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Removing all barriers to access

Disability Awareness is celebrated annually during November, and this year the theme is “Remove barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.

This period provides an opportunity for each person and institution to use whatever effective means they have at their disposal to remove barriers, and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.

The International Day of People with Disabilities, 3 December, is also commemorated as National Disability Rights Awareness Day. The following principles, which the South African government officially subscribes to, are crucial for creating an inclusive society:Right to self-representation: People with Disabilities have the right to self-representation in processes and structures of decision making on issues that affect them. In situations where they cannot represent themselves they have the right to choose or nominate a family member to represent them.

Accessibility: In the context of disability the principle of accessibility can be described as synonymous with the principles of full inclusion, equality and participation in mainstream society. The correlation between lack of access and exclusion is obvious.Self-respect and self-sufficiency: It is critical that all assistance and support provided to people with disabilities are done with their full consent and inclusion, and that the purpose and outcome of such assistance and support, ultimately, are self-respect and self-sufficiency.

Social integration: This is the key measure by which one can assess whether people with disabilities are being accorded their full rights and treated with the same equality accorded all other citizens.

I nclusion: This is complementary, and can be described as the common thread that runs through all the above-mentioned principles. It supports the approach of mainstreaming disability issues so that they are addressed within the context of normal community services. Innovation for the blind as a daily manifestation, as the national vision stipulates, makes a measurable difference to the lives of the visually impaired! However, this cannot be achieved without the help and support of friends, partners, businesses and the community.

A special thanks is expressed to every person or business that helped remove barriers this year, to create an accessible and inclusive society for people with visual and other disabilities.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve

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