households in South AfricaSouth Africa has prioritized passing laws to encourage greater inclusion and equality for people with disabilities, but today, disabled individuals continue to face economic insecurity and lack access to socio-economic rights. Every day, households in South Africa impacted by disability have economic vulnerabilities and disability-related costs to fulfill, which can negatively impact economic growth by lowering future productivity. In South Africa, low-income households with disabilities are more disadvantaged, resulting in lower education, employment and health outcomes.

Disability Barriers

In South Africa, families with disabilities are economically challenged due to the additional costs of living as disabled individuals. The negative economic consequences for society as a whole link to poverty because poverty and disability reinforce each other. Impoverished households in South Africa with a lack of access to education, healthcare and jobs are at higher “risk of impairment and disability.”

Daily barriers the disabled community faces include limited access to education and healthcare, accessibility issues and inadequate support and resources. Children with disabilities are often unable to attend school because they lack the appropriate resources and access to rehabilitation and assistive devices like wheelchairs or glasses. A central component and cause of poverty for people with disabilities is inadequate education.

Employment and Income Impacts

In South Africa, a lack of education for people with disabilities has a significant impact on the occupations and career opportunities available to them, resulting in unemployment or lower-paying jobs. Many disabled people who do find work are usually paid less than other people due to the limitations imposed by their impairment. Both of these variables have the potential to reduce household income.

Furthermore, increased time demands of providing care and assistance to an individual with a disability in the household impact the income of other household members. This is especially so for the primary caregiver. This may have pressing consequences, including difficulties finding work that can accommodate the high assistance demands in the household and allow for flexible or decreased work hours. Occupations with flexible working conditions are difficult to come by. Additionally, the birth of a disabled child or a disabling incident in the home may disrupt the education of other family members.

Progressive Laws Passed

The South African government has acknowledged the disability vulnerabilities of households in South Africa. South Africa has enacted a number of laws and policies to promote the inclusion and equality of people with disabilities. One of the earliest pieces of legislation is the Employment Equity Act of 1998. The White Paper on Inclusive Education was passed in 2001 to ensure disabled people have the same educational opportunities as others. The legislation upholds the rights of disabled people to ensure their education and employment, allowing them to rise out of poverty. Excluding marginalized populations is detrimental to a country’s advancement. Inclusive societies are able to progress at a faster rate because no person is left behind in growth and development.

Mary McLean
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