|The United Nations has referred to children with disabilities as the world’s most exposed and vulnerable minority group. This is true for South Africa as well.
Children with disabilities of South Africa are confronted by the following challenges:
1. The Department of Health denying them their right to life supporting and essential assistive devices. Some children never receive essentiasl assistive devices like customised seating and mobility devices while other children are placed on waiting lists and have to wait for up to sic years for their devices. The provinces of the Free State and Northern Cape are the worst in the non-provisioning of assistive devices. Under the country’s constitution, the government is obliged to provide assistive devices as part of basic health care services, but it fails dismally in its obligation
2. The denial of their right to quality early childhood development facilities and programmes. Mainstream ECD facilities are inaccessible to children with disabilities and there are only a very limited number of facilities specifically for children with disabilities. Although many care centres exist, the quality of stimulation and educational input ate these centres leave mush to be desired. These day care centres offer mainly basic care
3. Their general marginalisation and exclusion from mainstream society
4. The Department of Basic Education denying them their right to a basic education. 500 000 children with disabilities of school-going age are out of school. The country’s policy on inclusive education, Special Education White Paper 6, was adopted by Cabinet in 2001. Sixteen years down the line and the government still fails to offer children with disabilities accessibility into mainstream schools and a quality and equal education.
5. Society’s failure to adequately protect them from neglect, abuse and exploitation. More often than not the perpetrators of crimes against children with disabilities are known to the family and sometimes members of the family themselves.
6. Their exclusion from play, recreational, social and cultural activities
7. The Department of Justice denying them access to justice as victims of crime. The SA Police Services and prosecuting authorities seem to not view crimes against children with disabilities in the same serious light as crimes against non-disabled children. (Lives of lesser value?). Often disabled children are not regarded as credible witnesses resulting in perpetrators not being prosecuted. In other cases prosecuting authorities don’t go into enough effort to prepare the victim for the hearing and the important task of utilising the services of the right intermediaries to support the victim in her testimony, is neglected. It is not uncommon for cases of crimes against children with disabilities to be either thrown out of court or for the court to reach a non-guilty verdict
8. Their alienation, exclusion and stigmatization because of cultural superstitions. In many communities disability is viewed as a curse. Disabled children in such cultural settings are therefore severely stigmatised and marginalised. The can even be an ambarassment for their own families and some families go as far as keeping their disabled children out of sight and are sometimes literally locked away in backrooms.
9. The Department of Health denying them their right to adequate health care and rehabilitative services. Children in outlying rural areas are most affected by the lack of adequate health care and therapeutic and rehabilitative services. They have to rely on the services that are available at the local clinics. These health services are often very limited and essential therapeutic services like physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy are only available sporadically or not at all.
10. The denial of their right to be free from poverty