Understanding Disability: The Complexity

Half a million children with disabilities in South Africa have been shut out of South Africa’s education system. In KwaZulu Natal, the highest number of children not accessed to any form of education, is 117 000. Most are hidden away at home and lack the opportunities to learn and progress.

The medical model of disability observes a person’s limitations based on their condition or impact that their disability imposes on them. With this approach the individual is seen to be limited and so the focus is on fixing the person.

Siyakwazi advocates for a more inclusive social model which observes the barriers that exist in the environment of an individual with a disability. In this way, societal attitudes and areas of accessibility are addressed.

Supporting the social model of disability is therefore a process of getting everyone involved and not just focusing on the individual with a disability. This is done through building awareness about what disability is and isn’t and implementing sustainable solutions to breaking down discriminatory attitudes and ignorance barriers that exist.

Creating the necessary awareness for inclusion is a complex process and can take time. We’re not just telling people ‘Hey, fix your attitude’, but rather getting them involved in conversations and showing them the potential for every child to learn. Couple this with scale of barriers and how each individual and child experiences their disability differently, it’s an ongoing process of conversations and advocacy building.

Siyakwazi has seen that assisting parents to enrol their child with a disability and/or barrier to learning in an ECD centre, makes a significant difference in breaking the isolation. Inclusion of children with disabilities in ECD services is legislated by Government, but is still in the process of becoming a reality in many of our communities. Parents and teachers are often unaware of the potential that all children have to learn, function, communicate and participate with other children.

Siyakwazi creates an ‘eye opener’ into the potential of every child to learn and supports teachers and parents with specific ways to include children with disabilities and/or learning barriers with specialised tools and resources.

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