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Categories: HEADLINES
Disability is currently very much in the headlines and all for the wrong reasons!   We were horrified to hear of the over 100 deaths of persons with psychiatric disabilities in Gauteng – never, never and never again must such a thing happen!   We have been begging the Government for the last three years and more to approve the necessary legislation to fund the building of suitable homes for people with disabilities.

Homes which would comply with the necessary standards to provide desperately needed accommodation not only for disabled but the aged, as well as children currently living in appalling conditions, etc.   As a member of the Special Needs Housing Task Group, which has been meeting at University of Western Cape for a number of years, we were involved in initiating the drafting of the necessary legislation which had been approved by all concerned and was to have finally been approved by Parliament in 2015, but is still hanging around – Dept of Social Development and/or Dept of Human Settlements are still apparently working on the finer details.   Organizations for the Aged are equally concerned and we have both taken the matter up with the SA Human Rights Commission in the hope that they can hurry the process along!

MARCH IS HUMAN RIGHTS MONTH so let us all advocate for the human rights of persons with disabilities as equal citizens with equal rights!  


Just a word of thanks to Lorraine Frost, Programme Manager – Vulnerable Groups, at the City's Social Development & Early Childhood Directorate, for once again undertaking the organization of International Day – a major event in the disability calendar.   Our sincere thanks to her and her many helpers, and for the necessary funding from the City of Cape Town – everyone had a great time and the event was packed out – no room left for even a mouse!   We, at Network Office, were sorry to have been so scarce, but we were having meeting after meeting to finalize the changes to our Constitution.

Such was the disappointment among those unable to attend the major International Day Event, that when Metrorail came forward at the last minute with offers of a band in the Station Forecourt, concessions on rail tickets etc, and as we were only too aware of many disabled who were still hoping for some entertainment on International Day itself ie the Saturday, we gladly accepted their kind offer.   There was a band and people greatly enjoyed the music - dancing and singing, some  demonstrating their wheelchair dancing skills.  We also had the opportunity to distribute our publicity pamphlets to the crowds arriving and leaving the station, some of whom joined in the singing and dancing.   It was wonderful to behold how confidently our people with disabilities talked about their lives, thoughts and feelings to the crowd!   Much appreciation to Metrorail and also WC Minister of Social Development Albert Fritz for giving of his time to address the crowd.

This is the incredible story of a girl of 17 who tackled the 2000 km migrant trail in a wheelchair, translating along the way for other refugees, using English she learned from a US soap opera – The Bold and the Beautiful.   Syrian teen Nujeen Mustafa does not shy away from a challenge!  Now living safely in Germany, she has set herself a new goal:  to prove German Chancellor Angela Merkel right that migrants could enrich society.   Hers is a story so remarkable that even Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai has hailed her as an inspiration: “she says:  'I'm her hero' which feels a little weird to me because she has shown that girls can change the world”.

The young Syrian, who has cerebral palsy, has chronicled her trek from Aleppo across Europe in a recently published memoir.   Nujeen describes it as an attempt to put a human face on the wave of refugees across Europe.   The book, Nujeen, starts with the early days of the Syrian war and the escalating violence, until it becomes too dangerous for the family to stay.   Too old to travel, her parents stay in Turkey, leaving Nujeen and her sisters to set off for Germany.  She recounts in detail the terrifying boat trip to Greece, with her uncle steering the dinghy from what he learned from YouTube videos.   Once ashore they have to navigate smugglers, crowded camps and closed borders.   But there are also moments of levity and solidarity, like when fellow migrants help lift Nujeen's wheelchair over obstacles.   Since arriving in Germany last year, Nujeen is going to school for the first time, and has taken up wheelchair basketball.   What an incredible young person!

MARCH IS ALSO INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY  MONTH so we are going to focus on Down Syndrome – World Down Syndrome Day is on 21 March.
People with Down Syndrome (and those who advocate for them)!  Speak up, be heard and influence  Government policy and action, to ensure that you can be included, on a full and equal basis with others, in all aspects of society.

