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March is Intellectual Disability month!

By: Carine Human

March is internationally recognised as Intellectual Disability (aka Developmental Disabilities) month, and it appears that worldwide organizations are striving to create awareness in particular for our youth, targeting our next generations in an attempt to combat discrimination and stigma, and enhance inclusion and equality for people with Intellectual Disability.

It is said that 25 in every 1000 people in the Western Cape have an IQ between 50 and 80. And yet, awareness is limited, as is the understanding of intellectual disability and, of course, the causes.

There are some cases of intellectual disability with no known causes, yet over 200 causes have been identified. Important to mention is that in some cases it can be prevented, as for example in Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is caused by drug and alcohol use during pregnancy.

The Vision of the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is: "South Africa - A free and just society inclusive of all persons with disabilities as equal citizens".

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act 53 of 2003: This Act deals with economic empowerment of black women and men and persons with disabilities. The Act gives priority to issues such as employment equity and equalising opportunities.

Child Justice Act 75 of 2008: Deals with the crimes mentioned in sections 23 to 26 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007, listing it as a Schedule 3 offence when dealing with child offenders.

Children's Act 53 of 2003: The Children's Act is there to provide the necessary care and assistance to children, where section 11 deals specifically with matters concerning children with disabilities or chronic illnesses. In section 6(2) (d) and (f) the Act states that all proceedings, actions or decisions in a matter concerning a child must protect the child from unfair discrimination on any ground, including on the grounds of the health status or disability of the child or a family member of the child and recognise a child's disability and create an enabling environment to respond to the special needs that the child has.

Co-operatives Act 14 of 2005: Amongst others one of the objectives of this act is to facilitate the provision of support programmes that target emerging co-operatives, specifically those cooperatives that consist of black persons, women, youth, disabled persons or persons in the rural areas and that promote equity and greater participation by its members.

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007: This Act deals with legal aspects of or relating to sexual offences. Specifically, it enacts comprehensive provisions dealing with the creation of certain new, expanded or amended sexual offences against children and persons who have intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities.

Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977: The Criminal Procedure Act deals with; inter alia, an accused's competency to stand trial. Section 194 provides that no person appearing or proved to be afflicted with mental illness or to be labouring under any imbecility of mind due to intoxication or drugs or the like, and who is thereby deprived of the proper use of his reason, shall be competent to give evidence while so afflicted or disabled.

Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998: This Act prohibits any forms of violence within domestic relationships. Domestic relationships include between family members or caregivers and persons with disabilities.

Electoral Act 73 of 1998: This Act provides that voters with disabilities should be assisted by a person of their choice where necessary, and persons with disabilities can be registered as special voters. This allows them to vote on a predetermined day before Election Day either at the voting station or at their residence (See sections 33 and 39 of the Act).

Electronic Communications Act 36 of 2005: Section 2(s) (iii) determines that the primary object of this Act is to provide for the regulation of electronic communications in the Republic in the public interest and for that purpose according to section 2(s) ensure that broadcasting services, viewed collectively (iii) cater for a broad range of services and specifically for the programming needs of children, women, the youth and persons with disabilities.

Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002: Section 1(l) states the objects of this Act are to enable and facilitate electronic communications and transactions in the public interest, and for that purpose to ensure that, in relation to the provision of electronic transactions services, the special needs of particular communities, areas and the disabled are duly taken into account.

Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998: This Act seeks to promote and achieve equity in the workplace. This Act specifically prohibits the unfair discrimination of employees on the ground of disability. Furthermore chapter 3 deals with the employer's duties regarding affirmative action, ensuring that persons from designated groups have equal job opportunities. People with disabilities form one of these designated groups.

Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995: This Act regulates the right to fair labour practices entrenched in section 27 of the Constitution. No person may be unfairly discriminated against on an arbitrary ground such as disability.

Mental Health Care Act 17 of 2002: This Act aims at regulating and providing mental health care, treatment and rehabilitation services available for everyone and specifically regulates the manner in which the property of persons with mental illness and persons with severe or profound intellectual disability may be dealt with by a court of law (see section 3 of the Act for the objectives).

National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1977: This Act is currently under review, proposed amendments (in 2008) have undergone radical changes with respect to the section on providing facilities for people with disabilities. The requirements which should be met include: People with disabilities should be able to safely enter the building and be able to safely use all the facilities within it, specifically toilets. Furthermore lifts in buildings must be able to serve the needs of persons with disabilities. This means that there must be no obstacles/barriers that will prevent people with disabilities from accessing facilities within the building such as the lifts. The regulations refer specifically to people with impaired vision, but also relate to wheelchair users, or people who have trouble walking without assistance. Buildings that incorporate halls or auditoriums for public use are obliged to ensure that a reasonable percentage of space is available for wheelchair users or other 'assistive devices'. For any building used by the public to meet the standards and measurements contained in the 'SANS 10400-S document'. The application of the National Building Regulations Part S: Facilities for persons with disabilities.

National Education Policy Act 27 of 1996: This Act's aim, amongst others, is to ensure that no person is denied the opportunity to receive an education, to the maximum of his or her ability as a result of physical disability.

National Health Act 61 of 2003 and the Sterilisation Act 44 of 1998: These Acts prohibits forced sterilisation of persons with disabilities. The National Health Act stipulates that all persons, including persons with disabilities, have a right to reproductive health services including family planning.

National Land and Transport Act 5 of 2009: The Minister may make regulations for the requirements and time-frames for vehicles and facilities to be made accessible to persons with disabilities, including principles for accommodating such persons in the public transport system (Section 8 of the Act).

National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996: This Act, amongst others, states which disabilities or illnesses disqualify a person from obtaining or holding a learner's or driver's licence.

Postal Services Act 124 of 1998: Section 2(h) of this Act specifically states that one of the objects of the Act is to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are taken into account in the provision of postal services.

Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act 5 of 2000: This Act seeks to provide a framework for preferential treatment of women of all races, black people and persons with disabilities in procurement transactions, as a means of addressing historical imbalances, to accelerate de facto equality.

Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act: This Act promotes the prevention of unfair discrimination and protection of human dignity as contemplated in sections 9 and 10 of the Constitution. This specifically includes discrimination against people with disabilities.

Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 and Skills Development Levies Act 9 of 1999: These Acts set out a framework for managing skills development. The implementation of the Employment Equity Act requires synergy with that of the Skills Development Framework. Furthermore, the Skills Development Strategy sets out skills development targets for women of all races (54 per cent); black people, including women, and persons with disabilities.

Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004: This Act regulates the eligibility of social assistance (section 5 of the Act) and section 9 specifically deals with the condition or requirements in respect of disability grants.

South African Library for the Blind Act 91 of 1998: To provide for the South African Library for the Blind; for library and information services to blind and print-handicapped readers; and for matters connected therewith.

South African Schools Act 84 of 1996: The purpose of this Act is to provide uniform education for "everyone" without discrimination. The Schools Act further states that The Member of the Executive Council must, where reasonably practicable provide education for learners with special education needs at ordinary public schools and provide relevant educational support services for such learners. The Member of the Executive Council must take all reasonable measures to ensure that the physical facilities at public schools are accessible to disabled persons.

South African Citizenship Act 88 of 1995: This Act provides for the acquisition, loss and resumption of South African citizenship, and for matters incidental thereto. This includes and ensures the rights of persons with disabilities to have equal access to nationality.