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Since the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, people with disability have organized themselves into their own organizations all over the world including South Africa. 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.
There are a wide range of DPOs, advocacy and self-help organization which 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 SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH)
In addition to this, there are 3 different kinds of DPOs:
- Diagnostic-focused (such DPOs represent a medical diagnostic group – e.g. people living with cerebral palsy).
- Population-specific (such DPOs represent a population group – e.g. women with disability).
- 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 AUTISM WESTERN CAPE. They are associated with the the SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) and assist its members in the Western Cape.
Organizations such as these assist with and are involved in:
- Coordinating, policy-making, governing and supporting” in all areas of disability in South Africa.
- Lobbies and advises on pressing issues such as the accessibility of South Africa.
- Develops projects, such as computer centres to provide IT training and employment support.
- Assistance for people leaving hospital after sustaining spinal cord injuries, by providing them with useful information and products.
- Education and Employment Support through learnerships and promoting small businesses owned by people with disabilities.
- Self Help Centres are homes where people with disabilities live. They are supported, financed and run by many of these organizations.
- Safety programs to prevent disability. An example of these are:
- Buckle Up – We Don’t Want New Members. Road safety campaign aimed at getting motorists to use their seatbelts.
- Diving Prevention Program. QASA produced a DVD warning of the dangers of diving, a major cause of spinal cord injury.
To mention just a few.
There are a wide variety of Sports Organizations, starting with SASCOC.
To find an organization that can assist you, visit the province that you reside in.