AS SOUTH Africans brace themselves for tough times in this harsh economic climate, welfare organisations predict vulnerable groups such as the disabled will feel the sting more severely.
According to the Centre for Development and Enterprise, more than four million South Africans are out of work.
This includes a "large number" of disabled people, said Muzi Nkosi of Disabled People South Africa.
"The few employed disabled people are more vulnerable to job cuts now because employers regard them as a liability," Nkosi said.
He said it was disconcerting that industry and the government had not reached the target set in 2000 of a two percent quota of disabled people in the workforce.
Nkosi said though some people with disabilities were "highly educated" they were nevertheless employed in low-skilled jobs or were dependant on disability grants.
"At R1010 the welfare grant does not cover all the needs of a disabled person, such as transport and specialised equipment. We need jobs, not grants."
He said unemployment, lack of access to public transport and housing were major concerns.
"If a disabled person has all three, they can live an independent and dignified life."
Nkosi said he welcomed the inclusion of the disabled in the new Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities.
"It shows that the government is taking our issues more seriously," he said.
lHelen Ndamase of Jabulani, Soweto, has struggled to make ends meet since she lost her eyesight five years ago.
A former student advisor with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Ndamase has not been able to find work because of her disability.