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Dec 04
Spotlight on disability and access to care

By: Lunga Memela (Communication Engagement Lead)

It's the final countdown to the official release of the South African Health Review (SAHR), a flagship publication produced by the Health Systems Trust (HST) addressing key health issues that affect South Africans collectively in the public and private health sectors. One of the publication's focal areas in this 2020 edition is improving access to healthcare and the overall quality of life for persons with disabilities so look out for the hashtag: #SAHR2020onDisability

Yesterday, the world commemorated International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) and Thesandree Padayachee, HST's Programme Manager for Health Systems Research who is also a Ph.D candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Cape Town, contributed an in-depth blog article that mapped out the importance of raising disability awareness.

​In HST's continuous efforts to make the world a better place for all by lobbying for unyielding health promotion, we interviewed the humble and ever compassionate University of KwaZulu-Natal's Optometry Professor Khathutshelo Percy Mashige who introduced himself as a quadriplegic, "…[m]eaning that I have total loss of function and feeling in all four limbs. I use a wheelchair for mobility and a caregiver/attendant to assist with activities of daily living," he said.

Lessons learnt from HST's interview with Prof Mashige

"People with disabilities have feelings, dreams and aspirations like anyone else. However, they still face cultural, physical, social and other barriers that limit them from accessing opportunities for employment, reasonable accommodation and public transport. They still face challenges of discrimination and ignorance." Prof Mashige expressed.

​Society may sometimes be ignorant to the fact, but the Prof highlighted that there are a number of emotional and mental challenges faced by persons with disabilities and their families and caregivers based on a number of unfair social statements and judgements by other people. "These things couple[d] with other challenges associated [with] quadriplegia, (and) can often lead to depression." Now imagine all of these challenges manifesting in today's unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19?

A positive outlook

Not so long ago, Mashige was a young and aspiring academic in the field of optometry. Today, he finds himself a professor in the discipline, affiliated with the Community Self Mastery Coaching Institute, the Global Institute for Entrepreneurship and Ethics and an active member of the Health Professions Council of South Africa. He cares about helping people and making an impact which he feels his line of work allows him to do. He intends to start a business, travel, finish writing his books and getting them published!

​Our call to action

While the Prof is grateful and fortunate to have had his family, especially his mother, brothers and sisters to care and support him during his journey to success, all persons with disability need and deserve the same love, care, support, sensitivity, to feel understood, and definitely to have easy access healthcare, especially chronic medication where necessary.

HST's way forward: The South African context

HST, together with Inclusive Practices Africa, a research group of the Faculty of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences affiliated to the University of Cape Town, are due to release the findings of its latest South African Health Review the week of 7 December, timed to overlap with the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, under the theme of 2020, "not all disabilities are visible."

​​HST's newly appointed Employment Equity Committee is holding several meetings, one of the key topics being disability inclusion.​


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