Disabled are very capable

AN NGO in Cape Town has launched a project to help at least 500 disabled youth to find jobs in the next two years.

The Disability Workshop Development Enterprise (DWDE) is determined that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the workplace.

Its director, Undere Deglon, said that the government's broad-based black economic empowerment laws had not done much for the disabled.

"Companies and employers are to a large extent ignorant about persons with disabilities. They do not know the levels of capability and expertise of these persons and tend to stereotype job opportunities. They believe that blind people can only be switchboard operators," Deglon said.

"Persons with disabilities are also often perceived as being less productive, which does not make them attractive for employment," she said.

DWDE launched its Careers for Youth with Disabilities initiative this month. Deglon said at least six percent of South Africans had some form of disability. DWDE assists them to find jobs.

DWDE will run its project alongside the Disabled People's Organisation from Denmark, which has secured funding for the two-year project's implementation.

Deglon said the initiative would "assess youth with disabilities to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their vocational and soft skills".

They will be registered on a database and get help to develop a career plan. This will include training in writing CVs and job applications, assistance with computer skills as well as access to job interviews or links with training institutions, employers, employment agencies and business development service providers .

Deglon said: Employers also lack awareness and understanding of persons with disabilities. Companies do not have knowledge and understanding about what is involved in employing persons with disabilities and are ignorant about how to accommodate them".

She said: "Employers are largely ignorant about the types of assistant devices available and if they know might be inhibited by costs.

"Many companies are reluctant to recruit persons with disabilities and when they do, they don't adequately support them. This contributes to a high turnover rate," she said.

Families further inhibit disabled persons because of "stereotyping, stigmatisation and ignorance", she said.

"Youths with disabilities face this on a daily basis. Families might not see it as worth the effort to send a young person with a disability to school and many do not study further than matric if they even go that far," Deglon said.

"On the other hand, some parents tend to overprotect children because they do not want them to get hurt or experience discrimination.

"This can have a negative effect since the youngster will continue to be dependent on others," she said.

DWDE has made an impact on Wandile Basse's, 26, life. The information technologist lost his eyesight in an accident in 2006.

He didn't want to lose his independence and attended "mobility classes" at the League Friends of the Blind in Cape Town. Two years later, he started working at DWDE

"It is imperative for me to fulfil my personal responsibilities. I want a family and financial independence," Basse said.