As South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month between 3 November to 3 December, we reflect on the progress made in improving the lives of people living with disability. 

In 2015, the Cabinet approved the white paper on the rights of persons with disabilities.

It is in place to address challenges persons with disabilities face including discriminatory practices.

Census 2011 revealed that the national disability prevalence rate is 7,5% in South Africa. The report further indicated that disability is more prevalent among females compared to males. Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime. International Day of Persons with Disabilities is commemorated on 3 December. What we can learn from people living with a disability?

Natascha McAllister, KZN operations manager at I can Academy said there are lessons to be learned from people living with a disability.

“People with disabilities are especially influential, as their hardships in life aren’t easily forgotten. They go through every day with determination and strength, which many people are bowled over by, with many secretly wondering if they could do the same thing,” she said.

According to McAllister, people with disabilities learn so much throughout their lives, life lessons that able bodied people rarely get to experience.

” Having a disability is definitely difficult, but it’s also one of the richest classrooms a human can experience, too. While these learning experiences are more profoundly experienced directly, there are some tokens of wisdom people living with a disability can pass along,” said McAllister.

Her advice is listed below:

• Don’t sweat the little things – since having a disability can be rather stressful, broken wheelchair, relying on government hospitals, people with disabilities learn early on to not let stress levels get too high. They are faced with crazy things all the time so learn to prioritize what is really worth freaking out about.

• Being different is an opportunity – you get to meet amazing people and get in on special opportunities and government love dishing out funding to people with disabilities.

• You can’t judge a person by their looks – we just have to take a look at Stephen Hawking, a man in a wheelchair who can’t speak and is one of the smartest people in the world. Don’t ever think a disability is equitable to someone who is not impressive or successful. You never know what someone with a disability is capable of.

• Life is short, so embrace everything – people living with a disability, unfortunately, don’t have a long life span as there are often other complications. But, people with disabilities however, have gotten it down to an art form, from enjoying the sun rays to a warm cup of coffee, they know how hard life can be so they know how to embrace the good things in life.

• Weakness isn’t always negative – ever heard of the expression, ‘it takes a village’ being weak or disabled isn’t necessarily a negative thing. People living with a disability learn to be ok with receiving help, and over time many realise that everyone needs help in one way or another, even super athletes and presidents, it’s unavoidable and part of the human experience so don’t be afraid to ask, and embrace help.

“With the tail end of 2018 almost here, don’t forget to ‘always look on the bright side of life’,” McAllister added.