White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD)

Definitions

Approved by Cabinet on 09 December 2015 and broadly circulated at the beginning of 2016, the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD) is intended to “accelerate transformation and redress with regard to the full inclusion , integration and equality for persons with disabilities.” Ms Bathabile Dlamini (MP- Minister of Social Development) 


This document, if made into Law, will change the South Africa that people with disabilities know - hopefully for the better, but due to capacity both internal to Government and within industries, it would also place somewhat unreasonable pressure and requirements on these departments and industries. According to the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa website under the section titled The Process of Making a Law, it states the following “the process of making a law may start with a discussion document called a Green Paper that is drafted in the Ministry or department dealing with a particular issue. This discussion document gives an idea of the general thinking that informs a particular policy. It is then published for comment, suggestions or ideas. This leads to the development of a more refined discussion document, a White Paper, which is a broad statement of government policy. It is drafted by the relevant department or task team and the relevant parliamentary committees may propose amendments or other proposals. After this, it is sent back to the Ministry for further discussion, input and final decisions.” Therefore the WPRPD is not law (yet), but it does raise numerous interesting points and the implementation matrix makes for easy identification of who (in terms of different government departments) is responsible for delivering on the White Paper. 

As an introduction to the WPRPD I’d like to highlight a few terms and their definitions as per the white paper, which I found of interest (and is good to know in general). 

Disability 
The UNCRPD does not attempt to define disability per se, but rather recognises disability as an evolving concept. Disability is imposed by society when a person with a physical, psycho-social, intellectual, neurological and/or sensory impairment is denied access to full participation in all aspects of life, and when society fails to uphold the rights and specific needs of individuals with impairments.
Persons with disabilities experience three main types of interrelated barriers:
• social (including high cost, lack of disability awareness, and communication difficulties);
• psychological (such as fear for personal safety); and
• structural (including infrastructure, operations and information).
(WPRPD, page 4)

Inclusion 
Inclusion is regarded as a universal human right and aims at embracing the diversity of all people irrespective of race, gender, disability or any other differences. It is about equal access and opportunities and eliminating discrimination and intolerance for all. It is about a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can best fully participate in society with no restrictions or limitations.
Inclusion implies a change from an ‘individual change model’ to a ‘system change model’ that emphasises that society has to change to accommodate diversity, i.e. to accommodate all people. This involves a paradigm shift away from the 'specialness’ of people to the nature of society and its ability to respond to a wide range of individual differences and needs. Inclusion is the ultimate objective of mainstreaming.
(WPRPD, page 8)

Reasonable Accommodation
Reasonable accommodation refers to necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments, as well as assistive devices and technology, not imposing a situation, where needed in a particular case, to ensure persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
(WPRPD, page 12)

Universal Access 
Universal access means the removal of cultural, physical, social and other barriers that prevent people with disabilities from entering, using or benefiting from the various systems of society that are available to other citizens and residents. The absence of accessibility or the denial of access is the loss of opportunities to take part in the community on an equal basis with others.

Universal Design 
Universal design is the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all persons to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialised design. Assistive devices and technologies for particular groups of persons with disabilities where these are needed, must also respond to the principles of universal design. Universal design is therefore the most important tool to achieve universal access.
(WPRPD, page 15)

The WPRPD and its Implementation Matrix can easily be downloaded here

If you’d like to find out more about how to include various users in a space, service and environment, please contact us directly, we’d love to hear from you.

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