Approximately two percent of the population are intellectually disabled.
Intellectual disability may occur at birth or later in life through illness or
injury. It is estimated that up to forty percent (40%) of cases of intellectual
disability are preventable. Unfortunately intellectual disability cannot be
cured, as brain damage is permanent.
In South Africa great strides have been made in policy and legislation and is
based on the principle of inclusion of people with disabilities. The following
are some of the laws and policies that impact on the lives of people with
- The South African Constitution & Bill of Rights (May 1996)
- Integrated National Disability Strategy (1997)
- The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Discrimination (Act 4 of 2000)
- White Paper on Special Needs Education (July 2001)
- The Employment Equity Act (Act No 55 of 1998)
Sadly, despite the promulgation of these laws and the adoption of policies,
people with intellectual disabilities are still being discriminated against.
Where discrimination still exists
Children with severe and profound intellectual disabilities do not have the same
access to education, training and stimulation as children without disabilities.
As is the case with many of the country's social problems, non-governmental
organisations (NGO's) have responded to the plight of children with severe and
profound intellectual disabilities by providing daycare centres. NGO's are
lobbying government to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities are
secured, with no success to date.
Furthermore, inadequate resources and a lack of protocols by the Deparment of
Education make the early detection of learners with learning disabilities
impossible. The result is that learners in the 14 to 18 year age group are left
without the support and opportunities that the Bill of Rights entitles them to.
The Employment Equity Act of 1998 promotes affirmative action of people with
disabilities in the workplace. In support of this, government is demanding that
4% of the workforce should be people with disabilities. To date, less than 2% of
the South African workforce are people with disabilities.
Women and children who are victims of sexual assault experience extreme
difficulty in accessing the justice system as they are often not regarded as
Plea by Cape Mental Health
For most of us, living a 'normal' life is something we take for granted. We grow
up, go to school, graduate and start a career and hardly ever give a second
thought to those who are unable to do just that. Cape Mental Health calls on you
to make a difference this month by celebrating those living with Intellectual
Disability. Cape Mental Health Society is the oldest Mental Health Society in
South Africa and provides a host of services for people with intellectual
disabilities. Contact: (021) 447 9040.
- Issued by Cape Mental Health Society