Saturday, 5 December 2009

Challenge to the Premier of Gauteng Province

OK, maybe it is not hard to offend me these days. But the recent speech by the Premier of Gauteng really rattled me:

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane has called on people living with disabilities to “stop relying on social grants and become active participants in the country’s economy”.

Nice...if only if it were that easy!!! This is so offensive on many levels. It makes the assumption that all people with disabilities are just sitting back, happy to sponge of the state...expecting everything to be handed to us.

Thankfully, I do not live in your province, but I do visit it, regularly. I do know many people with disabilities who do live in your province, and have to face dreadful conditions, and discriminations every day, due to YOUR inabilities to apply the existing legislation that we have.

  • How do many people with disabilities become active in the country's economy when we are barred from using public transport?
    • We have laws, which should mean that all forms of public transport are fully accessible to all, and yet YOU preside over a province which has transport facilities which are inaccessible to many PWD.
  • How do many people with disabilities become active in the country's economy when we are not able to access state schools?
    • We have a Department of Education White paper which calls for an inclusive educational system, and yet YOU are premier of a province, where most of the schools & tertiary educational establishments are inaccessible to PWD. We have been working with a particular university in YOUR province, which accepts that it is grossly inaccessible, and wants to address these issues, but has no funding (from YOU) to do so.
  • How do many people with disabilities become active in the country's economy when we cannot move safely about your cities?
    • I challenge YOU to spend a day in a wheelchair with me, touring around YOUR cities, and you will find several occasions where we will be risking our lives, as we have to roll down streets amongst the (inaccessible) minibuses, because YOU have not done anything about providing accessible pavements (curb cut outs, blister paving, etc., etc.)
  • How do many people with disabilities become active in the country's economy when we cannot find employment?
    • The country has the Employment Equity act requiring YOU to ensure that a minimum of 2% of your workforce are people with disabilities, and YOU are nowhere close to even that pathetically low figure! Once YOU start getting close to the real figure (10 - 20% of any society can be viewed as PWD, then you can start issuing such challenges.

Your speech is sickening, and patronising! I write as a person living with a disability, who has never received a hand out in my life (merely because I was fortunate in my circumstances). But your words speak of a massive lack of understanding of the needs of people with disabilities within your province. The vast majority of people with disabilities do want to work...they don't want to try to live on the pittance of a Disability allowance that is paid to them. But they cannot because YOU have not done your job properly. You preside over a province which allows active discrimination against all people with disabilities every day. How dare you insult us, by suggesting that PWD want to be reliant, and not financially independent. There are so many PWD, living in your province who have no education, no way of leaving their homes, and even if they do leave they face such challenges that you seem completely ignorant of. To release this crass statement on the International Day of People living with Disabilities is sickening.

I have a mind to try to arrange a meeting with any building belonging of your choice, belonging to the Gauteng Province. If I can find any access issues with the building then I shall bring a case against you, and your province in terms of the Equality Act. By barring me from any part of the building due to my disability, would be the same as barring me due to my skin colour. If I cannot find any problem...then I am willing to put a full page apology in the national papers, along with a naked picture of myself… Are YOU up for the challenge???

Please remember, People with Disabilities do not want special treatment. We do not want to live off the state. All we want is the same chances as everyone else. We will know when we have true equality when people with disabilities get the same lousy damn service as everyone else. We don't want your money, your sympathy, or your words. We DEMAND our rights. The same rights as everyone else, which your province ignores on a daily basis.

We will know when we have true equality when people with disabilities get the same lousy damn service as everyone else. We don't want your money, your sympathy, or your words. We DEMAND our rights. The same rights as everyone else, which your province ignores on a daily basis.

So Premier, stop relying on words, and inaction, and start making active steps to ensure that PWD can become active in your province. We expect, and have a right to: accessible homes, accessible public transport, accessible public buildings, accessible cities, and streets, accessible schools, colleges, universities. We demand that YOU obey the laws of the land, and meet the targets set by the Employment Equity Act. We demand that every single part of every single public building is accessible to all...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

FIFA Madness

Just in case there is anyone left in SA still not aware that something big is happening next year…

This week is a mad week for me, and my company, on our various 2010 projects, especially the ones in Cape Town. We have various inspections, and also the draw tomorrow at the CTICC.