Some of Down Syndrome SA's self-advocates express their feelings as follows:

* KAYLA:  She wants to be taught how to cook and enjoys writing, drawing and reading but wants to be taught how to read, write and speak properly.   She wants to learn how to type on a computer. She likes music, dancing and singing, and also wants a job so she can have money of her own to buy things;  she also wants a boyfriend and wants to get married.
*MARINUS:  He wants to be able to work so that he can keep busy and earn money so he can buy things and have a girl friend.
*TIMOTHY lives in KZN, on a farm near Hillcrest.  His biggest wish is to find a job, in a sheltered environment, to earn his own money, to buy his own stuff, but in the meantime he wishes the Government would give him a bigger SASSA allowance that is more liveable.
*SHERI is a girl with Down Syndrome – 34 years old, has lived in Bloemfontein all her life.   She is lucky to have studied and to have a job but not all people with intellectual disability have this opportunity because of lack in opportunities and in their abilities.    She feels that the Govt focusses on helping people with physical disabilities, while people with intellectual disabilities are often disregarded.   If the developmental potential of these people could be elevated and supported, they would be able to do more for themselves and could play a more positive role in society.   Public transport was unreliable and assisted places to stay, often undesirable.   She would have liked to get married and live on her own, but needs some financial support and a little assistance from time to time.   She feels she has a right to be respected and an obligation to respect other people.   She feels she is not less human than any other human and did not choose to be disabled.   People do not mind that many like her are killed before birth every day, but people dont realise how sad the abortions on Down Syndrome foetuses makes others with Down Syndrome feel .   Can the Government please assist her in changing perceptions about people with Down Syndrome?   She knows she has given hope to many families and would like to do even more.

 For more information, kindly visit https://worlddownsyndromeday.org/wdsd-2017 or contact|: Down Syndrome Association WC <info@downwc.co.za>

(Coffee shop hires people with intellectual disabilities)

A little magic arrived in the lives of intellectually disabled people with the opening of a coffee shop in Cape Town dedicated to giving them jobs.   Brownies and Downies, which will run as a non-profit organization, also aims to train special-needs people to be employable in the hospitality, service and retail sectors.   The shop, the first of its kind in SA, is based on a Dutch concept launched by chef Teun Horck and Thijs Swinkels, who worked in a special-needs school.   After noticing how few people with disabilities were employed in the hospitality sector, they now have close to 30 shops in the Netherlands.

Dutch social worker, Wendy Vermeulen, who brought the idea to Cape Town, said:  “In the Netherlands, and especially in SA, people don't acknowledge people with intellectual disabilities.”
Brownies and Downies opened its doors employing 23 staff aged between 15 and 37.   Their conditions include Down's syndrome, foetal alcohol syndrome and autism.   Ashley du Preez,19, has been turned away from 17 schools because of her autism.   “They don't want someone with autism at normal schools.   She has worked at a lot of places.   She gets stressed and then they fire her,” said Vermeulen.   Her guardian, Susan du Preez, took Ashley in because she had an abusive mother and ended up living on the streets.   She has got absolutely nothing.  It was hard in the beginning, but she pushed through,” said Susan.   “This coffee shop is wonderful.   It gives everyone a chance to do something.   It's all these kids ever need, just a little push.”

Tineke Ganz-Malan, Director of Down Syndrome Association Western Cape, said the concept was fantastic.   “It is not easy in South Africa.   People with intellectual disabilities who come from lower-income and disadvantaged communities are often relied on for their disability grants as an income.   They don't get a chance to leave home and work,” she said.   Ganz-Malan, who has two children with Down's syndrome, commented that the Long Street shop provided an opportunity to integrate people with intellectual disabilities into society.   For further info contact Down Syndrome Association WC<info@downwc.co.za>


It is hard enough imagining the challenges a young woman starting university at the age of 16 might face, but when one considers the person in question is profoundly deaf, the prospect seems even more daunting to a hearing person.   It is even harder to grasp a scenario where that same young woman has not only become her university's first Deaf graduate with a matriculation from a Deaf school, but in the process has won over hundreds of her hearing peers to take up sign language classes at six campuses at her place of study.

Yet 20-year-old Robyn Swannack has taken it all in her stride, and last June
 received her Bachelor of Social Science degree from UCT, racking up a range of “firsts” in the process:  first deaf person from a deaf school to graduate and first deaf person to be doing postgraduate studies at UCT.   Meeting in Rondebosch on Sunday June 19 last year, the Tatler sat down with Robyn and well-known southern suburbs sign language interpreter Lesego Modutle to learn more about the graduate's remarkable achievements.

