As a collective, South African’s are responsible for the accommodation of individuals who have been excluded for reasons which are attached to how they were born, in which economic or social strata they were born and the genetics that they were born with since not one of us have had any control or say to the circumstances under which we entered this world.
South Africa has, since 1994, often been lauded for its progressive Constitution and the rights of all South African’s as detailed in the Bill of Rights and South Africans from all walks of life can be grateful for the strong and principled values which form the basis of these rights. After all the Bill of Rights is there to ensure that: “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”.
South African’s who are part of micro-communities which are high risk in terms of discrimination in other countries across the world, are safe in the knowledge that theirs rights are equally valued, if not more so, than South African’s from socio-economic groups which are less under risk. While it can be agreed that there is still room for improvement with regards to ensuring these rights are met, the groundwork is most certainly in place and so now, what remains is for the consistent and conscientious removal of barriers to equity and equality and for positive action to be taken to secure these rights for all.
Previously disadvantaged South African’s include those who were previously discriminated against within the bounds of the Apartheid Government, including women and children, people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities, those who are considered Neurodivergent (non-neurotypical meaning people with cognitive variations), and people who belong to, or identify with, the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Discrimination (PEPUDA) Act 4 of 200 is specifically aimed at ensuring that the aspirations of the Constitution are met by facilitating the development of a democratic society which is based on equality, equity, fairness, freedom, human dignity, justice and social progress. To further this goal, a national strategic framework has been drawn up specifically bringing attention to reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. This framework, published in Gazette 45328, focusing on unpacking the concept of accommodation of persons with disabilities, how these needs should be met and whose responsibility those needs, it should be.
Government has also published a national strategy regarding universal design and right of access to services in 2019 which was established to inform the government and to establish best practices which could be standardised and implemented to ensuring that all people, regardless of their age, size, ability or disability will be able to participate in economic, social or cultural life.
Sound legislation itself is not enough to implement change. It is only when we look upon our fellow citizens with compassion, care and empathy that our society will achieve the lofty goals set out for us within the bounds of our legislation. When we look around us to our friends and families and recognise that we all know someone who is vulnerable discrimination because of a perspective we may hold or a bias we may have, that we can choose to begin to actively engage with legislation with the unified goal of equality for all, which is something that we are all worth of.