You are here:
Toolbox >> Government programmes and policies >>Disability Policy and Services

Disability Policy and Services

What is in this guide?

The national Department of Social Development Policy on Disability is meant to guide and inform the mainstreaming of Disability in the development and implementation of all policies, strategies and the
integrated service delivery programmes of the Department, throughout all provinces of our country.

In this guide we include:

  1. The Aim of the Disability policy
  2. Key Principles of South Africa’s Policy on Disability
  3. Services and Programmes of the Department of Social Development (DSD)

  1. The Aim of the Disability Policy

The aims of the Social Development disability policy are to:
guide and inform the mainstreaming of services to people with disabilities.
facilitate the provision of integrated social services to people with disabilities ; and to
provide guidance to the Departmental staff,  in terms of addressing social barriers that exclude people with disabilities

  1. Key Principles of South Africa’s Policy on Disability

The principles listed below underpin this Policy on Disability. It is important to note that the principles are often inter-related and that one cannot apply one of the principles in the absence of the other principles.

Right to self-representation
People with Disabilities have the right to self-representation in processes and structures of decision-making on issues that affect them. In situations where they cannot represent themselves, they have the right to choose/nominate a family member to represent themselves.

Accessibility is important to achieve the principles of full inclusion, equality and participation in mainstream society. The link between lack of access and exclusion is obvious. For example: the right to employment or accessing employment opportunities becomes meaningless in the absence of public transport that is easily accessible to People with Disabilities. Examples are retractable ramps and wide doors in buses for wheel-chair users. The use of sign language interpreters for television news makes the daily news accessible to people who are deaf or have hearing impairments. Different categories of disability should be considered when designing buildings, infrastructure or information technology. Adaptations to buildings (e.g. Braille print in a lift/elevator) and to information technology (e.g. voice commands on a computer) will facilitate use by people with disabilities, without negatively impacting on its use by people without disabilities.

Support system
The family is the most important support system in meeting the needs of people with disabilities. Other support systems include Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO’s), Non-Governmental Organisations that work with issues of disability and social services, Community Based Organisations (CBO’s), social workers, medical and psychological health practitioners and members of the broader community. Support systems are things like counselling, help with use of assistive devices, and dealing with prejudices and social stigma associated with disability.

Self respect and self-sufficiency
It is essential that all assistance and support provided to people with disabilities is done with their full consent and inclusion (self-representation as described above) and that the aim of the assistance and support is to promote self-respect and self-sufficiency. In other words, all projects and activities should make the person more independent – from the meeting of personal needs to that of participating in social and economic life. Interventions that promote dependence and disregard the rights of privacy or any other right of people with disabilities, directly contradicts the principles of self respect and self-sufficiency.

Access to appropriate services
There are various types or categories of disability, each of which results in special needs. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair needs a ramp and wider door space, to gain access to buildings; a person who is deaf, or lives with a hearing impairment needs sign language interpreters or hearing devices to hear; a quadriplegic would have additional and different needs from a paraplegic, although both may use a wheelchair. All wheelchair users are not necessarily paraplegics or quadriplegics, the needs of a deaf and blind person are different from that of a deaf or a blind person. Services must be appropriate and relevant to the type of disability that one is addressing. The services that are provided must be accessible to the intended target group or beneficiary (see principle of accessibility above). Social services interventions for people with disabilities must be specific and responsive to all types and categories of disability.

Social Integration
Social integration is one of the most important pillars of the policy. We have to focus on the abilities of the people with disabilities and on the “environmental” barriers that they experience, to make full integration into society possible. Social integration is the key measure by which one can assess whether people with disabilities enjoy their full rights and are treated equally to all other citizens. For example, the provision of a social grant to a person who uses a wheelchair, may be responsive to some of the person’s needs; but the grant does not in any way provide the person with access to a recreation centre in the community that he/she lives in, if the centre has not been equipped with a ramp or accessible ablution facilities. The lack of access to the recreation centre results in social exclusion. Social integration of people with disabilities requires an integrated response that involves a number of inter-related role-players.

Cooperation between sectors
Social integration as well as the multi-faceted nature of disability, requires that different departments and spheres of government work together to plan for and address the needs of people with disabilities.

