“South Africa, like most countries, needs every skilled worker to contribute towards the prosperity of the country. Persons with disabilities have an important role to play to make a positive contribution in the workplace. It is generally found that a person with a disability develops into a well-adjusted, productive worker in an atmosphere of acceptance, co-operation and goodwill. Far more people with disabilities should be given the opportunity to enter the workforce. Disability is a human rights and development issue, meaning that people with disabilities should enjoy equal rights and responsibilities to other people.” 

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Technological advances have removed many obstacles for disabled people in their aspirations to pursue the careers of their choice.

Many visually, hearing and physically impaired persons excel in the field of computer technology. Blind and partially sighted lawyers are now a reality due to computer developments. Various blind physiotherapists have their own, very successful, practices in this country. There are blind lecturers, music teachers and marketing consultants to name but a few careers. Visually impaired persons can also do manual jobs such as making bricks and tiles.

Deaf and hard of hearing people are often successful in noisy jobs, such as panel beating, which may have a negative effect on hearing people. Careers as different as forestry, graphic art, medical technology and banking are also successfully pursued by hearing impaired people.

People with physical disabilities are successful in many careers including teaching, social work, business management and many others. Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known, yet he is quadriplegic and can only speak with the aid of a computer. He freely admits that he has reached the top in his field because of and not in spite of his disability. 

Many barriers, such as widespread ignorance and stereotypes, have caused people with disabilities to be unfairly discriminated against in society and in employment. For these reasons, people with disabilities are a designated group in terms of the Employment Equity Act, 1998. The purpose of this Act is to remove unfair discrimination and to promote equity in the workplace. This Act protects people with disabilities and others against unfair discrimination and, as a previously disadvantaged group, disabled people are eligible to benefit from affirmative action programmes.

The Minister of Labour has also approved a Code of Good Practice on the Employment of People with Disabilities in terms of the Employment Equity Act. The Code is a guide for employers and workers to encourage equal opportunities and fair treatment of people with disabilities. It also helps to create awareness of the contributions that people with disabilities can make in the workplace.

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