People with disabilities picket Shoprite

In South Africa, daily exclusions from education, employment and health services keep many living with disabilities trapped in cycles of poverty. (File photo)
In South Africa, daily exclusions from education, employment and health services keep many living with disabilities trapped in cycles of poverty. (File photo)

Chanting, “Our money is as good as abled people’s money,” the largely wheelchair-bound crowd handed over a memorandum demanding that Shoprite remodel its store in central Thohoyandou to accommodate people with disabilities.

“We asked them a long time ago to make their shop accessible to wheelchair-bound customers,” said Ndishavhelafhi Mphaphuli, secretary for the Association for the Disabled in Limpopo’s Vhembe District. “They must also put two wheelchairs inside their store that can be used by disabled people while shopping.”

“People forget that disabled people are also customers of this shop,” Mphaphuli told OurHealth. “They don’t seem to care about our special needs.”

Fellow protestor Zachariah Phosho said the store’s response to repeated calls for increased accessibility is symbolic of the continued marginalisation of people living with disability in the area.

“It is difficult to survive as a disabled individual in Vhembe,” he said. “Most people still mistreat us despite countless pleas from the government that our fellow residents must treat us with care and love.”

A Shoprite employee accepted and signed the memorandum but refused to comment on the issue. The association is expected to protest in front of the municipal offices today, which marks the end of Disability Awareness Month.

About 2.8 million South Africans are living with a disability, according to the 2011 Census. Almost a quarter of South Africans with severe disabilities had no formal education. About 13 percent of households headed by disabled people did not have access to piped water, according to the census. This figure was about five percentage points higher than that found among general households.

Globally, about 80 percent of people with disabilities live in poverty, according to the National Department of Social Development.

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