Children with disabilities

Article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community.

It goes on to recognise

  • the special needs of disabled children
  • the needs of parents for assistance in order to      meet those special needs
  • the right of children to effective access to      education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services,      preparation for employment and recreation opportunities.

The stated aim is that the child achieves the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development


The NGO Report for KwaZulu/Natal, submitted as part of the alternative country report to the UN Children's Rights Committee in 1998, refers briefly to children living with a disability. In Paragraph 3.6.4 it states:

"While there are very few statistics on disability available, a study conducted by Irlam (1996) on childhood disability in KwaZulu/Natal reported a crude prevalence rate of 3, 4% (2-19 years). With almost 1 million children in this age bracket the extent of the problem becomes self-evident.

While there is some planning for provision for disabled persons under Primary Health Care, there is no integrated Provincial government policy on disabled children, and as yet no provincial disability desk has been set up according to Integrated National Disability Strategy (RSA June 1997). NGOs and primary care-giver groups have been attempting to fill the gap with no support and little recognition from the State.

As the new Constitution of South Africa assures all citizens of equal rights under the law, the needs of disabled children in KwaZulu/Natal need special consideration - at all levels, within all sectors, and in a collaborative effort between government, NGOs and primary care-givers, in a holistic manner. These needs include:

  • increased disability grants for primary      care-givers/guardians
  • help with essential transport to schools and      medical centres
  • mainstreaming of schools (this is generally      advised)
  • more special schools and accommodation there
  • support services (such as speech therapists,      remedial teachers, social workers)
  • free assistive devices such as hearing-aids,      spectacles, wheel-chairs
  • subsidies for day-care centres
  • tertiary opportunities and vocational training     
  • leisure and sports facilities especially in      rural areas
  • empowerment of primary care-givers to provide      the care and education children need
  • special help for disabled primary care-givers      of the disabled child."


DICAG is a national umbrella organisation which seeks to promote the rights of disabled children, and promote their development and participation in society. It is affiliated to Disabled People South Africa (DPSA). Within KwaZulu Natal, there are 11 primary care-givers groups associated with DICAG - and many of these are presently providing day care facilities to disabled children. The numbers of children in each group range from 20-60. In addition to provision of day care facilities, DICAG provides counselling to primary care-givers of disabled children, and peer group support to primary care-givers through sharing of experiences."



This charter can be used for information and advocacy, and is useful as a checklist for monitoring the situation of children living with a disability. Disabled children have the right to:

  • live and realise their potential
  • medical care and early intervention services
  • assistive devices
  • parents who are enabled to provide a loving, caring family environment
  • education – schools that provide for ALL  children
  • parents who are empowered to have a say in how schools are run

These rights are first and foremost the responsibility of the State
Disabled children have the right to:

  • respect, understanding and support
  • public facilities that are accessible to all children
  • assistance to children to realise their full potential
  • a welcoming attitude and open doors in the community
  • protection against anything that discriminates against them or excludes them

These rights are first and foremost the responsibility of the Community
Disabled children have the right to:

  • acceptance and love so that they can develop  trust
  • a home where they can realise their full potential
  • be empowered and educated so that they can communicate, move around and be as independent as possible
  • have their strengths concentrated on and not their weaknesses
  • advocacy for better facilities

These rights are first and foremost the responsibility of the Family
Disabled children have the responsibility to:

  • love and respect those that care for them
  • work hard to develop their abilities and to      live fully
  • become as independent as possible
  • have patience with those who do not understand      their disability
  • understand their rights and accept that they      are equal but different

The following grants can be applied for:

  • Disability Grant for persons older than 16 years R470 monthly
  • Care Dependency Grant R470 monthly
  • Grant In Aid for people who are severely poverty stricken or communities that are experiencing a disaster - grant depends on your situation and the assessment that has been made on your current conditions
  • Child Support Grant for children younger than 5 years qualify if income is less than R800 in rural and shack areas. In the Durban area income must be less than R1100 per month - R110 monthly
  • Care Attendant Grant for severely disabled adults who need an attendant to help them dress, eat, bath and with everyday      living skills R70 monthly. A mother who needs help with her severely disabled child can also apply for this grant

Helping children to be aware of the rights of the disabled

Use daily events and experiences as opportunities to talk with children informally about special needs. How do children with hearing, sight or physical impairment manage daily routines? How do they feel when people stare and comment aloud about them? Encourage children to take books out from the library about disabilities and children, and read and discuss these. Point out biased remarks as they occur in daily life, and challenge them. Teachers at schools and in clubs or religious organisations can take a disability as a learning area (theme), or part of a theme such as "Sight".

  • Collect visual materials for displays, notice  boards and learning games. Photos, newspaper clippings, greeting cards,      magazine cut-outs and advertisements often reflect a wide range of special      needs.
  • Write to organisations for the disabled and request posters, brochures and other information.
  • Look for props for dramatic plays or make them. "Disabled" dolls and puppets can help small children to be comfortable with a disability, but also sensitive to special needs.
  • Send a letter to parents explaining the theme  and asking for their cooperation

Encourage the children to plan an activity to support children with disabilities in their own or nearby community – making "feely games" for the children in an institute for the visually impaired, for example. One such idea for a game is to collect old whole socks, and put a small object in the toe of each. The child feels through the sock to guess what it is.

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