Is it “differently abled” or “disabled”?

While the exact numbers are difficult to determine, research suggests that roughly 1 billion people in the world have a disability. Considering the vast amount of people that includes, one might say that little has been done to lessen the gap between people with disabilities and non-disabled people because of the stigma towards people with disabilities and special needs that still exists. A simple action that people can implement themselves is the way to address and refer to people with disabilities. Is the correct terminology “disabled” or “differently abled”? It’s an important question. A big step towards understanding the needs of people with disabilities is knowing the correct way to address them.
In this blog post, we’ll touch on the origins of the terminology and dissect how each term is received, viewed and perceived.
Why does it matter?
Language is how we as humans attempt to convey meaning to one another. The words we use reflect the social context in which they are developed and used, reinforcing attitudes and values for better or worse. This is why the terminology and the language we use day-to-day is vitally important.
The disability rights movement of South Africa accepts both the terms “disabled person” and “people with disabilities”. However, terms such as “physically challenged” or “differently abled” should be avoided. We will delve into that after taking a look at a brief history of the origins of these terms. (more…)

As a young girl I remember District Six before the forced removals, but as I grew older I heard the stories from my Dad about the forced removals in Sea Point before they found a new, albeit temporary, home in District Six.

For me Heritage Day is about family and the reflection of where we came from and an appreciation of our elders for all the suffering they endured for us to have better opportunities.
I wrote this on 1 July 1997, and now I would like to share this with you:
I am going to turn 28 soon.

My mum passed away on the 18th May 1997 at 05:50AM. She went in the for a heart transplant. She got a phone call on Thursday and the same evening they operated. She passed away on the Sunday morning. I did not think she would – I’ve always known her as a strong person. Not once did it cross my mind that I’ll lose her. There has been so much that has happened that I needed her to come back so that we could talk. I have grieved a lot but now I need to let her go. She had so much love to give – St Joseph’s Home, us, friends, and so many others.
How will I remember my mum? I cannot tell as it is too soon. If anything, I will remember her as a strong, loving, strict, giving person with a smile of gold and always putting us first before anything else, encouraging us to do today and not wait – be independent and reach for the stars.

My Dad (84) and I celebrated our birthdays on 23rd September and I could not be more blessed to have him with us to share his history.

Heritage is about knowing the past that paved your path, and you walking on to reach for the stars.

An inspirational reflection on Ma Beatrice by Ms Shama Nathoo founding, and managing director, of Universal Accessibility Hub

Beatrice Thembekile Ngcobo (lovingly known as Ma Beatrice) was a Member of Parliament in South Africa since 2004, and was the Portfolio Committee Chairperson of Tourism from June 2014 until her untimely death on 18 February 2018.

Ma Beatrice

I wish you were here with us to witness the birth of Universal Accessibility Hub. It’s been a few years since I first mentioned this vision of mine, to work around universal accessibility. I can’t begin to thank you enough for your love, guidance and blessings, and your belief that what I am doing is needed.

I first met you in May 2014, while I was serving as Minister Derek Hanekom’s Parliamentary Liaison Officer, where we immediately established a bond. We kept this bond even after I departed government. Your spirit was an inspiration – always smiling, jovial, positive and hard working. And always so beautifully dressed.

You never gave up. I was so honored when you shared the story of how you became disabled – at the age of 30, contracting a virus from a baby while you were the treating nurse. You did not let that change your path and you not only continued working, but were a strong figure within the health sector, and drove issues of accessibility across many sectors.

The memory of our Kwa-Zulu Natal oversight visit in September 2015 will always be with me. I recall our visit to a hotel in Richards Bay where you were placed in a room that, according to the hotel standards, was accessible. But your experience was not pleasant; and you could not access the shower. You shared the story with us over breakfast and your passion for universal accessibility and promoting the rights of the disabled was clear. You were adamant that people’s dignity should be respected.

On the same trip, we visited Tata Madiba’s capture site and you pointed out to the site managers that very little attention was given to the needs of the physically disabled. The distance between the museum and the sculpture was too far for anyone with physical challenges (including the elderly who would love to visit the site). And the path leading to the site was not wide enough.

The oversight visit with Arts and Culture showed so clearly that planners often look at the aesthetics and not always at the needs of the people who want to come to the sites – the needs of parents with toddlers, adults, elderly, and people with different abilities. We should be using our public resources to ensure inclusion and accessibility.

You also understood health challenges implicitly and held space for others to share. I could share my own struggles of living with ulcerative colitis, and discuss with you how people and institutions don’t understand the challenges of living with chronic illness and disabilities. These conversations also reminded me of my late mother, who worked with young children who were abandoned by their families because of their health challenges and disabilities. She showed me the importance of love and being present in a world where there is still so much prejudice.

The question is how do we change things so that the dignity and rights of persons with disabilities are central to our development?

UA Hub’s birth opens the space for dialogue and change that is much needed. You so openly showed us and shared with us how easy it is to remove barriers and that there is no need for discrimination between differently abled and able bodies.

Our constitution is founded on the principle of human dignity, equality, human rights and freedom. UA Hub will strive to making you proud of our implementation approach and creating a space where all are welcome to start a new conversation.

Rest in peace Ma. I know your hand still guides me, like the words you spoke to me when I brought you water from the Sacred Isivivane at Freedom Park, ‘it’s not how much water you bring me, but your intention to bring it and let me share in the experience’.

Love you always


University Accessibility Hub (UA Hub) is honored to have Ms Lebohang Monyatsi as our first Ambassador for Universal Accessibility. Ms Monyatsi, agreed to be the Ambassador after hearing about the vision and mission of UA Hub. She brings on board her passion for disability inclusion. She has for many years also, by doing what she is most passionate about, broken the stereotypes of people with disabilities.

Lebohang has shown leadership in many areas of her life, including working within human resources development in the private and public sector. Lebo has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Psychology and is currently completing a Bachelor of Communications Sciences through the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Her most recent achievement was being crowned 1st Princess at the first Miss Wheelchair World held in Poland in October 2017. This achievement was built on many other firsts in the fashion and modelling industry, including being the first African woman in a wheelchair to be a runway model, and being the only finalist with a disability in the Face of the Globe 2017. Lebohang is also an international athlete, having represented South Africa in wheelchair basketball at the 2012 and 2015 Paralympics, 2009 World Cup, and various friendly games.

She comes from Vryburg, a small town in the North West Province. She was diagnosed with polio at the age of three which affected the use of her leg and resulted in the inability to walk by the time she reached the age of 15.

Her perseverance is shown in the way she got herself to the Miss Wheelchair World. Although representing South Africa, she was unable to find sponsorships from the public or private sectors. She therefore took out a personal loan. This experience made her even more determined to raise awareness about inclusion and universal accessibility especially for those with disabilities. She sees her actions as building on those who have come before her, and hopefully paving an easier way for others who will follow.

Lebohang is driven by the quote “be the change you wish to see” and she has made and continues to make this possible through leading by example.

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