How to reduce unemployment for people with disabilities

People with disabilities in rural Vhembe are encouraged to start small businesses to empower themselves. (File Photo)

Despite having qualifications from tertiary institutions, many people with disabilities in rural Vhembe are unemployed, says special programmes officer at Vhembe District Municipality, Khathutshelo Mapholi.

Start a business

“We are currently faced with one of the highest rates of unemployment [pertaining] to people who are living with various disabilities. But I believe the best way for us to curb this rate is to encourage people to start small businesses which will enable them to create job opportunities for themselves and others. To find employment here in rural areas is a challenge as opportunities are always limited not only for people who are disabled but for everyone,” he says.

According to the white paper on the rights of persons with disabilities published in 2016: Persons with disabilities living in rural and impoverished settlements, and on farms and traditional communities are less likely to access employment opportunities due to:
1. The lack of accessible and affordable public transport,
2. A lack of accessible and affordable specialised services and opportunities in these areas. 

“It also worries us when we see so many disabled people with qualifications but without jobs, but it is a challenge we are faced with as a county as we are currently battling one of the highest unemployment rates. Though some people who are disabled have already started businesses, we still have cruel people who take advantage of them and rob them of their belongings. The other challenge is the issue of accessibility as most buildings including the government RDP houses and toilets are not user-friendly for people who are disabled,” says Mapholi.

Still battling after studying

Born without limbs, wheelchair-bound University of Pretoria social work graduate, Tinyiko Gwambe (23) thought acquiring a qualification would make it easier for her to get a job, but almost a year since completing her studies, she hasn’t found a job because she can’t drive a normal vehicle. 

“It is so sad knowing that I have graduated with distinctions and I have a driver license, but I’m unable to get a job because I cannot drive a normal vehicle and I can only drive a custom-made vehicle which is very expensive,” says Gwambe.

Residing in Tshilamba, outside Thohoyandou, Gwambe says she has tried finding a social worker role within government departments and the private sector without success which has left worried about her future. “I had plans that once I graduate and find a job, I will save my money so that I’ll be able to purchase a custom-made vehicle which will enable me to drive around. I’m slowly losing hope that one day I will find a job as it’s been almost a year now and all the places I have been to, they rejected me [because] they cannot employ someone who can’t drive as social work requires a person who can drive,” she says.

Section nine of the constitution, as entrenched in the bill of rights, guarantees the right to equality to all, and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of, among others, disability. 

Budget cuts and more

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Social Development, Witness Tiva says: “The department has a database of all social work graduates and their disability status and when they are opportunities to appoint, they are prioritised due to their disability status.”

He encouraged people living with disabilities to apply for funding from the department to start small businesses to empower themselves.

“Every year we issue out a call for people with disabilities, women and youth to apply for funding. Amongst other cooperatives and youth NPOs we are funding currently and targeting to fund in the subsequent years have people with disabilities and some led by with disabilities,” adds Tiva. – Health-e News.


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