Equitable resource allocation
Responding to the needs of people with disabilities and providing social services that improve the quality of their lives and result in social and economic inclusion needs human and financial resources. In the short term departments have to spend more money to provide better access, but in the long term this inclusion will save costs. The mainstreaming approach to disability means that all financial  or   budget implications should be budgeted for. For example, the communication directorate’s budget should make provision for a sign language interpreter and for printing in Braille.

This principle is the common thread that runs through all the above-mentioned principles. The principle supports the approach of mainstreaming disability issues so that it is addressed within all normal community services.

Batho Pele (“People first”) Principles
People with disabilities should be assured good customer services, as contained in the Batho Pele principles that drives government service to the people..

  1. Services and Programmes of the Department of Social Development (DSD)

The three main programmes of the DSD into which disability must be mainstreamed in this Policy on Disability, are Social Security; Social Welfare and Community Development.

Disability can be mainstreamed into all the Social Development services as follows:

Rehabilitation Services
Rehabilitation must include supporting the adjustment of the person within their community and prevention of secondary trauma.

Social Security           
Social Security will focus on provision of disability grants; grants to care-givers, grants that support home-based care and support, etc.

Capacity Building and Empowerment Programs
Capacity and empowerment programmes must be directed at skills development to enhance accessing employment opportunities; promote sustainable livelihoods; support independence and self-sufficiency and integration into society.

HIV and Aids Services
HIV and Aids services must be responsive to the specific needs of the person/s in respect of their disability. For example, home-based carers and supporters for a paraplegic that has HIV/Aids must understand the person’s needs in terms of HIV/Aids as well as their disability. The needs of an HIV/Aids orphan with disabilities, will be different from that of a non-disabled HIV/Aids orphan and the service provided must support the orphan in terms of their disability as well as the effect that HIV/Aids has had on the rest of their lives.

Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods for People with Disabilities
Sustainable Livelihoods programmes must focus on building self-reliance and sufficiency, build their skills and their chances of employment in terms of other economic opportunities that may exist; and improve their lives on a social and economic level.

Services to Children and Youth with Disabilities
Services to children and youth with disabilities must include skills development, access to education, access to employment opportunities in respect of youth, access to sports and recreation activities, etc.

Residential Facilities for People with Disabilities
Residential facilities must support and enhance other social services programmes such as capacity building and empowerment, social integration, promoting sustainable livelihoods, etc,

Support Services to Family
The family members should be the person’s first and immediate support network. But many families lack understanding of the needs and of the abilities of the person, or simply do not have enough money or space to properly support the person with a disability. Support services to families must therefore include training on managing different types of disability, counselling services, etc.

Development Programs for Women with Disabilities
Services for women with disabilities have to acknowledge the various levels of discrimination that these women experience; i.e. gender discrimination; discrimination on the basis of their disability and in some instances discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. As in the case of children and youth with disabilities, services that are provided must be specific and responsive to needs of women with disabilities.

Victim Empowerment
People with disabilities are often, because of their disability, more vulnerable than non-disabled people when they become victims of crime. They need special support - for example,  a person with is deaf who has been hijacked will need a sign language interpreter to be able to report the case to the police, or to access trauma counselling services.

Services to Older Persons with Disabilities
Older persons with disabilities require, over and above the services provided to older person in general, support services that are sensitive and responsive to their particular disability. Activities that can improve the lives of older persons with disabilities can include designing programs that would enable them to live an active healthy, protected and independent life for as long as it is possible, and informing them of social welfare services available to them.

For more information on local services for People with Disability in your area:
Please contact the local District Office of the Provincial Department of Social Development. Look in the Blue pages of your local phone book, under Provincial Government.


Local Economic Development (LED)  |   Life Long Learning and the World of Work   |  Land Reform   |  Health  |  Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment   | Small Business Development   |  Disaster management   |  Infrastructure Development   |  Safety and Security   |  Combating Poverty: Social Development and Grants   |  Education Policy: Admissions and school fees  |  School Governing Bodies  |  The Expanded Public Works Programme  |  Housing subsidies and support services  |   Basic Services   |  Workers’ rights  Environmental Health and Safety   |   Disability Policy and Services    |   Children's Rights

This material may not be used for profit without permission from ETU