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The Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) was founded in 1877 and is the recognised “Voice of Business” in the region, working to create an enabling environment for economic activity and a platform for business to flourish. BKCOB has their headquarters in East London/Buffalo City and offices in Queenstown. The Border-Kei Chamber of Business is a not-for-profit, a-political, a-religious, membership based organisation which counts over 700 businesses as members in good standing representing the private sector, thought leaders and academic institutions from a wide array of sectors. The driving focus of the Chamber is to represent the interests of business by identifying, developing and promoting the major issues that contribute to economic activity and growth.
At regional level, the Chamber strives to promote the socio-economic advancement of all people living and working in the Border-Kei region. It addresses issues around economic and industrial development; factory and business regulations; rates and local taxation; energy; town planning; crime; traffic and parking; regulations for informal traders; training needs; rail and air transport; freight handling; and tourist attractions.
As of the 20th of May 2021, the Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) will be partnering with Alan Downey and Disability info South Africa (DiSA), to raise awareness around disability in the Border area, thereby changing the perceptions and creating opportunities for persons with disabilities who live in the Border -Kei area and throughout South Africa.
About Alan Downey
Alan grew up and was schooled in East London before being paralyzed in a diving accident in 1994. 20 Years later in 2015, he developed a website and information support service called Disability info South Africa (DiSA), which assists persons with disabilities who require information that can help them. DiSA supplies a “Free One - Stop Information Service” to assist persons with disabilities and their families, whom are looking for information that can help them to be better equipped to face the challenges of their circumstances and any related barriers presented by society.
Alan was born in Germiston in 1973 and moved with his family to East London when he was 5 years old. "Growing up in East London, I enjoyed various outdoor activities such as Camping, Swimming, Athletics, Cross Country, Road Running, Rugby and Golf. After matriculating from Selborne College in 1991, I completed my one year military service and then started an apprenticeship in Panel Beating at Malcomess Toyota Body works"
"On the 20th of November 1994, while at the beach with some friends, I broke my neck when I dived into a river and hit a sand bank. I was lucky to have some friends with me, who pulled me out of the river and called for an ambulance. A few days later, I was transferred to Conradie Spinal Unit in Cape Town for a neck operation and 5 months rehabilitation. At the time of leaving hospital, I was classified as a C5 quadriplegic and had no feeling from the chest down and only limited use of my arms."
"My life changed drastically after my accident, I had lost my job and independence and couldn’t take care of myself or take part in most of the sports and activities that I had enjoyed. I did however get a lot of support from my family and friends while in hospital and after returning back home to East London. My parents were amazing, they not only looked after me, but also supported and encouraged me. My brother also provided a lot of support to both my parents and myself. After returning back to East London, I focused on what I could do, rather than what I could not, I started drawing and painting again which was a great form of therapy, I also got introduced to computers by Shane Smith, who had become a good friend and was also in a wheelchair. I began a small Graphic Design and Printing business while in East London, which eventually became a Graphic and Web Design business after moving to Cape Town in 2002.
Over the years since my accident, I have continued to receive a lot of support, including some much needed financial support, which had helped me to purchase some essential equipment that I needed and also cover some other expenses over the years. The cost of living for many persons with disabilities, can be one of the most stressful issues to deal with, for both the family and person with a disability, but thanks to the support of my family and friends and the generosity of the East London community, including various businesses, Sports Clubs and the Old Selbornian Association and members, some of these financial difficulties where alleviated.
In 2013 a group of old class mates from Selborne College and the "Old Selbornian Association" banded together to organise an event which raised funds for a new motorised wheelchair for myself. About R130,000 was raised and Bob Skinstad and Andre Vos were the main guests at the event. I was so blown away by the funds raised and the support that I had received, that I started thinking of other persons with disabilities that did not have that type of support and how I could give back some of the goodwill that I had received over the years, to assist and support other persons with disabilities that were not as fortunate to have the support structures that I had.
Disability info South Africa (DiSA)
“In 2015, 20 years after I had broken my neck and ended up in a wheelchair, I came up with an idea on how I could possibly give back some of the goodwill that I had received over the years. I realised that there was an urgent need for a free information service to assist and support persons with disabilities and their families, who may require information and contact details of companies or organisations that provide services and products to assist them. I believe that easy access to: Equipment, Information, Services, Education, Buildings, Transport, Health Care, Sports and Activities, is a basic human right and is essential to enable us to create an inclusive South Africa, where no person is excluded or discriminated against and everyone is aware of their rights and what services and products are available to assist them.”
In May 2017, two years after Alan began researching and building DiSA, he began selling advertising space to various companies, clubs and organizations that provide products and services to assist persons with disabilities. Through this advertising over the last 5 years and through the support that he had previously received and continues to receive, he has been able to assist thousands of people in need and grow and improve DiSA to become a well rounded “Go-to- information portal” for all persons with disabilities, thus creating a link between persons with disabilities and the companies, clubs and organizations that are available to assist them. "Unlock the shackles of your disability using the key of knowledge" embodies our belief that knowledge is power and that, with the correct information at our fingertips we can break free of our barriers and comfort zone and reach our goals and dreams.
In 2019 Alan saw the need to expand DiSA to create more than just an information service, he realised that he desperately required funding and sponsorship to supplement the yearly advertising that he was receiving. In August 2019, after partnering with Igor Rix and Gregory Marks, Disability Info South Africa NPC was registered (2019/376416/08), so as to facilitate this funding. In 2021, we received our NPO registration number (NPO Reg. 256-154). June 2021 marked 6 years since the birth of DiSA.