The whole FIFA project is incredibly complex. I am sure (and hope) that the events tomorrow pass off without incident. Anyone in Cape Town, should join in the party on Long Street (part of the top section is closed, and a huge screen is being positioned so people can follow the draw from there.

Presently the FIFA officials are meeting in Robben Island.

There will be all sorts of speeches by all manner of people & politicians. All these speeches will be extolling the positives of the event, and assuring (and, to an extent, proving) that South Africa is ready for the event.

What they will not show is the sweat behind the scenes… We will be ready; and I am sure that the event will be a HUGE positive to the country. Already, we have proved many, many doubters around the World, and within South Africa wrong. The various new stadia are all (just about!) built. Without a doubt, they are World class stadia. Indeed many of them set new standards in terms of design.

But there is also still much to be done!! These are interesting projects, as on paper, we have many clients; for Cape Town stadium we have the following clients:

  • the City of Cape Town, as they own the Stadium;

  • South Africa tax payers, as much of the funding came out of their pockets, at both national level & provincial;

  • FIFA - they 'own' the event, and all the rights (and make the most money!); they have an overlay, in terms of sponsorships, VIP's, security, etc.

  • The prospective tenants of the Stadium (which, if it is to make sense, and money, in the future, will have to include Rugby, both national - Test matches, and regional - Western Province will have to move here from Newlands), and the soccer teams that will be based from here.

  • SAIL Stade de France, who will be the operators into the future of the Stadium

Sometimes these different 'clients' have different, and even opposing requirements…

So I as I am a bear of little brain, I have made it clear & simple to me & my own team. Our clients are the people with disabilities who will use, work, and play in this stadium for the World Cup, and hopefully for many other events into the future. If they come, and they can use the facility in comfort, and safely, then we have done our little bit into this HUGE project…

I wish we had more time now, to appreciate the privilege of being able to work on these projects. Hopefully these Stadia will be still standing, and providing entertainment (and jobs!,) to a huge number of people, long after I have shuffled off...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Apartheid by design: Disabled people in PMB

For fear of being accused of a little self promotion, and I would hardly call myself an "Activist", this is a brilliant article:

ONCE upon a time in South Africa, buildings had separate entrances and facilities for people of different races. The practice was outlawed as discriminatory along with the policy that created it: apartheid.

That discredited philosophy was replaced with a Constitution hailed for its commitment to human rights that is also enshrined in the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000. Despite this, another kind of apartheid still operates: discrimination against people with disabilities. Inaccessible environments have been called “apartheid by design”.

Have a look at the full article, and please comment!!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

More 2010 updates - from the field

Today was a great event at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The general public were invited to 'inspect' their stadium. We did not get quite the numbers we were expecting...but a great time was had by all that turned up, I think! Most of these were taken early on, before the crowds arrived.

If someone can tell me how to upload video onto the site then I can upload some clips which demonstrate very clearly how the design keeps the noise in...the stadium was BUZZING!!! Sorry for the quality of the photos...taken with my cell phone.

I have also included some photos of Greenpoint (not quite as advanced), taken last week in the rain. I think the scenes are more like a shipyard than a stadium at the moment!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Future of Social Networking? Google Wave...

I am quite a fan of Google; I use Gmail, Reader, Calendar, Documents, etc. So I have been reading about the development of one of its new products - Google Wave, with great interest.

What is Google Wave?

Well, it is quite unlike anything else that we have at the moment. It is billed as a "real time communication platform". But it is a bit like email, IM, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, all rolled into one.

Why am I interested?

I can see some huge benefits for business use, as well as private use. My interest in these new developments is two-fold. I suppose I am a geek wannabee, and I enjoy new technologies, but I also want to see how we can utilise new technologies to allow people with disabilities to better take part in society, and specifically employment. I can see some great ways that Google Wave could be used / developed. Especially for people who, for whatever reason, may be working remotely, but with a team.

So the details, what is it really, what does it look like, and how do you use it?

One of the best sites which explains it is on where they use the system and detail it. They use wave, I think as it can be added to - a Wave is the overall picture, which is made up of wavelets, wavelets are themselves made up of blips, and the blips can contain documents, web pages, messages, pictures, etc.. So you start with a ripple, and anyone can add more and more as you advance. Much of the individual details are methods that many of us are already comfortable with…but it is the way that they are drawn together into one place, is the key here.

