New project on Covid-19 and people with disabilities in South Africa

Published on 10 December 2020

Covid-19 and the national response has resulted in significant hardship for people with disabilities in South Africa. To date, research focused on how people with disabilities have experienced this period have yet to be deeply investigated.

To begin to address this evidence gap an exciting new collaboration between IDS and two South African partners aims to identify the experiences and challenges that people with disabilities have faced during Covid-19.

With funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the collaboration between the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) will:

  • Jointly undertake a national online survey with people with disabilities to identify experiences and challenges faced during the pandemic.
  • Explore whether the South Africa National Disaster Management Act is seen to be compliant with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and South Africa’s White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Provide comprehensive new data to inform the Ministry of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities’ monitoring framework for the inclusion of people with disabilities in mitigations during and after pandemics, shocks and crises

Mary Wickenden, who is leading the work from IDS, commented, “We are involved in Covid-19 disability-related qualitative research in various countries in Africa and South Asia, so it is great to be involved in this larger mainly quantitative study in South Africa too. This will complement and extend the emerging picture of people with disabilities’ experience of the pandemic across countries and contexts. We are very happy to work with two new partners and having people with disabilities as part of the team is a major advantage and very exciting for us! It is what we like to do!”

Tim Hart from the HSRC said, “Despite policies aimed at supporting people with disabilities in South Africa, these are not sufficiently enforced and sometimes not at all, with empowerment targets not being reached across many social and economic sectors. Much of the Covid-19 research ignores the diversity of the experience of people with disabilities and the impact of the lockdown measures on their wellbeing and access to essential services they need. The UKRI funding of this project and collaboration with IDS is fantastic and timely as it aims to address the information gap and lead directly to recommendations that we hope the SA government will acknowledge and follow through on. Ensuring greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in South Africa during shocks and generally protect their specific rights to foster greater social cohesion and inclusion in South Africa.”

André Kalis from the NCPD added, “Despite the constitutional imperative of equality and the need for all people to be acknowledged and valued as being equal, it is common cause that people with disabilities are widely perceived and treated as inferior to people without disabilities. This pervasive ableism in society is the root cause of the marginalisation and exclusion of people with disabilities and the violation of their rights. The inaccessibility of societal opportunities, services, facilities and infrastructure highlights the exclusion, prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities. The Covid-19 pandemic challenges the equitable provisioning of a range of services to people with disabilities. The response to the pandemic should be inclusive of people with disabilities and all their rights should be upheld when implementing measures to mitigate against the impact of the pandemic and lockdown.”

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