Although Intellectual Disability Awareness Month has come and gone, it is important for us to continue to highlight the need to include persons with intellectual disability (ID) in all spheres of life. We spoke with Fahrenite Consulting, a business consulting organisation, and Logwood Village, a residential home for adults with ID in Gauteng, about why they include persons with ID in employment and education.
Why do we still need to work to include people with ID in employment?
About four out of every 100 people in South Africa are affected by some form of ID. However, ID remains one of the most disregarded disabilities in South Africa and people with ID are often systematically marginalised from being a part of mainstream society (e.g. work, community, school etc).
There is robust national and international legislation aimed at ensuring the right of persons with ID to employment. This includes the South African Bill of Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Article 27 of the UNCRPD states that “persons with intellectual disabilities have the right to employment and self-employment opportunities, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that this right is protected and realised.”
Despite these policies, the majority of persons with ID remain unemployed or work in precarious or part-time jobs. This makes it almost impossible to earn a decent and stable income.
Why are unemployment rates so high for persons with disabilities, including ID?
There are a variety of reasons, including the myth that persons with disabilities cannot work. This is not the case at all, including for persons with ID. Many people can work depending on their level of ID. The more this myth is perpetuated, the more obstacles persons with ID will continue to face in accessing suitable employment.
Taran Eager from Fahrenite Consulting believes these untruths also hinder persons with disabilities from applying for jobs in the first place. Fahrenite is a business consulting organisation focused on making a difference and creating an awareness in underrepresented areas, such as disability rights. When asked about the importance of inclusion in the workplace, Taran said:
Inclusion is important because it is a representative of the society in which we live. When we refer to a transformed, inclusive workplace, we refer to a workplace which is equally representative of all irrespective of race, age, religion, impairment, or gender. The diversity we see in society must be seen in the workplace too.
What about persons with ID and education?
When it comes to education, the discrimination is similar with persons with ID continuing to face barriers in accessing education.
In South Africa there are policies and guidelines to encourage inclusive education, including Education White Paper 6: Special Needs Education, Building an Inclusive Education and Training System, the Guidelines for Responding to Learner Diversity and the National Strategy on Assessment and Suppprt Policy (SIAS) SIAS. Despite these attempts at inclusivity, many children with ID experience challenges in the education system. Even in schools that focus on people with special educational needs, there is a level of segregation and othering that happens to children with ID.
Logwood Village, a residential home for adults with ID in Gauteng, has a specific education programme that provides an educational foundation for their residents. According to Vanessa Joost, a remedial teacher at Logwood, each resident is assessed and based on their assessment they are given work suited to their learning capabilities. Vanessa continues:
I think it is so rewarding because when something is so difficult to grasp and that person then grasps it, it is so rewarding when they get it. For example one of our lower-functioning residents could not pronounce the letter ‘c’ and it took a year but last week he said the word cat and it was so incredible.
Residents at Logwood are consulted and involved in putting the educational syllabus together. Vanessa said this was intentional to ensure that the residents felt included in the education process. She said:
“Inclusion is important because I don’t think there is any form of ID that would hinder a person from being able to learn….It’s hard for me to answer if society still hasn’t grasped that regardless of your disability, you can still attempt to do anything.
Logwood CEO, Sandra Pohl, reiterated these sentiments and added that persons with ID have so much to teach the rest of society. This is why inclusion is not just beneficial for persons with ID but for society as a whole.
To ensure inclusion for persons with ID in both employment and education intentional effort must be made by the South African government to develop and implement strategies and policies aimed at fostering and promoting paths of inclusion. This means:
- Working closely with high schools and TVET colleges to implement courses and specific training to equip persons with ID with core competencies to move forward into formal employment and
- Increasing support for protective workshops to ensure that these facilities can sufficiently equip persons with ID to attain their highest levels of skills and move into the open labour market, where possible.
If you are interested in learning more about how your organisation or place of work could become more inclusive, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of Tim Mossholder via Unsplash