In President Zuma’s State of the Nation address, he highlighted many key areas of importance. Minister Gordhan has wisely allocated funds for the implementation of these ideas. The South African National Council for the Blind, in turn, wants government to acknowledge the principles of inclusivity which the constitution guarantees for people with disabilities, and for government to make a concerted effort to ensure that blind South Africans are afforded access to the rights and services to which these newly allocated funds will allow.
Blind South Africans need to be actively included in the following new areas:
R10 billion for job creation, small enterprise development and youth employment
By encouraging companies to employ able and skilled blind workers there will not only be less unemployment amongst blind South Africans, but it will also allow for a change in perceptions in how disabilities are viewed in the broader social context. Unemployed blind youth also need to be constructively, and positively occupied with work, just as much as non-disabled youth. In equipping and funding self help groups and NGOs to train and encourage enterprise development there will be a sense of self empowerment amongst blind people and less of a reliance on government aided grants. We suggest a job summit for people with disabilities be created and attended by government and the business sector.
R9.5 billion for skills development
By allocating funds to legitimate NGOs and self help groups to encourage training and skills development, government will ensure that the empowerment of blind people is not only possible, but also sustainable to ensure a stream of skilled people who are willing and able to contribute to society through their work.
R8.2 billion for the upgrading of schools
Special needs schools are in serious need of attention. Schools for the blind have distinguished themselves in producing top matric results in the last year. However, these schools are faced with adversity, not only in the form of learners with special needs, but also in terms of funding and quality teachers. The determination of these learners to succeed is strong, but on its own it is not enough to keep morale in schools up when these schools are in even greater need of addressing President Zuma’s three T’s of education (Teachers, Time, and Textbooks). We urge government to help make it possible to have prescribed books and textbooks available in braille, large print and electronic formats for these learners as is vital for their continued education.
R7.9 billion for primary health care and hospitals
Funds need to be awarded towards the prevention of blindness, rehabilitation of blind people and for the mobility training of newly blind people as part of the primary health care process. Money should also be allocated to allow for the greater subsidy of assistive devices for blind people.
The South African National Council for the Blind strongly believes in skilling, developing and empowering the vast majority of blind and partially sighted people to take charge of their own lives through the initiatives outlined above. If this framework is implemented properly and with care, government will benefit in the long run by having to allocate less funds towards disability grants because able bodied blind people will be positively and meaningfully contributing to society. We trust that government will take our views into consideration.
National Executive Director
South African National Council for the Blind