  • Real Time - like with IM, you see the person typing.
  • Wiki - anyone (invited) can add, change, and everyone can see the changes, and who, and when the changes were made.
  • Add ons. There are many applications, add-ons, & extensions that can be made to the system, and being open source, I think we can expect many more to be developed in the future.
  • Sharing - by merely dragging and dropping, everyone can have access to you documents.

It is also possible to embed the wave into an existing website.

It is going to be interesting to see how this develops after it is launched. But I am sure it is going to be the next big thing…remember,
you read it here first!!!

If you want to sign up to the development then go to

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Disabled Parking Abuse at The Palms AGAIN!!

Yet more accessible parking abuse at The Palms in Cape Town. This slot is always taken by some idiot.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g., device, service, environment, building etc.) is accessible by as many people as possible. That is easy isn't it?

Well, no, it is not that easy. I want to explain what accessibility is all about, and why you need to think carefully about it.

I was looking to book a B & B for myself. So, like most people, in the modern world, I fired up my web browser and began to search for accommodation in the area where I want to go. It is a popular area, and I shall be travelling there out of season, so there was plenty of choice. Or at least it appeared that there was plenty of choice. As I am a wheelchair user I need to find accommodation which is accessible. Now, according to regulations, and establishment offering more than 25 beds has to be accessible…but we all know that laws like that are not enforced, and just plain forgotten about here. So once I narrowed down my choice, I had to contact each of the establishment to find out if they are accessible.

This goes back to the understanding of what is accessible.

Me: "Excuse me, I would like to come and stay with you, are you accessible to wheelchair users?"

Them: "Yes, we are, can I take your booking?"

M: "So you have an accessible room?"

T: "Yes, we do. It is a large room, with a large bathroom, with enough space for a wheelchair."

M: "Great, so the WC has grab handles, so I can transfer, and the shower is a roll in shower with a seat then?"

T: "……………..oh……..err…… There are no handrails, and the shower is up a step"

M: "so I guess you are not accessible then?"

T: "no, I suppose we are not."

M: "thank you for your help, but unless I am able to use the loo, and take a shower when staying with you, I shall have to take my money elsewhere. It is a shame, as looking at your website, we were looking forward to staying with you."

This basic conversation has no been repeated at 6 different locations…with basically the same outcome. And this is the problem, that many people face on a daily basis not just with accommodation, but restaurants, shops, transport, houses, etc. I am not writing this, looking for sympathy, or as a sob story, but to try to explain how accessibility may effect any of us, at any time.

  • Accessibility comes down to a way of thinking, it is about giving a shit about other people.
  • Accessibility is not just a tick box.
  • Accessibility is a mind-shift.
  • Accessibility is a personal issue.
  • Accessibility is a business issue
  • Accessibility is a human rights issue.

There are some excellent laws in place (such as the Equality Act) which outlaw discrimination such as this. But I would hope that people do not always have to be forced into providing accessibility. There is a clear business case. Each one of these establishments has lost my business, and the business of my family. Had one of them been able to accommodate me in comfort and safety, then I would have told others (as unfortunately, it is still unusual to find accessible facilities in South Africa).

Can I give you all a challenge? For the rest of the day, imagine that you join the 10-20% of society who live with a disability? Imagine, that you lose your sight, or the use of your legs, or your hearing, or whatever. Take a look around you. Could you continue doing what you are doing now? Could you even get to where you are now? If the answer is no, then does that loss of ability have a direct bearing on your activity, or could that activity be adapted so that you could still carry it out with a disability? If the answer is yes…then double check. Have you made the same mistake as the example above and assumed accessibility. Is there a step at the entrance to your building? Is there a toilet that a person in a wheelchair could use? And this even applies if you are at home, and not at work. Maybe a family member or a close friend becomes disabled (86% of people with disabilities were not born with the disability). Could they visit you? Do you give a shit??

Sunday, 15 March 2009

So Sorry!!

I have certainly been ignoring my blog here for a while. I should try to rectify that I guess. My (feeble) excuse is that I have been rather busy lately. The following photos show what I have been busy with

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