World Disability Day 2022


In South Africa, we dedicate a whole month to awareness about persons with disabilities. We celebrate National Disability Rights Awareness Month yearly between 3 November and 3 December. This celebration builds up to National Disability Rights Awareness Day and International Day of Persons with Disabilities that both fall on 3 December.

What exactly are disabilities?

According to the CDC: A disability is any condition that causes an impairment of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities and to interact with the world around them. A disability may be present from birth or occur any time during a person's lifetime. There are different types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person's:

  • Vision
  • Movement
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Communicating
  • Hearing
  • Mental health
  • Social relationships

So, you can see that 'persons with disabilities' are a very diverse group and even two persons with the same disability can be affected in very different ways. Not all persons with disabilities use wheelchairs and some persons may have more than one type of disability.

It is also important to remember that not all disabilities are visible. Think about this before you judge the behaviours of others.

How to talk to and about persons with disabilities

According to Stats SA, 7.5% of the South African population has a disability. This means that you will regularly see and talk to persons with disabilities, often without realising that the person has a disability.

You do not have to feel awkward engaging with a person who has a disability, fearing that you might offend them. Just treat them with respect as you do with all other people.

To make sure you show respect to all people, follow these basic tips when engaging:

  • Treat others as you would like to be treated; it's good to offer help, it's rude to ask personal questions and don't let your tone or language sound condescending.
  • Think before you judge; not all disabilities are visible.
  • Focus on the person and not on their disability. There's a person in front of you with many abilities.
  • Don't decide for a person what they can and cannot do. This can lead to discrimination and exclusion. Just ask them.
  • The person always comes first. So, when you talk about persons with disabilities, talk about a person with a disability, not a disabled person. Terminology does change and individuals may have different preferences - so always check in and ask what a person prefers.

Acknowledge and support persons with disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities on the 3rd December recognises visible and invisible disabilities, to promote the importance of inclusion of all people in general life and in the workplace. The United Nations encourages business leaders across the globe to value the unique contributions of people with disabilities. They agree that disability inclusion is essential to uphold human rights, sustainable development as well as peace and security.

The best way to acknowledge and support persons with disabilities is to include them in all aspects of society. Make it possible for them to access society on an equal basis with others, including transport, employment, education as well as social and political participation.

Practical ways of including all people

Having ramps and restroom facilities for disabled people is very important, but they are not the only things we should do to make sure all people have equal access.

Think about people with impairments when designing documents, websites, products, services and buildings. Here are a few types of accessibility issues to start with:

  • Visual (blindness, poor sight, colour blindness, reading difficulties). Try using good contrast for documents, apps, text and websites and include image and media alternatives.
  • Motor and mobility (concerns for people who use wheelchairs and walking aids, are blind or partially sighted, are using prosthetic limbs, have Parkinson's or other neurological issues, have difficulty walking, bending, standing and climbing). Make sure there are enough contrast, light, railings and ramps in buildings and facilities.
  • Auditory (hearing difficulties and sensory overstimulation). Give visual or other warnings, not only sirens and make sure there are quiet areas and prevent unnecessary noise.
  • Seizures (especially for people with photosensitive epilepsy). Avoid flickering lights (this will also help partially sighted persons).
  • Learning and cognitive difficulties (such as dyslexia). Offer images and sounds for signs and warnings.

So, this World Disability Day and beyond we encourage you to treat all people with respect and empower yourself and others to do the same.

The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provider.

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