Every November, South Africa celebrates National Disability Rights Awareness Month (DRAM).
This period is used to shed light on the many issues that disabled individuals still face and offer empowerment.
For Olwethu Hlangu from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, whose hearing is partially deaf, one burning issue is finding a job.
Hlangu told IOL that she believes that she is discriminated against due to her disability.
“There are two jobs that I applied to and received calls to go interview, but when I got there and they heard how I sounded plus saw my hearing aid, I could see that there was no way I would get hired,” she said.
“The interviews were so short. They were just a bit over five minutes, and they never got back to me. Job recruiters are unfortunately still ableist.”
Ableism is a collection of ideas or practises that devalue and discriminate against persons with physical, intellectual, or psychological disabilities, and is frequently based on the premise that disabled people must be ‘cured’ in some way.
In an article published on ScieELO SA, Willene Holness writes that legislators should examine the complexities of reporting, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes perpetrated against disabled persons when deciding whether to add disability as a hate crime as a new substantive offence or as a punishment increase to existing offences.
“The unlawful deprivations of rights involve disability hate crimes that violate mental and physical integrity, life, dignity, and freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation. Perceptions of disability can translate into pity, overprotection and the exclusion of disabled people from opportunities,” she explains.
According to Hlongwa, there are many jobs that she can do, she just has to navigate the prejudice.
“I would like to think that I am skilled and could serve a purpose in some businesses but it feels impossible.”
The Durbanite has only had two jobs: stay-at-home nanny and domestic worker. Despite the barriers, she remains hopeful about the future and says she applies to jobs as often as she can.
The government claims that, “Disability Rights Awareness Month offers an opportunity for all of us to remove these barriers and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities through concrete action.
“The Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities is responsible for driving the government’s equity, equality, and empowerment agenda in terms of those living with disabilities.”