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Since the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, people with disability have organized themselves into their own organisations all over the world. Disabled People's Organizations (DPOs) are those controlled by a majority of people with disability (51%) at the board and membership levels.
The role of these organizations includes providing a voice of their own, identifying needs, expressing views on priorities, evaluating services and advocating change and public awareness.
DPOs believe that people with disability are their own best spokespersons and their role has been and is fundamental for the human rights movement of people with disability.
A wide range of advocacy and self-help organization exist in South Africa. They range from the overtly political Disabled People South Africa, aligned with the ruling African National Congress, to single-issue national organisations such as the South African National Deaf Association (SANDA)
In addition to this, there are 3 different typs of DPOs:
- Diagnostic-focused (such DPOs represent a medical diagnostic group – e.g. South African National Deaf Association (SANDA)).
- Population-specific (such DPOs represent a population group – e.g. Deaf Child Worldwide).
- Cross-disability (such DPOs represent the interests of people with all kinds of disability).
Within these DPOs that represent medical diagnostic groups, are provincial organisations to assist it's members in a particular province. An example of this is Deaf Community of Cape Town (DCCT). They may or may not be associated with the South African National Deaf Association (SANDA) , but the do assist members of the specific organization in the Western Cape.
Organizations such as these assist with and are involved in:
- Placing Deaf empowerment and self-representation at the heart of inclusive development.
- Developing, advancing and promoting the status of South African Sign Language.
- Cherishing the nurturing of talent and potential of Deaf people to succeed.
- Developing Deaf community assets
To mention just a few.
The Deaflympics (previously called World Games for the Deaf, and International Games for the Deaf) are an International Olympic Committee (IOC)-sanctioned event at which deaf athletes compete at an elite level. However, unlike the athletes in other IOC-sanctioned events (i.e., the Olympics, the Paralympics, and the Special Olympics), the Deaflympians cannot be guided by sounds (i.e., the starter's guns, bullhorn commands or referee whistles). The games have been organized by the Comité International des Sports des Sourds (CISS, "The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf") since the first event.
To qualify for the games, athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 db in their "better ear". Hearing aids, cochlear implants and the like are not allowed to be used in competition, to place all athletes on the same level. Other examples of ways the games vary from hearing competitions are the manner in which they are officiated. To address the issue of Deaflympians not being able to be guided by sounds, certain sports use alternative methods of commencing the game. For example, the football referees wave a flag instead of blowing a whistle; on the track, races are started by using a light, instead of a starter pistol. It is also customary for spectators not to cheer or clap, but rather to wave – usually with both hands.
South African Deaf Sports Federation
Most of these codes have their own structures and constitutions and are, as provided for in the SADSF Constitution, affiliated to the SADSF which is a National controlling body that facilitates the administration and coordination of each of these 10 Sport Codes to the highest level of excellence.
SADSF further has 9 constituted Provincial structures that are responsible for the identification and development of sporting talent for Deaf at grassroots level and also for the administering and coordination of sport for the Deaf at a Provincial level.
Deaf School Sport Commission, hereinafter referred to as the Commission, is a permanent Standing Committee of SADSF and its responsibility is to administer and coordinate sport for the Deaf at school level. It directly maintains working relationship with SASCOC School Sport Commission, National Coordinating Council (NACOC) - a Sub Directorate of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) and Department of Education (DoE) in terms of implementation of school sport projects and policies. The Commission advices SADSF on matters affecting Deaf school sport and oversee the organizing of National Deaf School Games and Championships for Deaf athletes up to 19 years of age.
SADSF Constitution includes some basic objectives such as the provision of training, campaigning for better facilities and the organizing of sporting events. In the years that SADSF have existed, it has won respect and acclaim for the dedicated role it has played in the field of Deaf sport development in the country.
SADSF is affiliated to International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) or CISS as it is widely known around the world. SADSF was also affiliated to National Paralympics Committee of South Africa (NAPCOSA) which has now disbanded to pave the way for Disability Sport South Africa (DISSA) which has also been dissolved. As a result of the resolution of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) Ministerial Task Team, the new body, namely; South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) was established and SADSF became an affiliated member of this body in 2005.
To contribute to the pride of Deaf athletes and to unite Deaf people from diverse cultures in South Africa, the medium of sport and sport participation remain one of the major tools and challenges of SADSF.
South African Deaf Games take place biannually, depending on the availability of funds. Participation is open to all age groupings. The proviso is, however, that to qualify for participation, individuals or teams first need to have proven their qualifying status by prior achievements at formal provincial championships. Likewise, South African School Games for the Deaf also takes place biannually depending on availability of funds.