SouthAfrica.info reporter