Over the last 6 years DiSA has grown to become "South Africa’s Premium and Free Disability Information Portal" and over the years, we have identified an urgent need to not only Inform persons with disabilities on what services and products are available to assist them through our Information Desk, but also Identify barriers to access through our "Yes to Access" platform and then Address and remove these inequalities, discrimination and barriers through our Accessible Cities-SA (AC-SA) campaign. Lastly we will Empower all persons with disabilities to live life to their fullest potential via our DiSA’s News Network (DNN) which educates entertains and inspires via our Facebook Page, Facebook Group and future Blog, YouTube and Newsletter channels.
Together with its Friends, Partners and Allies in the business and Disability Sector, DiSA is determined to kick-start a much desired change, to help create an inclusive, accessible and resilient South Africa by 2030. With this in mind and thanks to the initiative of Colin Beard of Securo and Sam Long of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB), DiSA has had the amazing opportunity to partner up with BKCOB and their members, whereby we are launching our Accessible Cities - SA (AC-SA) pilot project, which will not only promote DiSA in the Border area but also help identify and address some of the difficulties that persons with disabilities still face in the workplace.
BKCOB & DiSA Partnership
DiSA is truly excited to be given this opportunity in 2021 and going forward, to work with BKCOB, who are recognised as the “Voice of Business” in the Borde-Kei region. Thanks to Sam Long, BKCOB and Colin Beard (former classmate, Old Selbornian and one of the key organisers in various fundraisers events that have assisted Alan and DiSA over the years), DiSA is now a member of BKCOB and have been given the opportunity to promote our organisation to the 700 BKCOB members. As part of the DiSA and BKCOB partnership, BKCOB have posted surveys ’in the form of questionnaires to its members, to highlight a number of issues related to disability in the workplace and help us to identify barriers for employees and then inform the employer and assist them in finding solutions to benefit all parties involved. This will not only help employees with disabilities to earn an income, but it will help employers to uplift their companies status too.
It is not only important for persons with disabilities to be given the opportunity to be able to receive an equal education and earn a living, so that they can enjoy life as equal members of society, but persons with disabilities can also contribute to the success of a company and growth of South Africa, if given a fair chance. An "Inclusive Society" starts with accessible housing, transport, education and built environments but also includes provision of assistive devices and the changing of attitudes of fellow students, employees and the employer. Only then can South Africa become truly accessible.
Through our Accessible Cities-SA (AC-SA) campaign and in collaboration with BKCOB, we at DiSA believe that we have found the perfect partner with which to launch and run our pilot Accessible Cities-SA (AC-SA) campaign. BKCOB represent the interests of businesses in the region, they identify, develop and promote the major issues that contribute to economic activity and growth and strive to promote the socio-economic advancement of all people living and working in the Border-Kei region. They also address issues around economic and industrial development; factory and business regulations; rates and local taxation; energy; town planning; crime; traffic and parking; regulations for informal traders; training needs; rail and air transport; freight handling; and tourist attractions.
There are many persons with disabilities living in the Border-Kei region, they are part of society and decisions made with regards to these areas above will affect the lives of these members of society. By partnering the "Voice of Business" with "South Africa’s Premium and Free Disability Information Portal", who has taken on the baton in the race to an "Accessible South Africa - 2030", we believe that, together we can make the changes that South Africa so desperately need. The Time Is Now - We Are Stronger Together!
Future Plans & Fundraising Events
To help drive this change and build accessible working environments, and an accessible society where no one is left behind, BKCOB and DiSA have a number of exciting fundraising and awareness events planned over the next few years, including a webinar which is planned for the 27th of July 2021. This event will not only raise funds for BKCOB and DiSA, to help grow the DiSA platform and improve the support service that we provide, but will also create more awareness about persons with disabilities in the workplace, to encourage companies to invest in the lives of persons with disabilities and give them the opportunity to gain employment and help promote their self worth.
Through the various webinars that we are planning, we will also highlight the various benefits of employing persons with disabilities and identify how companies and employers can go about creating environments in which the employee can succeed, while also benefiting the company, other employees, as well as the community at large. Accessible environments are so much more than just building a ramp, it is changing peoples belief that a person with a disability is disabled and cannot work or contribute. Inclusive environments help persons with disabilities to better themselves through education or employment, they are now able to contribute to society and inspire others to do the same.
Through our partnership with BKCOB we aim to motivate members to create and provide truly accessible environments and will also provide information and contact details of companies and organisations that can provide disability integration training, assistive devices, accessible transport, Universal Access Consultancy and various other tools which are used to break down the barriers of inaccessibility. We will guide them through the DiSA website and work with the members and companies or organisations that can provide expert assistance or advice in these fields, thereby creating and cementing a working relationship that can build a platform to an accessible future for everyone.
How Can DiSA Assist You?
In the name of creating and cementing this partnership to accessibility, DiSA has pledged to also support members of BKCOB. Via the DiSA website and information service, we often get contacted by companies and individuals who are looking for services and products that can assist them, some of these products and services may be supplied by members of BKCOB, please feel free to contact us regarding the products or services that you can supply and we will then recommend that anyone contacting us requiring these contact a member who could assist them. Please feel free to contact us through the DiSA information website, contact details or Contact Form below, any BKCOB can also contact us for assistance and we will assist them to the best of our ability. Please contact us if you are a BKCOB member and are needing assistance.
If you would like to assist DiSA to continue with their journey to help create an accessible South Africa and shine a light to assist and guide more persons with disabilities through the storms in their lives, please contact Alan Downey at Office: 021 761 4831; Cell: 084 504 9176 or Email: email@example.com; info@DiSA.org.za or please visit our backabuddy campaign to make-a- donation and support our free service that we supply - Thank You. You can also visit our Facebook Page or Facebook Group. You can also contact us via the Contact Form below if you would like any assistance or have any questions.