Significantly, there is difference between Deaf with a capital D and deaf with a lower case d.   The capital D Deaf generally refers to people who are deaf and embrace the cultural view of Deafness, in other words, learning sign language, being a part of the Deaf community, and includes both the Deaf and the hard of hearing people;  while the lower case “d” deaf refers to deafness as a medical condition, and thus those who are deaf without taking part in Deaf culture, which includes those who are born deaf but learn oralism (lipreading), for example.  

Upon arrival at UCT, she set about finding new ways to communicate with her fellow students, writing things down and encouraging them to learn some basic sign language.   In the lecture hall situation, UCT's disability unit proved incredibly helpful as both interpreters and note-taking assistants were provided.  “What I did find when I arrived, was that some lecturers believed the cognitive level of the Deaf might be less, but that changed over time.   Although I started out studying for a BA degree, I later changed to a B.Social Science.   The BA degree was based too much in Hearing Linguistics, but I found that in the field of social anthropology I could also do more to help the Deaf,” she said.   By way of example, Robyn, who is now doing her Honours degree in social anthropology, is working on a dissertation on how parents of Deaf children communicate and formulate decision-making processes.

“I am visiting four families, all from different backgrounds.  The first family is from Khayelitsha, and everyone is completely Deaf.  The second family presents a situation where only the mother and child are Deaf, while the third family are Muslim, and the child has had a cochlear implant.   I am currently looking for the fourth family, as I only started my research last week.

I decided on this topic for my dissertation because while there has been a lot of research on this subject in the US, there has been none to date in SA.   If we can have some concrete information, it could help a lot of people.”   Robyn's determination to change perceptions and attitudes about the Deaf, has also taken root in a social project she began on campus, one which has grown exponentially and yielded fantastic results.  “As an undergraduate, I started organizing sign language classes at UCT.   Many people joined, and last year we had 258 students.   Now that number has grown to 800 students, and the classes are being held at six campuses around the university.   I think a lot of people joined because it was something different.  Actually, people join for a number of different reasons.   I have a musician friend who plays the flute and the organ, and after signing he found that he has “softer” hands when he plays the instruments.”

While her original intention was to do her social anthropology Master's degree in Europe on completion of her studies, Robyn, at the insistence of her lecturers, has now decided to change tack and focus her attention on gender studies within her field, particularly relating to the abuse of Deaf people.  “I have written an essay on the lack of facilities for Deaf people in terms of seeking medical and psychological help when they have been victims of domestic abuse.   This is a very important topic for me, and I am hoping that through my work I will be able to have a centre for Deaf people to come in with an interpreter.   A lot of people are disappointed when their child is born deaf, and parents might even hide their children from society.   But, really, Deaf language acquisition is the same as learning another language.   It's like an English-speaking person learning Afrikaans.   People should understand that, and be aware that Deaf people can function just like everyone else in society.”


AIM:   to provide a platform for educational practitioners to share their experience and expertise in the area of special education as well as bringing together policy makers to discuss the challenges and opportunities that present themselves in terms of ensuring access and engagement for all.

1) to explore critical issues and aspects of the inclusion policies and its implementation for children with Special Educational needs;  and
2) to provide opportunity to policy-makers and school leaders to reflect on the approaches of implementing the inclusion agenda in the teaching and learning in current school's curriculum and structure.

The Conference will raise awareness of participants and policy-makers of good practice globally on access, engagement and enablement of children with Special Educational Needs.

  CONTACT PASCHAL CHUENE Tel 011-050-1358 or 011-463-8405 or 086-441-9425
  OR EMAIL:  <paschalc@protrainsbs.co.za>

Tiny Handz has put together the FIRST online training of its kind in South Africa!   Do this training ONLINE in the comfort of your own space and time.   You simply need a computer and internet access.  This is the ultimate fun method of training, if you are eg working full-time or don't have time to attend training sessions.   The full SASL training is available now:  Basic SA Sign Language Training;  Intermediate;  Advanced as well as Baby Sign Language (non-special needs) – contact Monita Bester <contact@tinyhandz.co.za> for more information.



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