Ari Seirlis: National Director

Philip Coetzer



When addressing the issue of unemployed youth with disabilities, it is important to note that social change takes time and job availability is influenced by economic factors unrelated to disability.

Whilst acknowledging the challenges of globalisation and its effect on our economy, we have to that the percentage of individuals with disabilities currently employed in South Africa is comparatively low by international standards. With only 0.93% of individuals with disabilities being employed in South Africa and with the current slow progress and integration of these individuals into the workplace, the Department of Labour set a target of 4% of individuals with disabilities being actively part of the workforce by the year 2005. We are now in 2006! In fact, there has been a reported drop, from a previous 1,2% to the recorded figure of 0,93%, which clearly highlights the problem of integrating mobility-impaired youth into the work place.

The private and public sector are faced with the challenge of incorporating the Employment Equity Act No 55 of 1998, the Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of Disability in the Workplace and the Department of Labour’s Technical Assistance Guidelines on the Employment of People with Disabilities into their employment equity programmes as they seek a significant increase in the number of people with disabilities in executive and senior management within their enterprises.

In our recent research, almost 70% of unemployed respondents (People with Disabilities) cited the lack of suitable employment opportunities as well as their lack of relevant technical skills as a major contributing factor to their unemployment or under-employment. Instead of viewing the current South African legislation such as the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, the Skills Development Act, the Employment Equity Act and the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act as a hurdle, public and private enterprises should see this as an opportunity to create additional Learnerships for youth with disabilities.

We are not talking about survival skills. We are proposing the development of a model that seeks to develop managerial leadership on at least three levels:

Firstly, those persons with a disability who have professional qualifications or who possess technical skills and/or academic qualifications need additional skills training so that they either can serve as Directors of Companies or as specialists at mid- or junior management level.

Secondly, persons who with additional critical skills transfer can be employed in an enterprise either as fulltime-qualified employees or on learnerships.

Finally, enabling persons who, working either as individuals or as a co-operative, can qualify as suppliers under the preferential procurement element of BEE.

It is imperative that we affirm every citizen’s constitutional right to equality and not to experience discrimination as they seek to participate in the South African economy. An opportunity exists to establish partnerships between all levels of government, persons’ with disabilities, community-based organisations, employers and other stakeholders to develop a "People with Disabilities-specific" strategy that will lead to Public-Private Partnerships that will address the challenges and opportunities for people with disabilities to participate fully in our economy.

QASA has a number of ongoing projects which constantly meet the needs, and improve the lives, of quadriplegics and paraplegics in South Africa. These projects include the provision of assistive devices, funding for education and sport, provision of information, capacity building, skills development and driver training. QASA also raises awareness about the causes of spinal cord injury, and provides support to the victims of spinal cord injury and their families.

The Association’s mission statement determines that QASA is a co-ordinating, policy-making, governing and supporting non-profit organisation.

The Association strives to prevent quadriplegia and paraplegia, as well as protect and promote quadriplegics' and paraplegics’ interests by formulating a national policy and strategy to develop and ensure the full potential and quality of the lives of people with mobility impairment.

QASA has approximately 3000 members, but represents a constituency of approximately

50 000 mobility-impaired persons in South Africa. The organisation is managed by a National Management Committee of which 84% are persons with mobility impairments. QASA’s membership comprises 66% persons from previously disadvantaged groups (i.e. persons who did not have a franchise prior to the 1994 national elections).

QASA is predominantly staffed and managed by people with mobility impairments.